Friday, July 08, 2005

Bloggers Beware When Applying for Jobs

You would think that with various stories of people losing jobs over their blogs and other such events, that bloggers would learn to watch what they say on their blogs. I always said that if I ever got the urge of posting something less than flattering, I would make sure I would do it anonymously on some other service. No sense shooting myself in the foot over a moment of ranting by putting my name on it. Notice I say if I ever get the urge. I am not a believer in airing anyone's dirty laundry (online or otherwise), and I am not about to start now. Besides, I also keep an "old fashioned" personal journal, you know the paper and ink type, where you actually have to write by hand? Yes, one of those, which I don't use as often, but often enough. Plus I carry it for when I am not online. Easier to write about places visited quick in a small notebook than dragging a laptop, well, for me anyhow.

So, what prompts this? Rochelle at Random Access Mazar has a reflective post about bloggers in the job hunt. In her post, she refers to an article posted in The Chronicle of Higher Education about some small liberal arts college that looked at blogs of job candidates. I have to say that I also cringed at some of the behavior described about the bloggers, but more importantly, I was very concerned over the attitudes of the college when it came to bloggers. The one example about the candidate with the humanities Ph.D. who is also a computer science expert, as reflected in his blog, raises a flag (based on the article, I think this is the gentleman in question. If not, I am apologizing in advance. I did the same thing the school did, which was use Google). So, they basically rejected the guy because they were afraid of his technological prowess? I have to admit I went over and looked at the blog, and while it is a bit too technical for me, I don't think that makes it a reason to disqualify the candidate. Rochelle makes a good point that the school seems to have a very negative (shall we label it acid or toxic?) overall in terms of people who blog or who even express an opinion for that matter. Rochelle writes,

"Apparently, when it comes to getting a job, it would be best if candidates appear meek, mild, and without opinions, ready to be inoffensive to everyone she meets. Again, I realize full well that there are inappropriate rants that get published on blogs, and I'm the first to cringe at them and work on writing up the blogging policy, but doesn't it seems odd to disqualify a candidate because s/he is prepared to express opinions in any forum? It would be nice if the concept of academic freedom actually meant that academics generally respected and supported the idea of free thought and expression for everyone, but apparently this doesn't work everywhere."

Apparently not. Personally, I did not start blogging until after I got my job; this was initially an experiment, and it still is. I express some opinions about professional issues, reflect on topics of academic and librarianship interest, and react to events and news. However, I keep a second blog for things that fall a little outside that. I am an educator, an academic, a librarian. I am not a machine in a vacuum, and writing is one of the ways I use to learn more about the world around me. It allows me at times to explore ideas I may develop later for more formal writing. It allows me to reflect on various things. It allows me to explore opinions, weigh arguments, try out concepts. That is part of what being in an academic profession is about, expanding knowledge as well as making meaning. And, here comes my moment of rant: if an employer cannot see that because they are too worried about possible image problems, maybe they are someone I should not be working for. Maybe they do need to clean up their laundry so it does not get aired.

Having said that, bloggers out there: you should know better by now. I am not saying you should censor yourselves or limit your expression, but some sense of professionalism is in order. And if you need to rant, or you just want more of a therapeutic diary or journal, at least use an anonymous blog. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an excellent guide on how to blog safely here. I know that one can never be fully anonymous on the web, but at least make an effort if need be. The way I see it, don't give a potential employer an excuse to disqualify you. You have worked hard to get to where you are at, you likely have excellent credentials. Don't let a personal blog cancel all that out. On the other hand, if you have an excellent professional blog you are proud of, definitely show them that. If they dismiss it, maybe you should be looking elsewhere. It's a matter of balance.

Update Note (7/11/05): Leave for the weekend, and this thing explodes. Caveat Lector (always a good place to read) takes a deep breath and posts on the subject and also provides links to various other bloggers speaking on the topic. Looking over the links will give a nice overall summary of the responses to the Chronicle article. From her post, I got the link to Matthew G. Kirschenbaum's post on why he blogs under his name. I have to say I found it encouraging, and it gave me some hope to keep blogging under my name. I hope he gets enough comments and trackbacks to send back to the Chronicle. As for myself, I don't have the big networks other folks have, but I am in no rush either. I say it because Professor Kirschenbaum mentions that networking is a good reason to blog. I know I just try to make a good impression; we'll see from there. In the meantime, I can only hope to live another day to fight ignorance and intolerance out there. Is that not what every educator wants? Just an idea.

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