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You Just Never Know

February 23, 2010

The thing that’s great about LinkedIn is how it connects you to people you know, people you’d like to know and people you used to know. So, I will say this as gently as I can: LinkedIn, I hate you because you make me look like a job floozie and offer me little recourse to explain.

I didn’t realize how my LinkedIn profile might make me come across until I was having a conversation with someone in HR who I’d just connected with there. She offered some useful, if unsolicited, feedback.

“It just doesn’t look like you’ve stuck around very long in one place,” she said. I tried to point out that I’ve been in my current job for three-and-a-half years and that in almost every job I’d gotten promoted while I was there. But all she could see were the brief stints and overlapping years.

Today, I spent a wonderful few hours with someone who represents the shortest of those tenures – just seven months. When I left that job, I’d never have imagined that all these years later we’d be riding around in a golf cart together, laughing and brainstorming ideas that could bring us back to working on something together again soon.

When I resigned, it was with the hope that the opportunity I’d found would teach me new things and lead me more quickly on the career path I’d imagined for myself. The one I’m on now, in fact, which has led me back, today, to her.

A couple of years ago we became friends on Facebook, and we’ve commented on our lives as we represent them there. Me watching the shy kid I remember her son being when he was in middle school blossom and go away to college. Her watching my son gain confidence walking and me make my way through being on my own with him when my husband was traveling so much last year.

It was a rekindling of a friendship and what I realize now is a mentorship that started all those years ago when I worked with her. It could never have happened on LinkedIn with all its cold professionalism, where we are reduced to a list of jobs, a summary of skills and a few recommendations from clients and colleagues if we’re lucky.

Facebook has allowed the two of us to ease back across the gulf that opened when I walked out the door. I’d shocked her by quitting. She’d shocked me by asking me to clear off my desk right then and there.

Reflecting on the delight we both felt in collaboration today, I can only smile and think, “Well, you just never know.”

I had taken some photos and videos as we were riding the golf cart around the campus of the university where she started working two weeks ago. She jokingly said, “I guess I’ll be seeing myself on your Facebook tonight.”

“Tonight?” I replied. “I’ll be uploading them right now from my phone. But don’t be surprised if you show up in the blog.”

I paused, serious for a moment. “Have you been reading my blog?” I asked.

“I have,” she said. “I really loved the story about your mother-in-law.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“But what really impresses me is that you’re so good at it.”

“Thanks,” I said, looking away.

“No really,” she said. “But I knew you were good. Hey, I believed in what you could do when nobody knew who you were yet.”

And she was right. Which leads me to my response to my HR friend about what those brief intervals on my online resume really mean. LinkedIn just tells the story of the duties and responsibilities of our day-to-day, and leaves so much of the real parts of our lives to Facebook to reveal.

Those intervals, I believe, are the true education my generation continues in the years after we receive our degrees. They’re when we figure out not how to pass exams or write papers but how to be in this world: how to work, how to write, how to balance, how to live as adults. How to walk toward something without ever really walking away.

Thank you, Jodie, for all I’ve learned from you. And for always believing in me, even when nobody knew who I was yet – not even me.

Now “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” What do you say?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2010 2:04 am

    Don’t you just love useful, if unsolicited, feedback? : )

    But having an open Comments form is soliciting input (isn’t it?) so I’ll go ahead and jump right out there with “Nice post!” Poignant, really.

    The last part made me think of a lyric from a Counting Crows’ song, Time And Time Again (http://bit.ly/cRDzQm):

    I wanted to see you walking backwards to get the sensation of you coming home.
    I wanted to see you walking away from me, without the sensation you’re leaving me alone.

    – Peace!

    • Angie Henderson Moncada permalink
      February 23, 2010 10:08 am

      Great song to start the day with. Thanks for the comment, and you’re right (from your Tweet) – we read so much great stuff and it isn’t until we’re the ones doing a lot of writing that we remember how important the comments are.

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