Sunday, December 2, 2018

The 5-Minus Club

You can't Google the rich human context which presents people in a credible form.

I sometimes feel a little odd when I connect with someone on LinkedIn who's attained membership in the 500+ club. It's a bit like like the feeling people have when viewing some Facebook profiles, I suppose, with equal parts awe, bewilderment, and amusement, of their friends' ability to wrangle thousands, or even more, of people into their world. 

As many do, I often wonder if I have enough professional "connections." Yet the truth is, I recall a time when knowing only a handful of people in domestic service was considered pretty good ~ and maybe even worked better than our maximus-connectus approach today. With those meager few connections, I managed to craft a career and become introduced to several employers and mentors and, actually, truth be known, do so much easier than I've been able to since. 

Readers of The Citizen will know that I'm no techno-phobe, but it is amusing - at least, and certainly worthy of discussion. I know I'm dating myself here, but does anyone recall the 90s, when domestic staff candidates walked into an employment agency with resume in hand, and sat down and spoke with the recruiter? It was a magical, gracious time in domestic staffing history. Recruiters were always happy to see you then, because, frankly, it takes some real effort to get all dolled up and actually walk into some place. It was noticed

Each of those recruiters still remember me today because of that very effort. Contrast that with the recruitment process today, where it just doesn't take much effort: you 

"Yes, I do have at least two years 
experience working in private homes!"
can now introduce yourself online, in your underwear. Or even less. 

So today, as an experiment, I deleted 11 of my LinkedIn "connections" (notice how I keep putting that word in quotation marks?). But not just an experiment - it was also because I could barely recall who they were or how I knew them. I think we may have said hi, or something like that, many years back. Deleting them, however, was not out of malice; I believe it was more like an act of kindness, of saying to both them and to myself (in cyberspeak, anyway) that it was really nice to say hi to you about 10 years ago, but we haven't really had any reason to be in touch since then and it's just a little creepy to think of you as connected with me at this point, so, maybe it's time to recognize that and move on. I'd like to think that when they discover that I've deleted them, they will (secretly, at least) be somewhat relieved about it all. Well, if they don't remember who I am, I mean. 

Today, honestly, I cannot tell you the full background story of many of my LinkedIn or industry connections, nor does relying on technology such as LinkedIn allow most of them to know very much about me, either. The raw data about anyone is out there, of course, and you can Google anyone's name, but you can't Google the rich human context which presents people in a credible form. It's a bit like serving beluga on a wadded up bunch of recycled paper towels - the product is still the same, yet the essence of what you've just "connected" with has a very thin, papery taste - while the Puiforcat just sits there on the shelf.

To that end, I propose LinkedIn create a new category. 
Having this many LinkedIn connections...
could one day become the new cool.

It would be known as The 5-Minus Club and it would mimic quality relationships that were not so rare, not so long ago. To become a member in this special club, you'd simply limit your LinkedIn connections to 5 people - or less. Those connections, however, would have to be able to recite your entire career history, examples of having experienced your special talents and your special strengths; your entire survey of weaknesses, too - and thus also knowing your opportunities for future growth; your goals for the next year and your professional dreams for the next ten. They'd probably also know what little town you grew up in, how you spend your weekend nights and they'd know your partner's birthday, too, not just yours, along with a couple of other "unprofessional" bits of information - the type of information which makes you, well, human. You, in turn, would know each of your connections just as well.

Think about the hundreds, or perhaps even the thousands, of your domestic industry "connections." Which ones, exactly, would make it onto your carefully chosen 5-Minus list?  

And, how would your career be affected... if you were to find yourself honored on someone else's?