Hiding in Plain Sight

I outed myself on LinkedIn this week. I figured it was high time everyone knew the truth, if for no other reason than to stop the onslaught of solicitous emails that I receive every week. Okay, pull your mind back on track! This is LinkedIn we’re talking about. The closet I came out of this time was the one that a lot of us as bloggers like to hide in, the one where we are open about who we are in our posts but disguise ourselves as somebody else when it comes to the “real world”.

Truthfully, I don’t visit my LinkedIn profile very often. It bores me. It’s basically a series of paragraphs detailing my prior work experience and what I have accomplished at each job, written in the same voice that I use to craft compelling narratives for prospective grant funders.  My HR friends say that it’s a great profile and that it paints the picture of someone who is “highly employable”. And guess what! It works…too well sometimes.

In an average week, I get at least two emails that start off with “I saw your profile on LinkedIn”. Most are from folks looking for someone in my area to do merchandising work, a few are from IT companies, and the rest are from non-profits looking for a grant writer. Occasionally I may read one of these emails, but more often than not, they get deleted. Why? Because I have about zero interest in getting another job. I’m even avoiding side-hustles this year. But folks browsing around LinkedIn don’t know that. They see an over-achieving workaholic with a giant list of accomplishments that anyone would be proud of. But am I proud of them? Yes…maybe…sometimes. You know what I am most proud of though? The things that I do outside of my job – things that, if you were to look at my LinkedIn profile, you would never know about.

I work 32 hours a week. Nowhere in my profile do I even mention what I do with the other 136 hours – the things that are the true essence of who I am as a person – like volunteering in the community or working to end food waste; and nowhere do I mention this blog. In fact, I purposely left out this information because (at the time it was created) I didn’t want current (or future) employers to know I was committed to anything that wasn’t “work related”. How silly is that?!?

If I’m not looking for work, do I even need a LinkedIn profile? I’ve been debating this with myself for a few months now. On the one hand, I could delete it. Just disappear from the platform altogether. I’d probably be okay with that, except that I have connections on LinkedIn that I don’t have on any other social media site and sometimes I like to reach out to those people for advice. So, my other option was to change my profile – create a more accurate picture of the person that it represents – and hope to attract opportunities that are more in-line with with my interests. (And by opportunities, I mean collaborations, volunteer gigs, and new connections with folks that share my goals and dreams.)

So instead of hiding in plain sight, I sat down this week and updated my LinkedIn profile. Where I was once an experienced grant writer, web content author, and non-profit development professional, I am now a minimalist blogger, food waste warrior, and perpetual student of life – who happens to also write grants. The professional photo of me at the airport on my way to NY for a conference has now been replaced by a fun pic of me at the zoo. The wordy paragraphs are gone and, in their place, a simple list of my previous employers. I didn’t discuss my strengths or detail my accomplishments, because it’s not important. There’s no point in being “highly employable” if your main goal in life is to spend less time as an employee.

Right now, I write grants. Before that I built e-commerce websites. Before that I trained sales reps to sell pet products. And before that, I don’t even remember. Alongside these various career paths, I’ve delivered phone books, drove a day-care bus, reset the soup aisle at Walmart, and worked about 40 other side hustles. Next year, I may still be writing grants (I kind of like this gig) or I may be selling hot dogs outside Lowe’s. I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t really care. I work to live. I don’t live to work.

My new profile says all that and I’m pretty happy with it, though for a minute I felt really exposed after I finalized it. You see, for the first time ever, I included a link to this blog, essentially connecting my “professional” life with my “personal” life and letting all the folks I work with in on what I consider to be my proudest accomplishments. Every piece of my life is now connected. I am who I am because of the things I have chosen to do with my life. From working in a warehouse to diving in a dumpster, these are the things that comprise the whole of who I am. To separate life into “work” and “play” and hide one to showcase the other, that’s not just inaccurate, it’s self-limiting.

So, what does this mean to folks who are looking to use LinkedIn as their CV? Everything! As someone who was once responsible for hiring dozens of employees a month, I can tell you that the best resumes, the ones that I called in for interviews, were not the polished ones. They were the honest ones, the ones that showed that the person had a life outside of their job. People who are passionate about their life make excellent employees – maybe because we have other things to do with our time so our expectations from any one job are few. I don’t know, but from my own experience, I believe that could be true.

What are your thoughts? Do you include your personal goals, your hobbies, your side hustles, or your interests on your professional resume or LinkedIn profile? If not, why?

PS – I’d love to connect with more folks from the blogging, zero-waste, minimalist, and simple living communities on LinkedIn. Send me a request at linkedin.com/in/melodyglover/.

Death and Dating

My uncle Jerry passed away this week. He was 70 years old and my dad’s only sibling. I wasn’t particularly close to Jerry or his wife, but they are my family, so I felt it only right to go to the funeral home. My dad and step-mother did a great job of finding photos from his days in the Army, his wedding, and his many trips to the Smoky Mountains – my uncle loved the mountains – to create a collage of his life. There were even a few pictures of me and my sister as kids.

Jerry was one of those folks that people might call eccentric or odd. My dad liked to tease that he probably had the first dime he ever made and when my grandma was alive, she loved to tell the story of how they all went to Gatlinburg one summer and Jerry asked to see the hotel room before he would pay for it. When it wasn’t up to his standard, he negotiated a better deal right there on the spot. What I remember most about him was that he lived in the same apartment all my childhood and drove the same meticulously maintained car – a 1976 Chevy Monte Carlo. Though he later bought a house (just up the street from my dad), he still drove the car until the day he died. I also remember stacks and stacks of Pepsis (his drink of choice) in the garage, where he would stock up on them when they were on sale. You might say he was extremely frugal, which is one thing we had in common. The other was our love for my grandma.

Funerals are a time of reflection, whether we want them to be or not, and the thought of how short life really is can’t help but enter one’s mind as they stand beside a casket. For me, I couldn’t help thinking about how my uncle had devoted the last years of his life to caring for his mother, my grandmother, and within just a short time of her passing, he was gone as well. He was only 70 years old. All those trips he’d put off, all the dreams he may have had for retirement, were never realized, and it made me sad. And angry…at myself.

A lot of my own goals and dreams are unrealized too and while I describe myself as a caregiver for my mother, the truth is, she is not incapable of caring for herself. She can (and does) do a lot on her own, she just needs help from time to time, especially with the yard and house maintenance and driving to appointments. Yet, for some reason, when I think about travelling or even going away for a weekend, I feel like I’m abandoning my responsibilities. So, I put these things off, telling myself that I’m needed here now and there will be time for our adventures later. But what if there’s not?

Our goal of doing 48 Really Great Dates this year was partially an attempt to mitigate those circumstances. We thought it would be wise to set aside time for ourselves and do something fun, to lessen the tension that sometimes comes with doing so many things for other people. The crazy thing about that – having to plan dates caused more tension! Where we once simply decided to do things together – like go for a hike or visit a museum – we were now putting so much time and energy into planning the perfect outing that we forgot the point – to just do something fun together.

As we looked at the photo collage of my uncle Jerry’s life, one thing stood out – there were dozens of photos of my uncle and aunt doing crazy normal things…together. From barbecuing in the backyard to washing the car or sitting atop the World’s Largest Rocking Chair, they were always together, and they were always smiling. I’m not talking about canned smiles either. In every photo, they were grinning like they were having the time of their lives. I have to think that they had a good life – that despite having to spend nearly a decade caring for my grandma, they managed to find joy in every day living.

And that’s what I want for us.

We’re still working toward our date goal, but without the added pressure now. Instead of alternating weekly date planning, we sat down and brainstormed a big list of things we wanted to do this year. Each week we pick one that fits in with our other plans and obligations. This means, our dates are sometimes as simple as a long walk, and other times, we may manage to get away for an entire weekend. We probably won’t do everything on this list and that’s okay. Coming up with it was half the fun anyway. For a little while we got to dream and plan together and, in the end, we realized we don’t need to go on an elaborate date in order to connect, we simply need to make time for each other.

My uncle was buried with full military honors in a cemetery an hour away. Sadly, his wife will never get to visit his grave. Earlier this year, when they realized she could no longer live at home, she went to live in a nursing home. She has Alzheimer’s Disease. They had no children to pass their stories on to, but their life did not go unnoticed. I noticed. My dad noticed. My brother noticed. And each of us left the funeral home that day affected in different ways. Seeing my uncle’s life laid out in pictures helped me to remember that every new day is a new chance to do something spectacular – even if it’s just washing the car with your wife.