Am I The LinkedIn Anti-Hero?
The older I get, the more I realise no one really has any clue what's going on (see: our government), though you'd never guess it looking at LinkedIn. LinkedIn is where humility goes to die (and also my self-confidence).
Does anybody else fill with dread scrolling through everybody else's career updates, but can't help themselves from doing it anyway? When I type 'l...i...n...k...' into my searchbar, I KNOW I'm in for a bad time, yet I can't stop myself. I feel a sense of giddy resignedness as I proficiently stalk all and sundry on my feed. It's so unnecessary for me to know that the boy who flicked bogies at me in Year 8 and called me Frigid Foxy is now an Associate at PWC. Or that Michelle from Kansas is really proud of herself because she's had a tough year but she never gave up and is now the CEO of her own company (who are you, Michelle? Why have 15,000 people liked your post?) (but also, good for you, Michelle). I certainly don't need Elliott's monthly updates on his career progression at MotherCare (alas, they went under, but he is now on pastures anew at Specsavers and already a team leader). But there I am, scrolling away, occassionally clicking back in panicked horror when I spot the little orange 'premium' icon on a profile that will deliver a snitchy notification to say I've been snooping.
Then there are the people you know well in real life, your best pals, but on LinkedIn they are... different. They're not the same. They have a scary bio and a smart picture of themselves looking a bit dead on the inside. They've shared a job opening in "their team" and they comment dry things like 'Congratulations, Henry, a well-deserved nod to your hard work!' with all the spelling and grammar in the right place. In fact, I suddenly feel a bit intimidated. Is this really the same person who told me 3 days ago that they ate their lunchtime yoghurt with their finger?
It's a downward spiral, let me tell you. But the reason I'm here, talking about the perils of LinkedIn, is because I have my own work-related tale of angst. We all know the formula for a great LinkedIn post is a story of conflict, of lessons learnt and the triumphing of success over doubt. My story involves all of these things, but I'm not sure it's quite right for LinkedIn. Let me know what you think.
It all starts on my first day in the office.
I had started my job in heritage a few weeks earlier, but Covid and home working meant that my first visit in to ~meet people~ (a real thrill in this day and age) and to get to know the office was pushed back a bit. I cycled in, trying to reach a speed that got me there on time without inducing a sweat (a fragile equilibrium). After circling round the block of my office three times (a cycle of - contemplating trying to bring my bike in through the revolving doors and searching in vain for a bike rack), I was finally let in around the back to lock my bike in the basement. After marvelling at the corporate showers, I arrived at the main set of lifts for the building.
I carefully looked for the name of my company and pressed the button for the sixth floor, covertly checking myself out in the wall-to-wall lift mirror (hello helmet hair).
I arrive on my floor with a DING and walk through the glass-door entrance just as a ruffled looking man pushes past me carrying a heavy and overflowing cardboard box. He opens the door with his back and I rush to hold it open for him. He thanks me and welcomes me inside, dropping the box down onto the front desk with a heavy sigh. I introduce myself (the mandatory "haha no it's not Tania, it's Chania") and Mike welcomes me. I explain that I'm here to meet Kirsten and Lara in half an hour, both members of my team who I haven't met before. "Ahh, yes. Funny old business this, isn't it!" Mike replies, and offers to get me inducted into the office. The office is big, sprawling out in different directions with huge glass windows and lots of desks and meeting rooms.
It's very quiet, there are only a couple of others in but Mike introduces me loudly and they wave cheerily, asking me how my last few weeks have been and if it's been an exciting start to the job. "Oh yes" I nod enthusiastically. "Give me a fusty old mansion any day!" Bit of a confused awkward pause. "Let's begin the office tour then, shall we?!" Mike beams at me and he signals to a desk close by. "That'll be your desk - feel free to get your bits out!" I hastily unpack my rucksack, arranging my pen neatly beside my laptop. "So exciting!" I simper to Mike. Mike then gestures that I should follow him, so we make a detailed tour of the office - believe me, no stone is left unturned. I learn how to make myself a hot chocolate, where I should store my dry snacks, the sink protocol ("Watch out - Adrian hates an unwrung sponge!" Mike winks conspiratorially. I laugh along loudly, keen to be in on the joke though I have no idea who Adrian is).
We go through how to use the printer, how to photocopy, which rooms are best for meetings, how to use the projector. I get excited at a couple of very plush ergonomic Herman Miller chairs amongst a line of standard desk chairs in one of the meeting rooms. I give it a sit and a spin. "Ah yes, you'll want to bag one of those if you come in here - they go fast" nods Mike sagely.
We explore the fire exits and then head back inside. It's been a good 30 minutes now and it doesn't seem as if Kirsten and Lara have turned up yet. I ask Mike if he knows them. He scrunches up his face... "Is Kirsten from Hull?" I admit I can't remember and am not very good at placing accents. He says he knows he's got a couple more coming into the office shortly, so that could be them. I log into my laptop and check my emails, settling into my spot, sipping my hot chocolate contentedly, and another few minutes pass. I ask Mike if it's possible they could have arrived whilst we were having our tour around the office. Mike says probably not, but checks anyway. As he's walking back over to me he says we should use the time to create me a lanyard. I check my watch again. Kirsten and Lara are now officially 15 minutes late. Not very good, I tsk to myself, self-congratulating my own professionalism, as I have another sip.
"Huh, weird" Mike's voice pipes up from the front desk, a few feet away. He asks me to spell my name out to him. I spell it out and I hear some tapping. "You don't seem to be on the system yet, Chania, how long ago did you start?" I explain it was a few weeks ago and ask again whether he's heard anything from Lara and Kirsten. He asks me what Lara's surname is and I say it aloud. "Huh, WEIRD" he says again. "Neither of you seem to be on our system!".
I look up frowning, a bit puzzled, cradling my hot chocolate mug in my hands (a contemplative and sophisticated pose). "Has Lara worked here long?" I say yes, she's worked here for 15 years. The next words I'm about to hear still ring in my ears to this day.
"Chania... Are you... in the right office?"
I gape at Mike in horror as the realisation dawns on me. The huge posters of children everywhere suddenly make sense.
"Do you work for the International Rescue Committee, Chania?"
All that escapes my mouth is a hoarse whisper. "No."
Loyal reader, I had been fully inducted into the International Rescue Committee's office. I do not work for the International Rescue Committee. I had made myself a hot chocolate, swizzled in a fancy desk chair, learnt the photocopier and printer, put my lunch in the cupboard, in the wrong office.
There is no walk of shame greater than the one I had to do that day: dazedly walking to the sink to pour away my hot chocolate, collecting my little packed lunch from the cupboard, packing up my bag, stuttering a farewell, not too sure what to say, to the colleagues that were never my colleagues.
Mike winces apologetically at me. "Sorry Chania. Um... Your office is next door".
What's worse than being inducted into the wrong office? Having to explain to your actual office why you're late to the meeting.
So, there we have it. A true tale of workplace angst. I'm not sure LinkedIn would know what to do with that.