First steps into the world of thought leadership: What could go wrong?

I have decided to become a double-spaced, three-word sentenced, humble-bragtastic genius


Something for the Weekend "I have just read your profile. Have you ever thought about becoming a real estate agent?"

This is my own fault for blindly accepting every connection request on LinkedIn. My network of professional contacts is in the hundreds but I know only about a dozen of them. The rest? I honestly haven't a clue who they are. They ask to connect and I accept.

LinkedIn should consider swapping its Accept / Reject Connection Request options for a simple Yeah Whatever button.

[record scratch] [freeze frame] yup thats me. you're probably wondering how i ended up in this situation

[Record scratch] [freeze frame]: Yup. That's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation...

For years I resisted chumming up with the Norbert Spankmonkeys of social media before realizing that LinkedIn was rather dull that way. Its daily feeds became a good deal funnier once I began letting in the more eccentric types.

Probably I ought to have been a little more selective about which industry these people worked in but it's too late now. Besides, being offered a job selling homes to poor people for inflated prices is hardly the most outlandish to come my way via LinkedIn's job-matching algorithm.

Not a day goes by without an update dropping into my inbox recommending I apply for one mismatched vacancy after another. Chauffeur, hotel receptionist, electrician, the lot. The professional's choice for social media also seems alarmingly keen that I should broaden my outlook by moving into the child-minding sector.

One theory put forward by a colleague is that my public profile on the service might be incomplete or misleading, causing the algorithm to charge off in the wrong direction. So I took a quick look at what other people see about me: 30+ years in tech journalism, a bunch of software certifications, some app development, a lot of IT and media training…

"Yup, that's exactly the kind of baby-sitter we need on Thursday nights!"

Pruning that profile is not an option. A recent tentative call from a prospective client – via LinkedIn, incidentally – asked why I don't have a website. All I could say was: "It's all there on LinkedIn. What else do you need?"

Of course, it is not all there but I have a problem. As if updating work histories, CVs, and client lists weren't tedious enough, sitting down to phrase summaries of how fantastic I am is a chore too far. You see, I am really bad at lying.

According to a study published last month in the International Journal of Psychology & Behavior Analysis, the way to catch out someone who might be lying [PDF] is to distract them with urgent secondary data – for example, ask them to recall a previously memorized fact or get them to hold an awkward object with both hands. Basically, liars gradually get overwhelmed by the cognitive load of maintaining their pretense while those telling the truth don't have to.

In theory, this means the best bullshitometer test for a job applicant is to conduct the interview while they are driving an automobile. If you are not both wrapped around a tree by the end, give them the job. All I'd need is for someone to ask me to remember a car number plate while recounting my essential skills, and I'd be done for.

Another thing to learn from this study is that you should beware people who are good at multitasking. They are inherent liars.

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My colleague – a social media manager – also pointed out that one's public profile is just a fraction of the dataset that a platform uses to categorize you. As well as the usual stuff such as Likes, Follows, and Replies, she said, these professional platforms put a great deal of value in what you yourself write in original posts.

I realize this is where I have been going wrong. I don't write posts on LinkedIn, except to link to my columns on The Reg. You see, throughout my career I have slavishly followed Samuel Johnson's tenet: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." My colleague advises me that if I want to progress my profile, I should become a blockhead like everyone else on LinkedIn.

"Oh no!" I cried, demonstratively (for the purpose of livening up this week's column). "Must I enter a mindset that will enable me to write daily thought-leader speeches and compose tediously lengthy and needlessly double-spaced humblebrags… every day?"

Not at all, she explained. Just read what others are doing and note their high Comment, Liked, and Shared numbers. No need to reinvent the wheel. Copy what they do, breathe new life into your feed, and watch your interactions accumulate.

What is there to lose? There's time to bash off a couple of posts… er, I mean breathe life into my feed before lunch. Let's see what other people are writing this morning… Ah, here's one: a Thoughtful Leadership Speaker has written 500 words about breaking her favorite coffee mug.

After recounting the gut-wrenching final seconds before the catastrophe, she expresses her deep upset and recounts the history of where she bought it and the many reasons why she was so fond of it (she fails to mention its ability to contain coffee but perhaps that was an unexpected bonus).

At unnecessary length she recalls how she eventually realized that she had another mug in the cupboard and that there is a deep metaphorical significance here from which we can all learn. She reinvents the word "mug" as an acronym meaning "Magnificence, Uniqueness, and Greatness" – and she still has 230 words to go. She reminds us that everybody has these qualities (we are all mugs?) and that we should feel free to use an alternative mug if the circumstances permit.

I can do that. Here goes:

The top sheet from my stack of printouts fell onto the floor yesterday.

It was my own fault as I had thoughtlessly left a window open, allowing a breeze to catch a corner that had slightly curled since cooling after its long and arduous Dante-esque journey through my laser printer.

I stared at the lonely piece of paper on the floor and the tears simply flooded out from me as I recalled all the wonderful times we had spent together since I printed it out half an hour earlier.

What was I to do?

Where would I go?

Is there someone I could speak to?

But then I realized.

I didn't have to stoop to pick it up.

I could just print it again!

So I did – another 200 times!

And so can you!

Great, that's one in the bag. Let's look for more ideas… Found one. What do you think of this?

A Builder of Powerful Brands has written a post to say that she is 21 and drinks at the weekend, eats hash browns on the sofa while watching Netflix, laughs with friends in the kitchen (what are they doing there?) and sleeps late on Sunday mornings – and yet is still good at her job. She reveals a hitherto principle known only to the initiates of brand builders that may rock us to our existential core: you don't need to work until 3am.

1 percent inspiration, 99 percent plagiarism – that's my motto. This is my version:

I am 57 and am drunk most of the time.

I eat chili nachos and fart on the sofa while watching the rugby and can down at least 10 pints in a session.

And yet I am still fucking ace at my work, whatever it is, and despite HR who are always banging on about something or other.

Oh and everyone at work fancies me.

There, I reckon I've mastered this inspirational thought leadership bollocks. I certainly feel I have breathed enough life into my feed for one day. By this time next week, the comments will be pouring in.

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Alistair Dabbs
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He apologizes to LinkedIn for making it the butt of these anecdotes. He thinks it would have been a better idea to invent a fake name for an imaginary social media platform, but they had all gone. More at Autosave is for Wimps and @alidabbs.


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