I cannot take a good headshot for my LinkedIn profile. I haven’t even tried. I haven’t created an account, because I cannot decide on the right blouse, hairstyle, or background. I feel that these small details are actually major decisions that impact how I package and present myself to strangers. I think about my nonexistent LinkedIn account almost every day, when my barely 22 year-old friends and classmates are going off to job fairs and photo shoots, and especially when the director of the health economics company that I recently applied to for a summer internship still has “Camp Counselor: July 2003 – Present” as a publically visible accomplishment on his profile. If he was hired as director with that on there, I should be able to brush my hair, smile for the camera, and get a job. But I am not ready to constrain myself into headshots and one-page resumes. A LinkedIn account represents a certain willingness to participate in a suit-and-tie, 9-to-5 reality that I am not yet willing to be a part of.
I’m graduating in December (a semester early), which means that I most likely will have a bachelor’s degree before I have a baby. At this rate, though, I will be married with two kids and an English bulldog before I choose a damn headshot.
I often wonder if I am selling myself short by not broadcasting my so-called accomplishments across the Internet. I am young and inspired (I think), with a reasonably sized list of professional and academic accomplishments with good titles and admittedly augmented descriptions. I will soon be graduating from a school with a growing reputation and shrinking acceptance rate and entering into a job market that is finally bouncing back from the recession in 2008. So I should just find someone with a camera and get it over with. LinkedIn is the best platform for humble-bragging, and irrefutable proof of adulthood.
But I am only 20 years old. I don’t own a car, I don’t pay for my own groceries, and I definitely do not know how to do my own taxes. I am not in a rush to move out of my parents’ house or get a job with a yearly salary. The semester I would be spending in classes will instead be spent travelling alone in central America, drinking too much, and sleeping very little. I will be entering the world of salaries, resumes, and rent checks in less than a year. Before that, I will remove myself from academic obligations and resist the demands of life outside of Tufts for just a while longer. I will experience absolute liberation from school or work and be responsible to no one but myself. I will, for all intents and purposes, be unemployed. Not something I want to put on my LinkedIn.
Making the decision to leave school a semester early has not been not easy. I have met with my dean, the health professions advisor, the advisors for both of my majors, and googled “will not writing a senior thesis ruin my chances of getting into grad school” multiple times, expecting one of those people or machines to tell me that not writing a thesis will in fact ruin my chances and I should stay. With the exception of the computer’s rather unhelpful mess of answers, everyone else told me to go. My first motivation for graduating early was that I would save myself and my family the burden of paying the tuition at this school. Despite a significant financial aid package, we still struggle to cover the family contribution. When I realized that by leaving this school early I could afford to travel because it will cost so much less, I took that as a sign to take advantage of that momentary release from obligation.
In many ways, beginning the process of leaving was the least independent decision I have made thus far. I required external reassurance from professionals, parents, and friends that what I want is not completely insane, and not so out of line with my Type A plans for a successful future.
Being alone and without a job, even for the few months between graduation and graduate school, will be the biggest deviation from my “plan” I have made so far, and I absolutely am a planner. I schedule every week into my dark grey planner, filling in empty squares with checks as I complete each task. I make to-do lists on Post-It Notes, organize my laptop into folders for every class, and I plan and budget six months ahead. I don’t change my mind, not once it is inked into my planner. I choose to study for exams on the occasional Friday night and I apply for multiple internships every summer. I don’t not try. Even so, I am not comfortable with being the owner and controller of a LinkedIn account, I am not comfortable with an uncertain future, and I am not even sure that these decisions to purposely deviate from what seems right are right. But I want to travel, I want to be alone, and I want to live momentarily unconstrained by any decisions at all.
I haven’t made a LinkedIn account. I will, eventually, I do know that, and I honestly believe it would be naïve to not use such a valuable resource. I am just not yet ready to fulfill another expectation or pay another student for a mediocre headshot taken on a Sunday afternoon when I will most likely be too hung over to look put-together in the slightest. I do not want my primary accomplishments to be those that I can type up and quantify. I want to be pushed, briefly, by immediate passions. I want to participate in experiences and learn lessons that a LinkedIn profile won’t show employers, or reassure me, who I am or will become.