You are strolling down Locust Walk listening to the sick beats of Metro Boomin when you come to a revelation: Summer is only one month away. No. Oh no. Oh, my God, my God! You scream incessantly like Mr. Wilson from The Great Gatsby. It’s so, so over. Your future is ruined forever. You regret it.

Wait. Pause, pause, pause… Breathe. Exhale.

“LinkedIn exists,” you mutter. You steel your resolve. “Let’s do this.”

You open up your profile, which has been set to private. 26 profile views, but from whom? You don’t have LinkedIn Premium. But wait. First, you need to update your profile picture. You search for a picture to upload by scrolling through your photos app until the images blend together, from yesterday to one week ago to one month to six months to one year… and find no professional headshot. Only photos of Penn squirrels climbing up trees with whole donuts in their mouths or Japanese pagodas from a summer trip or your flushed face from Friday nights out. That won’t do. Now that you think about it more, you should’ve gone to that Wharton professional photoshoot. You regret it.

“Whatever,” you grumble. “I can figure that out later.”

For now, you decide to add an experience first. You’ll focus on the catchphrases. The keywords you can do today, dictionary in hand.


Committee Head. That’s true.


EconWorld Club. That’s true.


“I participated in the global EconWorld conference  " That’s true, but nope. Can’t write that. Too passive. Need to change the diction and the tone.

Click, click, clack.

You “engaged in the global EconWorld conference… ” Perfect. Active voice. Authoritative. REAL POWER!

But is that true?

“… and organized various professional events.”  That’s true. But definitely not going on my profile. It’s too general. I need to be specific to show effort and commitment.

“… organizing speaker panels and journal clubs.”

Better, better, better! And it now goes on your profile.

Next activity.

The keywords keep flowing out. You didn’t lead but instead spearheaded. You didn’t join or help or assist a clinic. Rather, you initiated, promoted, marketed, supervised, and outreached for an international, growing Section 501(c)(3). Next thing you know, you guided or developed or recruited, even if you didn’t, and you systematized and mobilized and administrated and enterprised. You are endorsed by three professional investors, certified in CPR by the American Heart Association, and proficient in R, Java, Python, and OCaml. And after and after and. The list goes on.

Additionally, rather than being a “general body member of an emerging tech club,” you can become a “junior associate developer of an artificial intelligence startup.” Suddenly, you are no longer just another faceless profile. Instead, you are an ambitious double major with a keen interest in software development or an entry-level marketing student with a commitment for business development or an international relations student with a zeal for policy advocacy or a banking entrepreneur or an aspiring storyteller or a blockchain enthusiast or a healthcare advocate. You also love the interdisciplinary, the “intersections between X and Y and Z.” The hot takes become catchphrases. And the catchphrases go on your profile.

You teeter towards inflation, not because that is the state of the economy and that is what your EconWorld club is all about. Rather, it is because we remember keywords—“spearheading” yourself down the LinkedIn rabbit hole.

In his despairing soliloquy, which takes place in Act 5, Scene 5, Macbeth cries, “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.” And you fear tomorrow too, don’t you? You fear that tomorrow, you will keep staying the way you are, that your LinkedIn profile will stay the same blank slate as when you first created your account six months ago, that you won’t get employed, that you won’t find true love somehow through the dream Fortune 50 hedge funds, and that you will be forever lonely. So you say to yourself that today would be the day that you become successful—and update your LinkedIn profile.

But tomorrow, everything is usually the same. So is the day after. What is LinkedIn but purely rhetoric? What is LinkedIn but A New York Times game to find the best word, such as Connections or Wordle or Crosswords?

We overuse catchphrases and keywords to build a brand of ourselves. In this age of application and resume-building, we are constantly barraged by the looming mountains of job internships, college or graduate school admissions, business pitches, or grant proposals. 

But don’t get caught in the keywords.

You are so much more than that.