I was having a mentoring session with a 22-year-old over a week ago and asked her if she has a LinkedIn profile. She said she had just registered on the platform but that there was barely anything on her profile and that “she doesn’t know how to use it”. Recognizing a flimsy excuse I quickly asked her how she learned to use other social media… she says, well with others you already have your “friends” on board to interact with. With LinkedIn, she got recommended connections based on her geopolitical location and the persons’ popularity, so she was recommended to follow our most popular Cameroonians in the corporate world (Rebecca Enonchong and co.)
While the part about who/how LinkedIn recommends surprised me, her inability to see value in this platform did not. Through my youth work with Better Breed Cameroon I’ve discovered young Cameroonians don’t value this platform as much as you’d think people actively seeking work would. For them, (and many others) LinkedIn is for people who’ve already made it. They come on here and see as she said in her own words “people always posting an achievement at work or a new job”… This platform is undoubtedly daunting for someone like her; a recent graduate who has had very limited educational and career counselling. She’s someone with a broad-based B.A in Journalism and Mass communications but no idea if and how to use it (and considering changing her field completely to procurement) because the concern for her (as is the case with most graduates) is what can I do to get money immediately!
Young people (like her) whom I have worked with feel (and this is a whole other topic to be discussed) that they should be able to monetize the qualification they just completed. So if signing up on Linkedin with their fresh degree won’t “get them a job”, why sign up, they ask?
But using LinkedIn as an employment tool is playing a long game. People don’t share this enough. I recall my disbelief when a writer friend (who was also a doctoral scholar of law at the time) mentioned being scouted on here. I didn’t think it happened to people like us- Africans working on the continent. At the time I was on LinkedIn not in hope of getting recruited, but rather in hope of networking with people I could only aspire to be like. I stalked their profiles as I envisaged and planned mine. You could say LinkedIn served as my vision board at the beginning…
Then, being a writer I thought to chronicle my career journey here with LinkedIn articles, to share my work and build a profile… second reason for use- is branding.
Soon as a graduate student I’d see it as useful for finding funding opportunities, soliciting the necessary recommendations, following up on the development agencies I was interested in for research…
And finally, LinkedIn was the social media platform I could share news of this conference or that fellowship with people who get it/would appreciate it just as much- unlike FB for instance where family and friends would just ooh and ahh not over what I was wearing in the photo (nothing bad about that of course). So a place for meeting like minds?
I thought of all these reasons when the mentee I mentioned earlier asked me: “is LinkedIn useful for you? Is it helping you get work?”
If I told her yes, I’d be insinuating that I’ve landed one of my previous or current jobs solely via LinkedIn and that is a lie. But I also couldn’t say ‘no’ because I’ve within the past year – over a decade on this platform- I’ve been solicited by recruiters for potential consulting work thrice. So obviously the potential is there… but the profile they’re looking for took 11 years to build.
So what did I tell her? I said simply “that it has its uses”. I want her to see LinkedIn for all the uses I’ve outlined above and more, I want young people like her to see beyond the endless posts of people “humble bragging” about achievements…
To see that people like her can use it as a vision board, use it to network and reach out to people whose contacts they’d never get otherwise… use it to find a fellow Cameroonian at a foreign university you’re moving to or a fellow black woman in a predominantly white space. Use it to amplify your work and the works of your friends (p.s check out this amazing paper by my MILEAD sis @RamaDieng).
Use it as Twitter for the corporate world and call out institutions if you have to. Use it to dream out loud by posting your career aspirations and motivations (the right person just might come along to support you…). Use it to do background checks on potential employers (and employees). Use it to keep abreast of what is happening in your field etc.
In all these different uses lie personal branding, credibility building, knowledge acquisition and more which leads to the employment one desire… that’s the long game!
But you can enjoy the now too! E.g the featured image is me laughing out loud in delightful conversation with a friend I first made acquaintance with on LinkedIn 😊
I’m sending this to piece to the person who inspired the writing of it and other mentees as my very long response to that question upon reflection and thought to share it here too. This is not a paid promotion for LinkedIn lol!
But enough about me, what about you? Why/how do you use LinkedIn
I’d love to be an assessor for perhaps an undergraduate- research project looking at how many Cameroonian employers look up their potential employees’ LinkedIn accounts (or other social media) prior to employment… someone should pick up this research idea!