Saturday, December 13, 2008

How honest can you be when you're looking for a job?

I am all for being open and honest on my blog. I like to think that I am showing what can be achieved by talking about things like my mistakes, the areas I want to strengthen and how I am progressing in the development of my skills. But it suddenly dawned on me the other day that the way I present myself on this blog may be taken the wrong way by future employers if I were looking for a job. Is it time that I looked at my online image?

What brought this on?
I was re-reading my post about what I wanted to achieve from my involvement in the Second Life midwifery project. I wrote the post thinking about how it would go into my ePortfolio and be the beginning of the story of my growth in this area. I wrote things about my aims: to "increase my project management skills such as communication, time management and collaboration management."

Then I suddenly wondered how this would look to a future employer who I was canvasing for a job. Would that employer think that I had admitted I didn't have these skills or that they weren't sufficiently developed? And would that stop the future employer actually employing me? Whilst this may be acceptable from a person new in their career, is it really an image I wish to project at the stage I am in my career ie wanting to step up to a higher level of consultancy and mnagement? Is this blog post even appropriate - should I be sharing these sorts of thoughts in an online environmeent?

How should I market myself?
Then I started paying closer attention to the people whose blogs I read, especially people who are 'names'. Very few of them write personal thoughts about their achievements and how they wish to develop in the future. And if they do write questioning posts about learning and performance, it is in a generic way as opposed to a personal reflection.

So should I keep my personal questioning reflections to myself, and concentrate on presenting a more professional and confident image of myself online? In other words, as I think about my career and possible job changes, how do I market myself? What should my 'brand' be?

I woud love to hear your thoughts or advice on this topic.

Image: 'The Burden of Thought' David M*


Pamela Harnden said...

Hi Sarah,

The subject of openess as always presents us with a dilemma. Damned if we do damned if we don`t. I think, maybe I`m being naive, but it is how you perceive reflection and about what sort of person you are. I believe any sort of new job we enter into is about us developing and many employers look for the SWOT analysis and I believe that is what you demonstrate in your blogs but maybe balancing it with what you are bringing to the process in your strengths. Does that make sense or am I just waffling in the dark?

Sarah Stewart said...

I think that is an extremely valid comment. I do tend to focus on my development - I think it is human not to talk too much about successes because it seems like one is bragging. But a more positive approach sounds like excellent advice. Thanks.

Tania said...

I think, if I was an employer I would like to know who you are as a person as well as the skills and work experience you have. While other blogs are informative ie: discuss hobbies, lifestyles, education or "selling" a particular idea I think yours is more a reflective blog. I don't believe you need to get into having a "brand" your blog is pretty easy to follow.

Ed Webb said...

One has to be pragmatic, I think. What is the job market like in your field? What are employers looking for? It seems to me that the best employers in any field should be looking for people who are strong performers and yet dissatisfied, always looking to improve, to learn new things about themselves and their profession, to take reasonable risks in order to achieve more. Those are the kind of employers someone reflective and intrepid like you would probably want to work for. But if the market is tight, if you are going to have to be prepared to settle for whomever is hiring, rather than the best, then you may have to think a little more conservatively about your presentation and (as you put it on Twitter) your brand. Best of luck.


Anonymous said...

What your post demonstrate is a commitment to continuous self improvement and reflection of where you are at. If I was an employer I would take that as a good thing.

For example your reflections on communities of practice was immediately what I thought about yesterday so was able to contact you to get you to discuss your thoughts. If you hadn't written those posts others wouldn't have shared their thoughts -- and learning wouldn't have happened.

The way I look at it is my brand isn't about knowing the answers but about helping others, sharing information and being a connector. Someone who mightn't necessarily know the answer but knows who they can contact to help with the answers.

I do have a line that I draw in the air in terms of what I will and won't write about or say online. For the Star Trek fans a bit like the Prime Directive. Happy to discuss my Prime Directive :)

My advice would be to think about what you want your brand to say about you. If you look at my About pages I state very clearly what I stand for.

Leigh Blackall said...

I agree with Sue. I also think you shouldn't think about this to much. Exactly what Tania says, your blog is a chance to get to know who you are in your profession.

In many ways, your frank and open blog will save you from misery. If your boss-to-be can make a more informed decision, you have less of a chance of working for a twatt! And if you're very lucky, your blog might even facilitate a silent understanding with a twatt boss you might already have.

But if it comes across and brand managed and terribly self conscious, forget it. Let's just get on with the blogging!

Anne Marie Cunningham said...

Hi Sarah
I haven't been reading you too long but you strike me as the kind of person I would want to be working with.
I also have to say that I find the talk of marketing oneself, and branding as quite depressing. I don't think we should be thinking of ourselves as marketable products to be consumed...
We don't know who reads our blogs or why. I'm not sure I fully understand what Wesch calls 'collapse of context' but I think this is part of it. Then like Adam and Eve we start to become aware of our nakedness.

I think when the global financial system is collapsing because of dishonesty and lack of transparency it would be awful for those of working in professions with other values to start losing them.

But thank you for asking the question. It will not the last time that someone will think it. Not everyone maybe as brave as you in discussing it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, I think it's good to mention your mistakes and what you're working on improving. If you aren't qualified for a job, you aren't qualified, and lying at the job interview to get that job isn't the best way to go about things. If you are honest on your blog, and in real life, things will work out. if you are dishonest in real life, and honest in your blog, I think you will run into problems in the long run.

Very interesting topic though! Thank yoU!

Lisa Barrett said...

Hi, I'm interested to know the "names" you've been reading.

Laura Singletary said...

I think your concerns are valid and think Sue's comment sums up my thinking. They should see self improvement and openness as a strength. If they don't, and if they judge you based on your blog - then are they really people you would want to work for? Most likely not.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you all for your comments on this post - sorry I haven't answered you all personally as I usually do - Christmas has well and truly over-taken me.

I will be looking for a new job in 6 months, so these questions I have asked are particularly pertinent for me at the moment. No doubt I will be continuing this conversation as I look unemployment in the face :) In the meantime, I will enjoy hearing what you think.

@Lisa The 'names' I am thinking of are people such as Nancy White, Michele Martin, Seth Godwin, Stephen Downes & Tony Karror. Actually, thinking about it, these particular people are reflective bloggers, but their reputations are established enough to be able to be 'open' about their mistakes.

Lisa Barrett said...

Thanks Sarah, it's always good to read blogs that can give good ideas on improving our own.