Monday, July 11, 2005

Blog + Job search = More Job Searching

I finally got back to my good ol' web surfing habits (I should really click on the links in my sidebar more often, there's a reason I put them there in the first place) and found this article on job searchers with blogs, this one written from the employer's perspective. I've written on this before because I found the idea of one's online activity affecting one's offline activity to be an interesting one: people frequently feel freed to act how they want online simply because they assume there's no connection between those two worlds unless it's specifically created, in which case they believe they have control over it. Also I thought it more than usually relevant to me. But this particular article does an excellent job of outlining why blogs are a liability for those looking for a job. It's written by a professor on a committee looking to hire a new faculty member (pay attention Tom). Since blogs are gaining in popularity, academia is probably reflecting that in disproportionate amounts, and a number of the job candidates had blogs. No one was eliminated due to the blog alone, but they got dinged for any one of the following reasons:
  • They revealed an intense interest in something other than what they were being hired for, thus raising questions of loyalty and investment
  • They pose the potential threat of indiscretion in a public forum that could adversely affect the department or institution
  • They show evidence (or are linked to by a friend's blog that shows evidence) of previous questionable activities
  • They simply provide too much information about the candidate's personal life. Favorite quote:
    "It would never occur to the committee to ask what a candidate thinks about certain people's choice of fashion or body adornment, which countries we should invade, what should be done to drivers who refuse to get out of the passing lane, what constitutes a real man, or how the recovery process from one's childhood traumas is going. But since the applicant elaborated on many topics like those, we were all ears."
I think that last bullet is the most interesting, and most indicative of the split between online and offline. In the offline interview process, there are certain rules that must be adhered to. One must put one's best foot forward and hide everything else until the relationship has reached a point where it becomes appropriate to share more: so it is with most human interactions. It's thought of as rude, or gauche, or downright weird to share more about yourself than those with whom you're sharing this information are willing to share themselves, or even listen to in the first place. And yet online, many feel at liberty to ignore this convention and give free rein to, if not all, then a fair number of the thoughts that enter their head. But perhaps this is something that needs to change, unless one is conscientious enough to make sure that the divide between online and offline is complete.

In my own case, what I write here is far from uncensored because I know who's reading: it's not the anonymous internet user (for the most part), but friends and family. And that kind of self-censorship is even less restricting than that of people who have more than three readers, like Brendan or Chris, whose blogs are well-known and regularly read in their circles. You have to decide where the line is and make sure you don't cross it, and then hope that you picked the right place. As soon as I found out that a potential employer and some fellow students had found my blog, it led to a sudden reevaluation of the kinds of things I was posting. And then another when I told my family about it when I was going abroad. And I still live in fear of people I know now who don't know that I have a blog suddenly becoming as dorky as I am and googling my name and finding it. Those recent job-related posts have certainly been borderline with regards to TMI. Somehow I tend not to think of them as such because they don't seem to resemble the middle school diary-esque minutiae that attempts to answer very limited questions, like "Why doesn't Mark like me?" (answer: he probably likes Kimberley, I saw them talking and she's so much prettier than me and it's not fair cuz he's soooo cute) and "Why was Stephanie mean to me today?" (answer: Because everybody's mean. The world is mean. Everybody hates me. No one understands me. Except you, Diary.) Then again, I also think I was an exceptionally mature middle schooler. I suppose these things are open to interpretation.

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