Aug 23, 2009

Attaching my personal brand to my job search? I don't think so.

So last weekend, my friends Kim and Will were in town. (Yes. I had a life for a whole 48 hours. This translates into months of blog fodder for the girl who has no life the other 363 days of the year.) As I said before, both of them do web design and are interested in running their own companies and blah, blah, blah. We were talking about "personal branding," (it's one of those hip buzz phrases that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but whatever, it's the only phrase I've got for it) and whether or not it is smart to attach your online personal brand to your professional image.

Let me be completely clear. I am a girl who got a facebook account before facebook was available to the general public. There are pictures of me on facebook doing things that I never want any employer to see me doing, and while yes, I can un-tag all of those pictures, I would say the far safer and easier thing to do is just to throw up privacy settings all over the place so no employer will ever be able to see those photos. And, I still get to be myself on Teh Internetz.

Generally speaking, this describes my entire approach to recreational internetting. I have a facebook account: totally private. I have a myspace account: totally private. I have about 20 different blogs: not private, but completely devoid of my name, and therefore impossible to find on any kind of search. Despite having a sizable web presence (i.e. the 20 blogs, the tumblr, the twitter, the facebook, the myspace, etc.), you really can't find me on the internet unless you know what to look for. I like it this way.

My "personal brand" so to speak is not necessarily what employers would want to hire, I don't think. I am a pessimist. I complain. I'm not perfect...at all. 99% of the advice I give on this blog is directed at myself: the procrastinating, the needing to actually DO something if I want to BE something, the how-to-get-noticed at work business. Nothing I blog about is very, well, professional. I am not speaking as any sort of expert: not on my field, not on career building, not on life. When I read the blogs of the 20-something girls who do attach their names to their blogs (you know who I'm talking about), I think, "Oh, fuck. I'm so fucked." I'm not inspired. I'm not motivated. I just feel deep, overwhelming inferiority. Because I am not, and never have been, one of those girls.

I am 25, and most days, I'd prefer to be in jeans, t-shirt, and flip flops. I do not blow dry my hair, and it's some combination of curly and A GIANT EFFING MESS that prevents me from ever being able to just wear it down and let it air dry. So it goes straight into a ponytail as soon as it air dries enough that it won't still be wet when I pull it out of the ponytail at 10 PM. I do not wear make-up. Most of the time, I can't even be bothered to pluck my gigantic manbrows or cut my toenails. I dream of doing approximately a bajillion things, but most days, I make no meaningful strides toward any of them. Occasionally, I blog about them. The thing I get most riled up about is what lies the GOP is telling about health care reform today (and I'm completely obnoxious and over-emotional in my response, and succeed only in irritating people, I'm pretty sure) and what happened at work that day (and am completely obnoxious and over-emotional in my response, etc.)

This is who I actually am, and there is no way in hell that I want potential employers, or even my current employers, to know the full extent of my actual personality which I freely communicate on the internet, but try my best to keep under wraps everywhere else. It's not attractive. And I really, really do not want to write another one of those fucking blogs where I'm the Perfect Girl who does everything Just Right and tells everyone else How To Be Perfect, Too. I could probably do it. I could probably do it well, attach it to my resume, and have future employees go, "What an impressive young lady."

And I'd be forced to gouge my eyes out every single day for trying to tell people they should be something even I am not capable of being. Actually, really, I think it would just make my insecurities worse if I tried to write every single day about how to be Perfect.

Maybe there are companies out there who could appreciate me for who I am. Who would read my blog and see something real and legitimate and that a lot of people go through. Or they could just see another fucking whiny kid (and I know a lot of the people who read this blog often times think this, so I'm not going to kid myself by thinking other people wouldn't). Maybe it would be better if I could let potential employers see who I actually am and let them pick me on the basis of my...quirks...rather than picking me on the basis of someone more perfect and awesome than I actually am. I would probably be happier in a place where people actually like me, than being in a place where people constantly expect me to be something else. (Right now, I think the ideal at my company is some combination of Tech Genius and Brainless Corporate Drone. *sigh*)

But let's be honest. The economy isn't in a place right now where I can afford to be myself. Maybe in a year or two when things are back on track and maybe I've got something other than my bitching on the internet to show potential employers...

What do you guys think of this issue? Is it better to show employers who you really are, or to hide your true self from the job-offering public in an effort to make yourself more broadly appealing? Would you be okay revealing your webbie self to the potential-employer universe? Or do you just try to make sure that your webbie self is your most perfect and awesome self that it's not a completely horrible thing if employers make the connection between you and your web presence?

9 comments:

  1. Hi Katie,

    Very funny post! My answer to the question you are bringing up is that we all need to find a happy medium between being ourselves online but at the same time realizing that everyone [ and that def. includes prospective employers] Googles everyone else . My suggestion is use Linkedin or LookupPage for creating a professional presence online and keep Facebook for fun. When it comes to photos you have up on Facebook or anywhere else for that matter there is no privacy online so un tagging them may be necessary down the road.

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  2. Oh, absolutely! I have a LinkedIn and a professional website (which I won't be linking to from here.) But...they are very separate from the things I use every day and the things that I think reflect me the most. :)

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  3. I think a huge part of it is what industry you're in exactly. Will's Web/marketing/advertising groups are cool with people being people. Your large corporation, maybe not. I'm still cautious because of my own situation. But if I end up in a more creative company, or running my own, then I'll be a little more open on the Web... And stop having two different Twitter accounts. :P

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  4. Katie,

    Extremely funny! Just going by what I read here, you should be capitalizing on, and building your personal brand - not hiding it. You are obviously a witty writer with strong opinions. There is significant value there...maybe not in your current job, but somewhere. Good luck!

    -Ryan

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  5. Oh, wow. I just stumbled onto your blog and you just wrote all the things I think and do, write down to the big, non-blow-dried hair.

    I totally keep personal and professional separate - it's better for everyone if the people I work for don't know that I'm a spaz with a trucker mouth and sometimes I don't do my laundry for, like, three weeks. It works, and I've found ways to brand myself professionally so that the personal stuff doesn't ever get attached to my name. Thank goodness for privacy settings. There is nothing perfect about my self.

    Cheers. Great blog!

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  6. Sweet Jesus NO I would never attach my personal online identity to my professional. Not least because I do bitch about my work there at times, or share intensely personal feelings: that has NO place in my professional life and any employer who wants to delve into that can just bite me. Er, not that THAT attitude totally endears me to the super nosy ones, but it's really best in my world if neither professional or personal planet come within light years of one another.

    I do think about the value I COULD show if I were willing to share the work I do on my personal blog and such, but not at the cost of sharing the content.

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  7. I am 25, and most days, I'd prefer to be in jeans, t-shirt, and flip flops. I do not blow dry my hair, and it's some combination of curly and A GIANT EFFING MESS that prevents me from ever being able to just wear it down and let it air dry. So it goes straight into a ponytail as soon as it air dries enough that it won't still be wet when I pull it out of the ponytail at 10 PM. I do not wear make-up. Most of the time, I can't even be bothered to pluck my gigantic manbrows or cut my toenails. I dream of doing approximately a bajillion things, but most days, I make no meaningful strides toward any of them. Occasionally, I blog about them. The thing I get most riled up about is what lies the GOP is telling about health care reform today...

    Replace 25 with 26, flip flops with sneakers, and you have me. I even have gigantic man-brows.

    anyway, I've got too much of a web presence attached to my name already to ever be completely private on the interwebs. for example, I first went online when I was a pre-teen, and my real name was attached to all of my usenet posts, and usenet is archived all over the place--so I can never get rid of that.

    but I see personal blogging as being on the privacy level of a casual conversation. people might overhear, sure, but that doesn't mean it should affect your work situation. I know everything I put online is public (unless I specifically make it private, such as on livejournal), but I consider it to be none of my employer's business, because it doesn't pertain to my job at all. I never talk about work in detail on any public internet forum, so if my bosses want to look at my blogs, I can't stop them, but they shouldn't take what they see there and drag it into my job somehow. Because the internet is something I do *outside* of work.

    I realize some employers might not see it that way, but I don't want to work for those people.

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  8. Very articulate. I think most of us in the tech-gen-turned-professionals are in the same boat. My friend works in PR and they completely vet out social networking personas of potential employees, as it pertains to their industry. I'm a civil engineer and find the topic to be less concerning. I agree with the "overheard conversation" assessment. I miss the days of internet anonymity but coming to terms with the, well, new terms, is important.

    Personally I'm taking the tactic of creating a super savvy, fascinating online personality that my employers would want to showcase.

    I'll let you know how that works out. =\

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