I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn

What I think I’m doing here: A foray into fiction (in an early draft, messing around mode). Also, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

My friend said that I needed a LinkedIn profile. Made it sound like I might as well take my resume and set it on fire and flush the ashes down the toilet. This act of immolation being, in fact, as effective as submitting job applications without a LinkedIn profile. It is the first thing they’ll check, he said. I need to go hop on a call, he said.

My friend has a job at a large company that pays well (I do not). He owns a house (I do not). He has, I suspect, more of a plan for retirement than my own, which is, more or less, death. I decide to set aside my novel and create a LinkedIn profile.

The thing is. Well, here’s the thing. I mean, how exactly do I summarize this? I mean this. Me. For the purposes of a LinkedIn profile. These years, sitting here, doing these tasks, looking for an opportunity to sit there, do those tasks. I have no gaps. No noticeable ones. The problem, I think, is the stuff actually filling the space between the gaps.

I mean, ok, there’s that one gap. Not a huge one. Maybe not even necessarily a gap, unless one is strictly concerned with employable skills. Then yes, there is a gap there. Something of a hole, in fact. I read War and Peace. Watched a lot of SportsCenter. Posted some interesting Tolstoy quotes on Twitter. Posted pictures of Tolstoy’s beard on Instagram. The end result was more … “meaning of life” skills. Perhaps some debt.

Am I skilled in the meaning of life, though? Is my life replete with meaning? Is the meaning of life interesting to you, LinkedIn network? To you, prospective employers? Is someone with some sense of orientation on the deepest questions of human existence rising to the top of the applicant pile? Will the automated human resources algorithm move me forward to the next stage of the interview process?

Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? That’s an interview question I could answer. The answer is: both. I enter “Consultant” as a job title for the relevant dates. I include no details. I post the Tolstoy or Dostoevsky thing to Twitter. It gets three likes. No retweets.

The other stuff. The non-meaning of life stuff. The years spent here doing this and there doing that. I mean. Nice guy, sure. Bright guy, ok. Maybe not so good at the climbing the professional ladder thing. Maybe was not so clear on where exactly such a ladder might be located. Maybe should have been spending more time determining location of such a ladder and how to climb it in my formative years. I think this is maybe why I never created a LinkedIn profile until my friend suggested it.

My friend earned a degree in business administration. He has employable skills. He scans the horizon for new opportunities. He networks with potential and existing colleagues. He is collegial. All this is, I think, more important than having a LinkedIn profile if you would like to one day own a house. But, the knowledge that a LinkedIn profile is necessary, without having to be told it is necessary, seems to be connected with these skills and traits. Perhaps they teach you this when they are teaching you how to administer business.

Remember in War and Peace when Prince Andrei sees the old oak tree? And then sees it again? Yeah. That was awesome.

I fill in the different fields online. I project confidence (I think). I post a picture in which I convey an air of friendly professionalism and competence. I notice the wrinkles that now seem permanently furrowed into my forehead. When did those show up? Do those wrinkles convey the wisdom achieved through progressively responsible experience?

I begin to “connect.” The LinkedIn AI explores my email, dredging up people from the past. I have not talked to them in years. Hello, I would like to join your professional network on LinkedIn. Here is my LinkedIn profile. I also have enjoyed viewing your profile. I am pleased to see your virtuous climb through various corporate hierarchies (there are no calamitous descents on LinkedIn, only abandoned profiles). I click my way through. I am, it appears, the last person on earth to join LinkedIn. I am the late arriving dinner guest at the great buffet of global commerce. I am the unconnected, trying to bridge an unbridgeable gap. Trying to join the network.

I notice everyone who is more successful than me. Everyone is more successful than me. This is embarrassing. Because I am here, not there, the “there” of some success that I seem to want. Do I want it? Really? Again, meaning of life skills seem to be failing me here. Connect, only connect I joke to myself. It’s a quote from somewhere. Can’t quite remember – some repressed English novelist. I click the links. I view the profiles. Would you like to link arms with me as we venture out onto the battlefields of early 21st century capitalism? Here I am, in need of connection.

LinkedIn seems as big as the world when you are logged into LinkedIn. All these online worlds feel as big as the world when you are logged into them. But there are no oak trees growing in these online worlds. I click and scroll. I connect with my friend. He is now a connection on LinkedIn. We are in each other’s networks, with all the benefits and rewards this networked status provides. I write him using LinkedIn’s messaging service: Connect, only connect. Smiley face emoji. I wait for a response.

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