One of the crucial steps to "adulting" is to create a LinkedIn profile – or so what my university career counsellor tells me.
"It's a great way to connect with people in the industry!"
"Your seniors got job offers off LinkedIn, you know," he'll remind me.
After much nudging from him, as well as some of my overly zealous and career-obsessed friends, I finally made a LinkedIn profile. But as soon as I added my university to my profile, I was bombarded with the professional profiles of all my acquaintances from my course, and then some.
That took me down the dangerous rabbit hole of scrolling through their profiles and their almost never-ending lists of fancy internships and certifications.
Soon enough, feelings of insecurity and envy started creeping in:
How did she find the time to do two internships last semester, while maintaining a perfect GPA? Who knew that guy in my class has his own start-up?
After a couple hours of scrolling, I decided enough was enough. I closed the tab and refused to open LinkedIn again.
I spoke to some youths and was glad that I wasn't alone in how I felt. They too, felt the same insecurities and anxieties when using LinkedIn.
Tabitha Lee started using LinkedIn as it was a requirement for one of her introductory modules in business school.
"I get pretty stressed when using LinkedIn. The thing about LinkedIn is that you basically have access to everyone's CVs so you can see all the work experiences and accreditations they have.
"You can't help but compare your own profile to theirs, and knowing that these are your competitors for internships, it definitely adds extra pressure," said the 22-year-old.
While having nothing much to put on your resume is already stressful, it's worse when everyone else's seems to be much more impressive.
PHOTO CREDIT: MARCUS WINKLER VIA UNSPLASH
Claudia Lim, 22, shared that her first experience with LinkedIn made her really anxious.
"I was still in polytechnic when I made my profile and the only job I had then was at Marble Slab serving ice cream. When I saw the other professional profiles on LinkedIn I thought to myself: 'Oh God, should I have these many things to write about for my profile?'
"I couldn't help but compare myself to other people's profiles that looked so much more professional than mine," said the marketing undergraduate.
Emma Ng, 22, joined LinkedIn as it was what everyone around her was doing at the time, but soon found out that it fed into her insecurities about her own achievements.
"It definitely makes me compare myself to others and I'll start wondering why are people my age achieving so much, getting top tier internships and awards, while I'm not?" she said.
Feeling like an imposter
For most of us who have been students for most of our lives, stepping into a persona of being a young professional can feel unnatural.
Claudia shared how it was stressful when her friends started connecting with her on LinkedIn.
"It's strange because your friends know you for being a certain way but LinkedIn presents a whole new side to you that they don't see. I got a lot of 'Who are you trying to be?' when they saw my profile," she said.
Emma said that LinkedIn "annoys" her much more than other social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram, because it is just a site for others to "brag about their achievements" in their career or education.
"Maybe it's also a product of how we were brought up in Singapore, and how we tie a lot of our self worth to our careers and academics. So maybe that's why LinkedIn feels worse than other social media sites," said the marketing intern.
She added: "It's kind of all for show, really. You're trying to present this career side to yourself. Everyone hypes up their achievements and work experiences to make themselves seem more professional."
LinkedIn isn't all that bad!
But for all the negative perceptions about LinkedIn, it does have its upsides too - you can really get an internship off the platform, as my career counsellor suggested.
Claudia shared how she managed to snag an internship in New York during her exchange semester earlier this year.
"I managed to connect with the CEO of this start-up in New York through LinkedIn. After chatting for a bit, she connected me to one of the hiring managers directly. That was how I finally landed the internship.
"LinkedIn's great for this because I could message her directly instead of going through the formal company email to send in my resume which can sometimes get buried," she said.
Emma and Tabitha also shared how LinkedIn provides good career resources.
"I like to browse LinkedIn to get tips about what employers are looking out for in an applicant. There are helpful articles that professionals write about how to be job-smart," said Emma.
"It really is good for networking. A lot of my business school friends rely on LinkedIn to build working relationships," said Tabitha.
LinkedIn gives you access to helpful career resources from how to ace an interview to how to build your own start-up.
How to manage anxieties when using the platform
Like it or not, it seems like LinkedIn is here to stay. How then can we reap the benefits of the platform, without feeling terribly about ourselves after?
Tabitha suggested being intentional with your use of LinkedIn.
"I try not to look at my peers' profiles that much. Sometimes it is inevitable that you'll see their updates on your feed, telling you to congratulate someone for their new position.
"But I will intentionally try not to visit the person's profile and read up on their background. I found that just focusing on my own profile and looking at job listings helps me avoid all the anxiousness I get from using it," she said.
Emma likes to remind herself that everyone is on their own paths in life, and makes a conscious effort not to compare herself to others.
"I'm fine that my profile doesn't look as great as others' do. Even at this age, we're all still discovering ourselves, so it's okay if we don't have it all figured out," said Emma.
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