LinkedIn curation

Mullet journal

Mug illustration of Arts columnist Ryan McCullough.
Armaan Mumtaz/Senior Staff

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Finding a job is part performance, part curation. Last week, I made a LinkedIn account. This is an event I still haven’t recovered from due to the embarrassing thrill of it all. I hadn’t made a LinkedIn because the prospect of networking terrified me. I also procrastinate because I’m afraid of losing the edge that I don’t really have. 

From what I understand, networking is essentially a lie meant to cover up the embarrassment of job hunting. It’s tech-speak to discreetly ask people for a job, or to ask if they know someone who has a job. 

Making a LinkedIn is an artistic impersonation of professionalism. It’s like early social media, but instead of ranking top friends or giving TBHs, everyone is wearing a tie and sharing technical articles that they didn’t really read. 

I genuinely think making a dating profile is a lowly form of artistic expression when it’s done well, and so is LinkedIn, along with the general process of job hunting. There is no scientific formula to any of it. This entire process, from making a LinkedIn to interviewing to email correspondence, is a performative art — especially when you have no idea what you’re really supposed to be doing. 

I love a chat, and it’s the most fun part of this process. Being good at conversation requires social intelligence, but often feels like an equally artistically rooted skill. Knowing how to ask good questions and how to appear like a functional person is an art. This skill is also pivotal to dates, a venue in which I wonder how people who know how to apply for jobs fare. 

If you’re lucky, eventually you might get hired. Unfortunately, this leads to work, and working is usually not an art. Usually, it’s either physical labor or rattling off “Let’s circle back on that” until you die, and those things you never got to circle back to die with you. 

This makes LinkedIn a vaguely sad place to be. It’s a performance, but it’s more in the realm of Jared Leto pretending to be a musician in his real life than it is Jared Leto pretending to be Italian in a Ridley Scott movie. 

Listing one’s skills is a fate worse than death. I have skills, plenty of ‘em. Recently, I had to convince a Walgreens pharmacist that I wasn’t abusing or selling my Remeron prescription. (“Who does Remeron recreationally?”) That seems like a skill, considering my physical appearance, which is like Christian Bale preparing for the role of a drug addict, and of course, the fact I was using my pills to make art of Stanley Tucci’s face that I sell on Etsy. 

I have plenty of other skills. The most critical skill I’ve acquired since being admitted to UC Berkeley is how to take care of curly hair. I had no idea what I was doing before. Part of the curse of growing up in Santa Cruz (where I can only assume other Jews experienced a form of exodus) is no one telling you to not comb curly hair. Does this make me more employable? It should. 

My second most critical skill developed during my undergraduate is a screen addiction. This makes me constantly available. If you text me, and I’m not experiencing a crisis or hate you, I’ll respond within two minutes. I’m a great texter. Some of my texts are on TikTok and they have an uncomfortable amount of views. I’m not on TikTok because I’m always trying my best to not be a male manipulator. This aversion is also a skill, maybe even an art. 

I think finding work is also about perfecting the art of seeming like you don’t need work. I usually try to channel my aversion to work, and instead, I channel my nervous energy into the appearance of competency.  

I have a lot of nervous energy to harness. You would be too if you were born a neurotic Jew, and then next thing you know, you’re 20 years old and a radio DJ is trying to murder you in a moving vehicle for 10 hours because they think you’re Eddie Redmayne. 

Beyond harnessing your nerves, some research is also probably a good idea. Once, I accidentally told someone my cousin worked for “Incelpol,” like a weird version of the militant involuntary celibate group. She worked for Interpol, the intergovernmental organization. Those kinds of slip-ups might get noticed. 

I can’t post things on LinkedIn, because I’m terrible at Twitter and I think I would eventually confuse the two, culminating in a 2 a.m. post reading something such as “I’m thinking about God, but in a silly way.” Anyway, we’ll have to see how my attitudes toward LinkedIn actually fare as I avoid grad school for at least a year. 

LinkedIn remains mysterious to me. I’m not sure what it is, or what I’m really supposed to do with it. I think it’s mostly to cold DM people who can then try to vet you through your profile. This seems stressful. I hope other people aren’t thinking this much about LinkedIn, or how to use it. If you are, I hope this helped.

Ryan McCullough writes the Monday A&E column on exploring the irritations of art. Contact him at [email protected].