Updated: Mar 7
When I decided to return to work, I didn’t have a LinkedIn account. Setting one up quickly became Mission Critical. Since then, my experience with the platform feels like I'm making small talk in an elevator.
It’s not like I’m shy. I have a pretty strong sense of self. But I am insanely scared of making the wrong impression on LinkedIn.
But the truth is, I already have.
You see, I don’t really know most of the people I’m connected to. I broke a cardinal LinkedIn rule (or eight) and blanketed a ton of people with connection requests just so I could get that revered status of 500+ connections.
So if you’re reading this from LinkedIn, chances are that’s you.
Wait! I can explain!
When COVID hit, that's when I decided it was time to go back to work. With a career gap, I knew I had an uphill climb. Plus, I was looking to make a lateral move from journalism into marketing.
Thankfully, I sought the advice of a career coach. She worked wonders on my resume but was shocked I only had 30 connections on LinkedIn.
“Oh, no, no, no, this won’t do,” she said. “Girl, you need to get that number up.”
And then she explained how achieving 500 connections was the mark of someone who had truly nurtured a strong network, someone who "knew people." I worried that not having 500 connections would keep me from getting work.
Now, there’s mixed advice on the importance of reaching 500 connections. For every article I’ve read saying, “Honey, it’s not the number of friends you have, it’s the quality,” there are just as many saying, “If you don’t get 500 connections you will die alone, you loser.”
I listened to that Devil and set to work connecting with friends, family, past coworkers, old boyfriends. That brought my number up, but it was still nowhere close to 500.
So, I really ramped up efforts. I’m talking full Kevin-Bacon-six-degrees-of-separation. Oh, we went to school in the same state? Great, let’s add you to the list. It became a straight-up numbers game, and I pushed all the buttons.
It took me about three solid months, but I finally got my 500 connections. I will always remember the quiet joy I felt that day. I’m pretty sure I shed a tear. Thank God that’s over, I thought to myself.
But now I feel guilty. I used these people. And it’s strangely preventing me from acting natural on LinkedIn.
I’m a recovering Catholic. That whole guilt complex is no joke. So I’m hoping this blog post allows me to "lay down my sins" and say 10 Hail Marys.
Because I really do want to start off on the right foot. I want to make a good impression. and I will always remember how important it is to nurture and respect my network.
Deep breath. Ok, glad I got that off my chest.