Here we are again. It seems that every couple of months this meme rolls around, of bloggers having their employment dreams dashed when their blogs are discovered. No one, it seems, if exempt; not airline stewardesses, nor even employees of high tech companies offering blogging services. The blogosphere is littered with stories of people who got their walking papers once their bosses read their blogs.
But there’s a new wrinkle to the story. Now it seems that your blog content can keep you from even being considered for some jobs. Even in academia now, what you blog — not to mention that you blog at all — can cause a would-be employer to have second thoughts. Ivan Tribble relates how one academic search committee dove into job applicants’ blogs, only to learn more than they ever wanted to know, and enough to make them wonder if hiring any of the blogger candidates was a wise choice.
Job seekers who are also bloggers may have a tough road ahead, if our committee’s experience is any indication.
You may think your blog is a harmless outlet. You may use the faulty logic of the blogger, "Oh, no one will see it anyway." Don’t count on it. Even if you take your blog offline while job applications are active, Google and other search engines store cached data of their prior contents. So that cranky rant might still turn up.
The content of the blog may be less worrisome than the fact of the blog itself. Several committee members expressed concern that a blogger who joined our staff might air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see. Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum.
In the article above, applicants either volunteered their blog URLs or the search committee Googled thier names and quickly stumbled upon the candidates’ blogs. Either way, they were found and read, as just about anything that’s published on the web can be. Once it out there, it’s out there forver. Even if you don’t volunteer information about your blog, a potential employer can still find it if they way, with just a few keystrokes.
Coming from the other side of the coin — where blogging actually helps one get a job — the advice I’m about to give might ring a bit hollow, but here goes. If you think there’s a possibility that blogging might come into conflict with a current or future job, think seriously about blogging anonmously, at least in the beginning. If you don’t believe me, take it from a well known blogger who at least started out anonymous.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot lately, and I have some advice for new bloggers: do it anonymously, at first at least.
There’s a distinction between private/public figure which isn’t always perfectly clear, but it’s something that the internet totally destroys. If you write something on the internet, it’s public. A big blog links to it, suddenly you go from 50 hits per day to 5000 in one day. 5 hours later, CNN puts it on their "inside the blogs" segment, and suddenly you’ve gone national to a non-blog reading audience who are perhaps unaware of conventions of blogging.
I think that until you blog for awhile it’s hard to quite get a handle on how much you want to be public versus being private, and how easily blogging and the internet and the media can tear down that wall in a way you never expected.
While not everyone who starts a blog will likely become as well known as Atrios, his advice is worth considering. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a good guide to blogging anonymously, so it’s possible for you to blog to your hearts content and stay off the radar until you decide to shed your anonymity.
This isn’t advice I followed when I started blogging. That’s because there wasn’t a lot of advice to be had. (Not that I was an early adopter. I started just before things began to take off in blogging.) I’m not sure I’d have followed it if it had been available. But while I made a conscious decision to blog, I certainly didn’t think about all the possible consequences of putting my thoughts, feelings, and experiences in (electronic) print, for the anyone in the world to read. As a result I learned some hard lessons about what not to blog about, and about getting caught blogging (at work) when I’m wasn’t supposed to be.
I’m not sure that I would have traded any of those lessons for the protection of anonimity, but that doesn’t mean that being an "out" blogger is for everybody. However, if you want to blog with abandon and without consequences, anonimity might be the way to go