What I Learned From Stalking On LinkedIn

Navy football game
A cold night for an Irish win.

It’s 3 o’clock on a Sunday and my throat hurts. I swallow once and everything is fine. Last night I was at FedEx Field watching Notre Dame scrape by with a win against Navy, and though it was a frustrating, curse-worthy game, I didn’t do much yelling. I swallow again. It doesn’t hurt to swallow but the glands are sore and I know in the back of my throat it’s coming.

I look outside my window. The leaves, all red, yellow and brown, are shaking in the branches and peeling off in a spiral down toward the ground as the wind speeds up fall. It is the start of November and an unseasonably warm September and October delayed the color changing of the trees, but now the wind is threatening to make their branches bare. Instead of cursing my beloved football team I curse the secretive cult of farmers who decided on their calendar that we would have another wrathful winter. They summoned this wind, I tell myself. I remember my throat hurting two days ago when I was out running in the wind.

The belated fall colors outside my home.
The belated fall colors outside my home.

I let my mouse hover over a new browser tab, tempted to Google home remedies because there is nothing I dislike more than gargling with warm salt water (my mom will vouch for this). But I am certain I will get distracted by articles explaining why it is or is not possible that I have Ebola and decide against making an internet query.

Instead I Google a few names of people whose current jobs I find interesting. I do this because I am curious how they got there. What did they do to prepare themselves for the job they have now? I try to answer this question by looking at their LinkedIn profiles and, for the famous, Wikipedia pages. I want to answer this question to try to make sense of my own path.

And the funny thing about this exercise is that there is no template. Between my Google stalking hobby, interviewing people for articles and networking with people at conferences, I have learned that the possibilities are nearly infinite for how people get from point A to point B in their careers.

I recently shared a bit of job advice with a friend who is getting ready to graduate from college. I’ve just barely begun my own life in the workforce, but I told her not to put too much pressure on her decision about where to begin her career. At our age–and as an entry level employee–it is so easy to make a switch once you know what works for you, I told her. But also it is clear to me that the model of “I sign my acceptance of a position at Company A before graduating college, I work my way up for the next four decades to an executive-level position, by which point I retire with a healthy 401K” is not only not true for the current graduating classes–it is not true for 95 percent of the working professionals I’ve encountered (in person and online).

My friend’s name is Nicole Sganga, and she wrote a fantastic piece for Notre Dame Magazine about her trip to Myanmar which you should go read after you finish up here. In it, she asks the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to girls who have never been taught to think about their personal futures. They couldn’t answer. But that problem in their society is worse than it seems on the surface. We ask that question of children expecting a simple answer: lawyer, doctor, teacher. Just take a look at your friends’ LinkedIn profiles and you’ll see how truly insufficient the question is, when you see the infinite possibilities of things that we can be.

Nicole Sganga in Myanmar.

Your first job is just that, the beginning of your career, the start of YOU. There will be many chances to achieve your dreams, evolve them a bit, and then achieve the new ones. You may take a risk and do something you thought might be cool that will lead you to something else you may never have even known existed. (I seriously doubt any kid said “I want to be a weather cynic for the Farmer’s Almanac” but those jobs do exist.)

For the creative types–the people like me and my friends in ND’s Film, Television and Theatre program whose success hinges on putting their work out for the public to consume and toss aside–having a career takes time and emotional stamina. You have to constantly be putting your work out there and getting feedback so that you can learn and grow, and so that your work can find an audience and take off. That’s not an easy order to fill. When I graduated, I said I didn’t want to spend my life as an actor because I didn’t want to constantly be putting myself out there and… well, my life outside acting isn’t too different.

I can’t read from a LinkedIn profile what made things click along the way for people. But I like to think that varying positions and companies that pepper the modern resume means it doesn’t matter so much what you do, it matters who you’re doing it with. Your colleagues, the people who challenge you, shape your craft, influence who you are and in turn develop and strengthen your art, those are the people who matter most.

Life is too short to not develop connections with people. And that’s what I learned from stalking on LinkedIn.

The Hesburgh- Yusko Scholars

In 2010, the University of Notre Dame welcomed its first class of Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars to campus. According to the website, the program “seeks to attract, encourage and equip extraordinary students who will have a transformational effect on the Notre Dame community.” The students say their motto “Be Transformational” is how they approach their daily lives. The funding for the program came from a generous donation from the Yusko family, in honor of past university president Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C.

Click to hear the audio feature on Sound Cloud.

Following Faith

When Wei Lin, 18, walks into a room, he is greeted with a chorus of hello’s. He knows everyone, and everyone knows him. His wide smile is contagious. It is unclear whether he has ever had a bad day. When asked, Lin would say he is very blessed.

“The thing that made this weekend so beautiful was standing in front of the altar and seeing the many faces of all the great friends who were in the audience,” Lin said.

On Saturday, March 30, 2013, Lin was baptized, received the Holy Communion, and was confirmed into the Catholic Church with five others at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Church at the University of Notre Dame.

He could not stop smiling. It was the first thing every churchgoer said as they offered their congratulations to Lin at the end of the service. He stood beaming in the center, the star of the show. Though he stands out in the crowd, his passion for his faith is no turn-off, even for a confirmed but questioning believer such as myself.

I watched Lin as he embarked on the last leg of his spiritual journey before becoming fully Catholic. At the Vigil, Lin professed his faith and the crowd, including myself, dutifully responded “I do” to the renewal of our own baptisms.

Lin, the product of two non-Christians from Queens, New York, knew the Catholic Church was his home the moment he set foot in it. It calls to him. He spent countless hours each week serving the Church in the liturgical choir while simultaneously undergoing the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults classes. Since the spring semester he has attended Mass twice every Sunday: the 10 a.m. for liturgical choir and the 11:45 a.m. for RCIA. Not to mention the 8:30 a.m. rehearsal and the classes in between.

“I went to a competitive high school and it was hard to find time to pursue a faith life,” Lin said. “I messed up a lot in high school. I felt Notre Dame would be a good escape from that environment.”

At the reception in the Coleman-Morse Center after his baptism, Lin hardly ate. He was busy hugging and thanking everyone at the RCIA reception for their support, and then repeated the gesture upstairs at the reception for the liturgical choir.

“I’m starving,” he said, looking at me as we headed back down to the RCIA reception once more. I looked at the clock. 1:12 a.m.

“You’re like someone who just got married!” I told him. “You haven’t stopped greeting people all night and you know everyone here.”

He smiled. “In a way, I did just get married,” he said. “I’ve finally married my faith and become closer in my relationship with God.”

It is enough to make every Catholic – heck, every Christian – who was baptized as a baby reconsider faith. If given the obstacles and the choice today, would you do what Lin did to become Catholic?

Click the first image to begin slideshow with captions. All photos by Clara Ritger.


  1. Rule No. 1: I will not use more than one tweet from each handle. This is mostly to limit me copying my feed into Storify and then hitting “publish.”
    Addendum to Rule No. 1: For every tweet included, many more were left out. Show some #FF to the gurus who kept the microblogosphere in business!
  2. Not going to lie, I’m secretly delighted that I couldn’t pick up @clararitger‘s Inaug credentials bc it means she’s coming sooner/sleepover.
  3. Friday, Jan. 18: In a last minute turn of events, I wound up arriving 24 hours earlier than scheduled so that I could pick up the #NotreDame student media credentials. NDtv pals @alliepriede and @NarratorVoice would land Saturday evening.
  4. What to do with an extra 24 hours? Eat delicious food, of course.
  5. Washington D.C. is home to some of the best food in the nation. Brenna – a NBC News Desk Assistant and 2012 grad – took me to Surfside in Glover Park, where I quite possibly dined on the best Mexican food in the northeast U.S.
  6. Saturday, Jan. 19: I met up with other Notre Dame alums – including Washington Editor for the National Review Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) – to see comedian (and fellow Irishman) Joe Kwaczala perform. He was hilarious, also, we were in a mall.
  7. Monday, Jan. 21: Malls are the hip and happening places in D.C., as you will witness below.
  8. An estimated one million people were standing in that crowd, and yes, I was one of them. If you want to find me, here’s a perspective shot taken by yours truly.
  9. An anti-abortion protestor somehow managed to get through security with a sign and wiggle his way up a tree. Capitol Police told me one reason the crowds were so bad was because they had to blockade the area around the tree in case he fell down. A ladder would not extend all the way up.
  10. Full audio of President Obama’s inaugural address now on @SoundCloud: at.wh.gov/h07E2 #inaug2013 Share favorite quotes w #InaugQuote
  11. I was very thankful for this audio, as the man in the tree was quite loud. Even louder were the chants from the crowd to “Shake the Tree!” to get him down. Walking up to strangers to ask them what they thought of the speech was fun because half of them either a) said they couldn’t hear it or b) said they didn’t know why I was media and standing among them. Frankly, I did not know either.
  12. #NotreDame student media taking over NBC News cc @NarratorVoice @alliepriede http://pic.twitter.com/74nIAB25
  13. That’s as legit as we get.
  14. Analysis: In second inaugural, Obama appeals to his progressive base nbcnews.to/SrYlSk #NBCPolitics
  15. Young people in attendance told me they were pleasantly surprised that Obama talked about climate change and LGBT rights. He got a favorable rating (expected) from those in the crowd who heard what he had to say.
  16. why was the president being inaugurated at a Beyonce concert?
  17. If only she hadn’t lip-synched, maybe she’d be more popular than the GOP at the ball…
  18. One thing Repubs seem privately confident about: O is a singular, historic figure. Loud chants of O-Ba-Ma today on mall isn’t the Dem norm
  19. Speaking of the ball and performances, they were aplenty. All live, too.
  20. fun. is doing their sound check at the DC Convention Center. @clararitger is pretty excited. #metoo #inauguration2013
  21. Fun. stole the show. Alicia Keys came a close second with her rendition of “Obama’s On Fire.”
  22. Alicia Keys Obama On FIRE 2013 Obama Inauguration Ball Changes Girl On Fire Performs
  23. Jeffrey Gerlomes of NDtv was with me at the event, and astutely recognized one young reporter’s media swag logo as of the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.
  24. Arizona represents with @cronkitenews at #Inauguration2013. Lost cell service! #CNaz @JessicaGoldberg @Radnovich57 http://pic.twitter.com/KyANS1jP
  25. Vaughn Hillyard, center, is working in D.C. as a reporter and graduates in May. We shot stand-ups together, and Jeff interviewed him for Irish Eyes, a show on NDtv. All in all it was a great trip to D.C., spending time with fellow journalists and Notre Dame grads, and producing articles and news packages galore.
  26. Anyone free to be awesome and pick me up from the airport at 12:45? I have no cash for a cab #helpmeimpoor

On Manti Te’o Coverage

I’m not about to make any predictions about Manti Te’o’s complicity in the hoax involving once-dead, now-fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. I, like many of you, have read the coverage, watched and listened to the interviews, and seen the comedy, woven out of his unsettling controversy.

I don’t know if he knew.

I can’t explain the discrepancies in his and Deadspin’s stories.

I believe in innocent until proven guilty.

I feel strongly that there are more important issues worthy of discussion that should take the place of Brian Williams’ second slot.

So I have mixed feelings about sending more on this young linebacker into the ether presumably for the consumption of the Notre Dame haters. As former newspaperman – now Notre Dame faculty and staff member – Matt Storin (@MattStorin) tweeted on Jan. 17:

“It’s open season on Notre Dame, so get your gripes in now –new or old. True or false. The window will close soon. Don’t delay.”

He’s right. We made a laughingstock of ourselves in Miami and this is just the icing on the cake. True or false.

So when I’m looking at the coverage, I can’t help but notice three trends. First, Manti Te’o lied to his family and to the media, whether he knew about Lennay being fake or not. Second, this will hurt both Manti Te’o’s and the university’s football image, no matter who did and did not know what. Third, Manti Te’o must have a motive, and it might be his sexuality.

The story is not of the man who crafted a hoax to frame or potentially extort a Heisman candidate. It is of the victim who slipped up along the way.

I don’t know what Manti did and did not know. He shouldn’t have lied to the media and to his parents, but I understand his self-conscious reasoning that his relationship was abnormal. He has taken the fall for the hoax, but the university shouldn’t also be blamed. And his sexuality should not become a point of public debate. President Barack Obama prioritized protecting the rights of our “gay brothers and sisters” in his second inaugural address Monday. There’s no “but” to this one. No matter what Te’o did or did not know, on the point of tweeting and meme-ing his sexual orientation, the media is in the wrong.

Click to view source of featured image.