The hellhole that is Cambridge LinkedIn
Abandon Faith All Ye Who Enter Here
Join LinkedIn, they said. Make connections! Fall into the sweet embrace of industry insights! Snuggle up to Mr. Head Honcho at Your DreamCareerTM!
And so, reader, as a naive and innocent fresher, I clicked that fateful sign-up button, that River Styx to corporate Hell, and thus ended the years of my blissful, childish ignorance. Those halcyon days where I, a fresh and sparkly-eyed Cambridge undergraduate, reigned Queen of all my imaginary employers' desires, where my 4A* at A-level and charity shop volunteering opened the golden doors to any job of my choice. Secretary for State? Well, sure; I did fulfil all 5 assessment objectives in my English Literature A-level. Oh, how little I knew.
Suddenly a grotesque new realm of passive competition and self-loathing was opened to me. It soon transpired that my peers had achieved more than I could ever have imagined; that my recently acquired friends had spent their formative years hustling and e-mailing their way to fetal careers. Meanwhile, all I had done was compose multiple imaginary columns for the BBC, Guardian and the New York Times.
The creation of my LinkedIn account, back in the start of Lent, took but a few minutes. The revelations I suffered in grasping at the infinite scope of my own under-achievements stretched out for several bitter hours of procrastination, as years of Cantabrigians' successes, laid out in neat black and white font, put to rest the aspirations and dreams of my youth.
Slaughter & May, The Guardian, the House of Commons : how was it possible that people of my own age had broken into these lofty and desirable echelons of power and prestige? I had expected that such remits of influence and exclusivity would be ripe breeding grounds for post- Oxbridge careers, but surely not before the degree was checked off?
These eminent and august institutions spun past, in an shameful scroll of elegant bullet points and timelines. 'As Queen of England for one week in this insight scheme, I gained experience of how to dispose of commoners, how to delegate the corgis' walks to my staff, and how to perfect the regal wave'. 'As Chief Junior Officer Assistant and Personal Dresser to the Prime Minister, I led a team of 500 in choosing just the right socks for Question Time, whilst taking the opportunity to draft 17 different laws'. Etc., etc., ad nauseam.
It was not just my rivals' wealth of work experience and competitive internships that I admired, but also their grand initiatives and projects. The award- winning school newspaper; the £5,000 young entrepreneurs' award, the international debating prize. Any browsing recruiter would surely leap at these perfect profiles and carefully curated CVs, wetting his lips and rubbing his fingers with excitement at these youthful self-starters, go-getters, driven and over-achieving dynamos.
My own meagre offerings felt worthless in comparison. A job in a pub, Grade 8 violin, and a few extra-curriculars at Cambridge – internship status, zilch.
As a result of my damning investigations, I resolved to make an effort: with all the bloodthirsty prowl of a lioness on the hunt, I would stalk my prey, observe, and attack: the hapless secretaries and office administrators of Westminster, Fleet Street, and Canary Wharf would not have time to flinch, as I would ruthlessly make my way to their boss's inner sanctum, cover letters as my claws and networking my roar. Lists were constructed, plans formed. I even trudged my way through the January snow to the Careers' Service on Mill Lane.
And then I stopped. The world of work could wait. Instead of firing off e-mails to potential employers, I turned back to my reading list; rather than spending the summer photocopying in central London, I served pints in a Yorkshire pub. Turning my back on the rat race for one more year was, I hope, the right decision: in lieu of adding a swanky company to my student CV, I chatted to normal people, who complimented me on just being at Cambridge. I had time to exist and to think ; I rested, I ignored others' achievements for a few more months. What I lost in LinkedIn points, I gained in head-space, and in self-reflection.
And if any future employers are scouting – I am a Cambridge undergraduate studying French and Spanish, interested in opportunities in the media, politics, and the charitable sector.