Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Is LinkedIn the missing link?

By Merav Kaufman

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Flickr/Shekhar_Sahu

I first created my LinkedIn account for a school assignment early in my freshman year. It was long before I had any sense of the professional world or knew how to properly accentuate “résumé.” At the time, I was skeptical and resistant to the idea of creating yet another online profile that, along with my Facebook account, is subject to critical public scrutiny, and thus must be perfectly tailored and constantly maintained. I entered my name, hastily copied and pasted some sections of my résumé, logged off and didn’t check the account for nearly two years.

Upon turning twenty this past summer, I made several resolutions: learn how to drink coffee, figure out how to operate a dishwasher, only wear yoga pants when actually doing yoga (still working on that one), and revive my LinkedIn account.

Accomplishing these goals seemed like appropriate steps to take as I bid farewell to my teenage years.

Incidentally, I entered a new summer job around this time at my family’s industrial hardware business. This allowed me to add “assistant to the company’s Financial Controller” to my résumé. Practically speaking, my first few days on the job entailed sending emails to over 800 companies asking for updated forms. No, I was unfortunately not able to send one mass email since each company had its own identification code that had to be entered in the subject line. If a company was archaic enough to not have an email address, I was sent to the fax machine.

Thankfully, I developed several coping mechanisms over the week to offset the monotony of typing seven-digit numbers and pressing “send.” The most effective of these mechanisms was drinking copious amounts of water in order to create an honest biological excuse for taking a break every 45 minutes. (I mean, you have to stay hydrated on those hot summer days, even in an air-conditioned cubicle.) On my second day at the company, however, I made an important discovery: LinkedIn was one of the few websites not obstructed by the computer system’s Sonic Wall. And so, the site became an alternative productive activity to pursue when I wasn’t sending emails or relieving my bladder.

After becoming acquainted with LinkedIn, I discovered the site’s many valuable features. Like Facebook and other social networks, LinkedIn allows its users to create personal profiles, connect with people they are acquainted with or are assets in the job market, join groups and have discussions. Unlike Facebook, the website is geared for a more professional demographic with the greater goal of facilitating the job-search and hiring process. As of August 2012, LinkedIn boasts over 175 million members, compared to Facebook’s 955 million monthly active users as of June 2012, and continues to grow. Unsurprisingly, college students and recent graduates are LinkedIn’s fastest growing demographic.

LinkedIn further allows its users to explore over 2 million Company Pages, read news stories relevant to the business world, and browse job listings whose requirements match the skills listed in their profile. Therefore, the site serves as a building block for students looking for a job when they graduate. A staggering 85 percent of Fortune 100 companies reportedly hire through LinkedIn, illustrating the growing role of social media in the corporate hiring process.

Even if one has little current interest in the site’s job search tools, LinkedIn can be utilized for more frivolous purposes. Like Facebook, the site encourages the toxic comparison of oneself with other people, but in a more professional environment. As I was engaging in some extensive LinkedIn stalking this summer, I realized that no matter how well you know someone, you are likely unfamiliar with the precise details of their professional life. These details are ultimately more informative than any glossy vacation photo or dramatic status update.

LinkedIn is pretty much a grown-up, more detailed version of Richard Scarry’s children’s book “What Do People Do All Day?” but without the pictures. The site’s profiles constitute a database of valuable information regarding the workplace, revealing what various job titles actually mean.

With its aptly called “connections,” LinkedIn rejects the Facebook delusion that all of one’s acquaintances are “friends.” Nor does it attempt to provide its users with a “timeline” of their life, where Facebook gives the impression that we were non-existent prior to our account.

LinkedIn provides its users with invaluable job search tools and a professional profile design that discloses just the right amount of appropriate and relevant information about one’s friends and acquaintances. Because honestly, I really do not need to see your artsy photos from last weekend’s apple-picking trip with your best friend or read your latest status update about the strange conversation you overheard in the Newman Café.

Well, maybe I do. But there’s always Facebook for that.

Merav Kaufman is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

 

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