I stalk people on LinkedIn to find out how they made it, and you should too

Words by Helena Bammant

The three-step stalking sesh.

Let’s face it, when it comes to modern-day stalking there are no boundaries. The Instagram age has left us following people around 24/7.

We are a generation of nosy and jealous individuals always wanting to know the behind-the-scenes of our favourite social media fascinations.

When I’m in a career rut, I like to motivate myself by stalking the lives of my biggest inspirations. It provides me with the same kind of motivational feeling I imagine you get after a run (I think they’re called endorphins but you’re asking the wrong girl – I don’t run).

Basically, career stalking leaves you with that buzzy caffeine hit and a feeling like you could take over the world. There’s nothing like the success of others to get you out of bed and excited for the future.

Compiling a career crush mood-board will not only help to motivate you, but it’s the first step in finding out how they made it and how you can make it, too

For me, it’s become an important ritual. I fall into a mindless hole of Instagram lurking and eventually end up on the page of a new career crush (surprisingly, no one seems to be on private these days).

In their bio I can, more often than not, see their job title, and their mutual friends and co-workers are front and centre in their feed.

Like the super sleuth I am, I can generally work out their location through their aesthetically pleasing feed full of local restaurants and cafes. A quick name search on Google and I’m halfway there.

Then the nitty-gritty starts to come out; their age, interviews with them and their portfolios. Most of the time they are disarmingly young – I’m talking 25 but look like they have the experience (and the wardrobe) of a well-established 30-year-old. 

So, who is this Miranda Priestly-like figure and how do I become her? What has she got that I don’t have but obviously need?

After scrolling past their astonishing list of achievements (the casual Junior Editor of Vogue at 25), I soon land on the link for their LinkedIn profile­. I’ve made it. Why LinkedIn you ask?

LinkedIn gives you access to all the top-secret (not quite but it feels like it) information about these high-flying individuals, including their education and previous employment and the industry connections that have landed them your dream job.  

By now, you must be thinking why do I do this? I am not proud of my expert level stalking skills (only when they’re used to find a friend’s ex’s new girlfriend) but it doesn’t count as stalking if you’re in love with their job and not them specifically, right?

If this resonates with you, then I’m pleased to provide you with my foolproof three-step LinkedIn stalking system, so you too can go forth and career stalk.

Step 1: Become invisible 

Every time you see someone’s profile on LinkedIn, your name, location, industry and job location can be viewed by them. 

This is why it’s essential to make sure you’re logged out of your personal account. Better yet, turn your browser onto private mode ­– you want to conduct this mission out of sight. 

If you so choose, you can be super sneaky and go to your LinkedIn privacy settings, which are positioned on the drop-down of the top right-hand corner of the page, and click on manage.

Now click on “what others see when you’ve viewed their profile”. Now select the option “you will be totally anonymous”. This way, your profile is made, obviously, anonymous. Excellent.

Step 2: Stalk and you will seek

If you’re looking for someone in particular, just go ahead and search their profile – there’s no room for shame anymore.

Now you have access to their education history, their experience and previous jobs, interests (pages and companies they like) and also skills and endorsements (this is where you’ll find their co-workers if you’re willing to go full stalker mode).

The most important section is their education and work history. Finding out the different pathways, whether it be through a particular degree or course you’d never heard of before, or through experiences like internships and volunteering, can be helpful in finding out how you can weasel your way into your industry of choice. 

At this point, you might have a fair idea whether you’re already on the right track career-wise, or you may be feeling overwhelmed, wondering how the heck you can get your foot in the door. Either way, this next step is for you.  

Step 3: Approach

If you want to go even further and start researching the company or their co-worker’s background, you can do that too. Isn’t the Internet great?

In their profile header, you will see their connections. Once you click on this you will see all the people they are friends with and you’ll end up with the names and job titles of a selection of people with impressive jobs – voila!

If your plan is to spark up a conversation (I would advise downplaying the fangirling), see if there’s anyone in your extended network who could connect you first.

If you can’t find anyone, have a look at their shared posts and interests and find something you have in common for a conversation starter.

It’s always good to keep it casual and nowadays it’s totally acceptable to reach out through a direct message on Instagram (the worst that can happen is they don’t reply).

Most of the time we forget they are real people and were once in the same position. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice – you may even get a sneaky notification that they’ve been looking at your LinkedIn, too. 

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