As hard as we try to focus on the present, we undergraduate students are constantly worrying about life after college. Being thrown into the real world is a daunting thought that has become all too real for many of us. Deflecting from the unsettling prospects of the future is getting seemingly more challenging as the years go by, especially when it comes time to create the dreaded LinkedIn page. Seeing all of our friends post about their internships in New York City, or receiving a prestigious award on campus makes us feel like we aren’t working hard enough, like we are falling behind when the race hasn’t even started. Try as we might, we can’t help but feel jealous of our peers and doubtful of ourselves. So how do we deal with these feelings? How do we stop dreading and start planning for the rest of our professional lives?
Well, it is first important to note the effects that these kinds of insecurities have on us. LinkedIn, while a platform meant to connect people solely in a professional way, is really just another form of social media. In their recent studies, two psychology professors at the University of North Carolina discuss how adolescents “Use selective self-presentation strategies to portray themselves online in an ideal manner, self-focus is heightened, increasing feedback-seeking and social comparison.” Measuring yourself and your achievements against others is inevitable but is made all too normal with the increasing presence that social media has on today’s young people.
It’s especially hard on women; the achievements of others not only feel bigger but are quite literally rubbed in our faces. These professors agree as they explain that “important differences between adolescent girls and boys may be relevant to an online context, with girls more likely to experience depressive symptoms as the result of reassurance-seeking behaviors offline.” About LinkedIn specifically, being immersed in the occupational success of others is difficult when you feel like you are not living up to the societal expectations that are put on you as a professional woman.
Another effect of these feelings is imposter syndrome, or the tendency of doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. High-achieving women have been found to bear this weight more often than others, and sometimes sites like LinkedIn almost encourage society to pit women against each other for the sake of success. Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey explain that imposter syndrome is particularly present in women due to the toxic and biased cultures of workplaces everywhere. If executives do not create a system that addresses and deals with the realities of being a working woman in America, how are we expected to rise above our feelings of self-doubt and inferiority in the workplace? How about on LinkedIn?
The realities of LinkedIn are, unfortunately, not going away. So what do we do to cope?
1. Nihar Chhaya of the Harvard Business Review suggests that, while envy is a powerful emotion to control, we can choose whether or not to feel the shame that may come with it. What does this envy tell you about your desires and values as they relate to your professional future? How can you put them to use in your own way? Refusing to give in to self-doubt will allow for envy to slowly and quietly diminish, and will allow for your self-confidence to remain intact and for your sense of identity to remain in your own control.
2. Remember that feeling insecure does not make you an imposter. We live in a society where women constantly have to work just a little bit harder to prove themselves, to make a name, and to gain the recognition that they deserve. We are faced with microaggressions every day, ones that are hard to dismiss and easily build onto one another, eventually succeeding in making us feel unworthy or less than. It is important to realize that losing a little bit of hope, especially when it comes to finding a job, does not mean that you genuinely feel that others are smarter or more competent than you. Taking a minute to wallow can be a good thing, but then it comes time to get back up and start making use of your own LinkedIn connections, ideas, and opportunities. We all know what we are capable of, sometimes we just need a little push to get there.
3. Remind yourself that LinkedIn, just like any other social media platform, is a façade. You have no idea how your friend landed her amazing new job or just how prestigious your classmate’s award really is. Other people’s accomplishments are just that: other people’s. Instead of inferring that they are smarter and better than you are, keep in mind that the realities of their professional life are probably so much different than how you imagine them and that they too are probably envious of someone else that they are connected with. We cannot know how and what other people do to become successful, but we do know how and what we can do to accomplish everything we want to make ourselves proud.
Obviously, all of these things are easier said than done. However, as we start to navigate LinkedIn and all of the other professional avenues that we will begin to go down in these next few years, we must remind ourselves that we are in control of our futures and our futures only. By letting go of our jealousy and beginning to focus on how we can make our own LinkedIn reflect all of our amazing accomplishments, we can ensure that our self-doubt will never again get in the way of our inner girl boss.