LinkedIn gets a bad rep for being a “purely professional” site — and it is — but it’s more than that, and it took me until this week to fully realize that. Yes, LinkedIn is a site that primarily gets its bread and butter from professionals (or not-quite-there-yet professionals) networking to climb the ladder to success, but it’s always filled with people — real people — who have a myriad of stories within them.
Peeking Past the Professional Persona
While I was scrolling tonight, I came across a post that someone in my network had “liked”. I don’t know the original poster — I’ll call him Greg — I only know his words and I can only assume his emotions from them.
Greg posted that, after a good first interview with a particular company, he found out that a close relative had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. While he traveled to be with her, he received word from the company he interviewed with that they liked him enough to send him a take-home coding test. As someone who wants to do well and have everything my hands touch to be perfect the first time, especially when external circumstances are out of my control and chaotic, I understand Greg’s stress and anxiety in that regard.
I read further. Greg continued his post by telling his network that he reached out to the company to let them know what was going on. Not only did the company tell him not to worry about it, but they are exploring flexible options for his project deadline and second interview.
I’m not gonna lie, I breathed a sigh of relief when I read that, letting go of oxygen I didn’t know I was holding hostage in my chest until that moment. I knew I had to leave a comment, some encouraging word, something. I started my comment with “…gentle hugs.” and then stared at the blinking cursor for way too long before I added, “…gentle hugs (cuz I don’t know how else to offer you comfort).” I got into a staring match with the cursor again and then deleted the comment (well the bold part anyway) and stopped to think before attempting to write again. What I ended up writing was, I hope, a better demonstration of empathy in the midst of suffering.
Breaking the Barrier
I’m starting to tear up now, great.
It’s easy — too easy — to bypass someone based on the professional image they portray to the world, especially on a site like LinkedIn where you are wholeheartedly expected to “put your best foot forward” in order to showcase your strengths, assets, and accomplishments; and all in the midst of candidates and recruiters ghosting each other, cutthroat business politics between team leaders, and the overall hostility of the world that threatens to choke out everything non-superficial.
But tonight, I got to slow down a bit and see a glimpse of a stranger in a vulnerable, painful state. And, as an empath, I appreciate that despite the pain it’s currently causing (I wanna hug Greg so bad!) because I know that there’s a whole person, not just a professional, beneath that pristine profile picture.