A LinkedIn guide for women who are afraid of bragging
by Marie Baleo
There comes a moment in every young woman’s life when the doors of your college bubble slam behind you, and, clenching an expensive and potentially useless degree, you set out in search of the holy grail: your first job.
This is where LinkedIn comes in. Once dismissed as nothing but a digital resume, LinkedIn has become the largest marketplace for qualified jobs. Over the past few years, more and more companies have started collecting applications via LinkedIn, where candidates can now send them their profile in one click. Ever the pragmatic graduate, you decide to spend a few thoughtful minutes building an efficient LinkedIn profile.
Logging in, you find the half-empty profile you created junior year, the one that lists your major and minor, your year abroad and your more serious extracurriculars. How do you bridge the gap between this profile and the job interviews you’ve been daydreaming about? Uninspired, you click on “Who viewed your profile” and discover that literally *no one* has viewed your profile. Suddenly, you spot one of LinkedIn’s more ominous features – “How you rank”. There, you discover that you are only #300 among your relations. Dismayed and curious, you click on the most popular profiles. Jealousy oozing from your every pore, you scroll down wondering how these equally young graduates can be so experienced, so fantastically qualified, so on top of their game, and how you can even live with yourself anymore.
The truth, of course, is that you are being deceived. Your peers on LinkedIn aren’t essentially more intelligent than you, and their professional experience might not be more relevant or prestigious than yours. They are simply better at flaunting their skills and experience.
By now you must have heard of this mysterious illness known to strike high-achieving women: the impostor syndrome, whereby no amount of superior performance or outstanding achievement can convince a woman that she is, in fact, capable and deserving of praise. You may suffer from an extreme form of impostor syndrome, routinely questioning how on earth you got this far (and who let you get there), or you may simply think everyone else is guilty of arrogance and find yourself unable to follow their obnoxious example.
If that is the case, you can thank your mother for raising a humble human being, but know that the Arrogant Douches have an advantage over you–they understand how the system works. Ultimately, after the both of you click on a Linkedin posting’s “Apply” button, you and the Douche are both going to be judged by the recruiter on the basis of your profile. You have a dozen sections and 100 seconds of recruiter attention span to leave Douche in the dust, and being shy about how much of a badass you are simply is not going to cut it. If you want to get ahead professionally, there is a chance that you will have to rewrite your LinkedIn profile, pretending–not necessarily believing, but at least pretending–that you, too, are extremely self-confident. Here is how.
Summary: Are you uncomfortable writing a love letter to yourself and putting it up for the world to see? Because that’s essentially what the Summary section of your profile is. Guess what, though: everyone else is doing it, and recruiters read that section first. So imagine you are writing your best friend’s summary, or the summary of someone you admire and respect the way you should admire and respect yourself, and give it your all. Use all of the allotted space, or 4 to 5 paragraphs, to present yourself in the best possible light.
Experience: Use active verbs to describe your achievements, and don’t leave out details of assignments you rocked during that last internship just for the sake of humility. The beauty of impostor syndrome is that when you feel like you’re being overly arrogant and bordering on obnoxious, to everyone else you’re just being neutral and factual.
Education: Did you have a stellar GPA? Write it. Did you make Dean’s List? Write it. Did you receive an award, a grant, a scholarship? Write it. Did you hold a leadership position in a student group? You know the drill. Did you do all of these things? Write. it. down. You’re only being honest about your achievements.
Recommendations: Don’t be afraid to ask former employers for recommendations. Recommendations are an influential section of your profile, one that can tell prospective recruiters how well you fit into a work environment similar to theirs. Don’t be shy about asking your ex boss for a compliment: they know that this is part of the game, and there is no reason they should refuse. Recommendations from former professors can also help. Which brings us to: if you want something, ask for it. In this case, if you want a job, spell it out clearly, in your headline and your summary. Recruiters won’t reach out to you on the off chance that you may be looking for a job (this won’t happen to you until you have a few years of experience under your belt), which is why you need to be upfront about the fact that you are on the market. When you spell out what you are searching for, be specific. Not only does it show focus, expertise and professionalism, it is also the mark of an individual who knows what they want, and who knows they can rightfully aspire to what they want.
As you navigate LinkedIn and the job market, remember: You don’t have to be humble, you don’t have to be cute. You don’t have to refrain from being aggressive. Yes, our patriarchal society may have taught you that it’s not very ladylike to be hungry and ambitious–but guess what: you don’t have to be ladylike. If you know your own worth and strengths, diminishing them in your LinkedIn profile would be as dishonest as lying about your credentials.
It’s a tough world for smart young professionals like you out there: yes, there may be more female than male graduates, but for every dollar that stoner guy who never came to class will make at work, you will only make 78 cents. Is your time worth 78% of his? The answer is no. Of course, it’s unfair–but it’s also a cold, hard fact. You owe yourself to try to correct this injustice by raising your voice online, taking opportunities that you deserve, and shutting down that bloody impostor syndrome.