Recently I have seen a number of posts on LinkedIn about my friends and colleagues starting new positions, landing new clients, getting certifications, getting promoted etc. I am very happy for all of them and LinkedIn is the perfect platform for celebrating these accomplishments. However, this got met thinking about the original reason I almost quit Facebook and why I continue to remain relatively inactive on Facebook while remaining much more active on LinkedIn. The reason was that Facebook had devolved into a virtual bragging ground where everyone was posting only the best about their lives. If Facebook is any indication, all my friends are living wonderful lives, going on vacations constantly, taking good care of their health and are all in perfect relationships.
This, however, is a facade. It is a filter that Facebook puts on real life that only allows the positive sides of our lives to surface online while encouraging us (perhaps even forcing us) to keep quiet about what we struggle with daily. Facebook posts then becomes a race for likes and comments as people try to outdo each other.
I believe that LinkedIn risks devolving into a similar pattern but for professionals where only the positive is talked about and celebrated while sweeping under the rug all else. Our work life cannot and will not always be perfect and it is time we start making LinkedIn more ‘real’.
Think of it this way, for every certification exam passed, how many attempts/failures were there? For each new promotion, how many times was that person passed up? For each new position started, for how long was that person out of work and perhaps even struggling to make ends meet? In this post, I will argue that in order to make LinkedIn more ‘real’, the community should demand ways to enhance the platform that are not just reflective of real problems but also of ways to solve said problems.
Have you ever noticed that in your LinkedIn profile, there is no way for you to describe what you are currently trying to achieve? Perhaps you can try to use the headline or even the about me section for that but any cursory reading of articles describing how to write these sections will tell you that it is not the place for that.
Most profiles (including mine) read a like an ‘ad’ selling the person and what they have achieved and I think this is a missed opportunity. A ‘currently seeking’ or ‘currently working towards’ section would be highly beneficial in mitigating this problem.
Perhaps you are looking to pass a certification exam. if you state that as a goal, your colleagues or extended connection can help you. Perhaps one of them has a book lying around that you can use to study. Perhaps they know someone who has passed the exam and can give you an introduction. Perhaps all they can do is offer words of encouragement.
Perhaps you are looking to land a new client and are looking for an introduction or are looking for a new position. We all need help sometime, nobody got to where they are on their own. A way for each of us to state the goal we are currently working towards can help make the platform more engaging.
If you are struggling with something at work, no need to make LinkedIn be a place to air dirty laundry but why can it not be a place to solve your problem? Otherwise it will continue to be a place where individual come to suffer from business envy arising from watching other people’s achievements.
I personally know someone who was recently looking to start a small business but was unable to secure financing from traditional sources. I did happen to know that he was starting a business in an area that needed the kind of business he wanted to start but was he unable to secure traditional financing. Perhaps there can be a GoFundMe or Kickstarter style crowdfunding platform on LinkedIn where users can ask their connections for help.
Perhaps you have a great idea for a new business and want to test the market. Where Kickstarter has pioneered the crowd-funding model, perhaps LinkedIn can pioneer the business-to-business crowd-funding model. A funding campaign that can be targeted to potential business customers that can invest in or pre-order a product can be a great tool for validating a business idea and securing financing in the B2B space. However, no such model currently exists on LinkedIn where it is such a large network. This I believe is another missed opportunity.
Perhaps someone is looking to fund an education(student loans are a nightmare) so industries can offer scholarships on Linked for majors that they want to see promoted or skills they want to see in the workforce.
If you are struggling with starting a business, securing financing or funding an education, why can’t LinkedIn be that platform to help you break through?
Another facet of real life that seems to be largely missing from LinkedIn is the ability to solicit genuine and honest feedback. There are plenty of ways to give kudos to people by giving shutouts, endorsements, likes and comments. However, real life is not like that. How many times have you not gotten along with a colleague or a supervisor? For every person that has been endorsed on LinkedIn, how many have been a nightmare to work with?
Case in point, myself and former colleague of mine. Him and I just never clicked and It would not be far fetched to say that we did not like each other (gasp!). One thing that I always regretted was not being able to have a candid conversation with that person and soliciting their feedback about what I could have done differently to make our relationship better. I know I would not be comfortable giving honest feedback to a supervisor or colleague if the feedback was not anonymous. Why can’t there be a way on LinkedIn to solicit real/honest/anonymous feedback from our networks? We may not like what we hear but I believe the feedback would be invaluable for personal growth and for managers and colleagues to improve their working relationships. If we rely solely on positive feedback and never solicit constructive criticism, I believe are selling ourselves short and I believe LinkedIn is selling us short.
All this positivity got me fairly exhausted. Real life is not all rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Let me start by stating something I am currently struggling with. I am currently looking to find an audience for my content . Even writing this simple sentence made me feel vulnerable because this platform is supposed to be about how awesome and wonderful I am but perhaps someone will read and help me share this post. I am struggling getting my content noticed and that’s OK. Even if nobody reads this post, that’s OK too. So what if I feel a little vulnerable? It feels very real and that is a good thing.
LinkedIn is doing for business for other social media is doing for our personal lives. It is starting to create a filter on our professional lives and unless we the community and the platform developers actively work to prevent that from occurring, I am afraid it will turn into Facebook for business where envy and competition are the norm instead of gratitude and cooperation. Here is to hoping that it does not happen…