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Blogging for Your Future Employer

Feb 20, 2007 • blogging, general

Jakob Nielsen offers 10 principles for weblog usability. But it's #9 that really jumps out:

Whenever you post anything to the Internet -- whether on a weblog, in a discussion group, or even in an email -- think about how it will look to a hiring manager in ten years. Once stuff's out, it's archived, cached, and indexed in many services that you might never be aware of.

Years from now, someone might consider hiring you for a plum job and take the precaution of 'nooping you first. (Just taking a stab at what's next after Google. Rest assured: there will be some super-snooper service that'll dredge up anything about you that's ever been bitified.) What will they find in terms of naïvely puerile "analysis" or offendingly nasty flames published under your name?

Think twice before posting. If you don't want your future boss to read it, don't post.

This is a sobering thought. While I've never posted anything defamatory, revealing, or otherwise self-condemning on my blog, I woke up this morning with a blog nightmare. I dreamed that someone (but not me) had posted something on his blog that got him fired or in other trouble. Although this was only one of those crazy dreams, it was sobering. Will my future employer read every post and comment on my blog? Will I be measured carefully against other candidates for whom there is no trace of possibly damning information?

A poorly constructed sentence, a misspelled word, a lapse of logic—this may be all it takes before the employer says, what a dud!

On the other hand, doesn't a professional blog (that is, a blog that focuses on a specific topic related to your profession) demonstrate passion, alertness, connectedness, and engagement with your career? Would you want to hire someone who shunned blogs, who never showed engagement on both a personal and professional level?

Blogging is certainly an activity that skates near danger. Google the phrase "be careful what you post on your blog" and you'll read enough frightening stories of employers firing employees over blogs that you'll probably want to take down your entire blog!

Here's a writer who quotes advice about not posting your rejections when you are seeking an agent:

if you're using your real name, don't blog about your struggles to find an agent, or your agent's struggles to find you a publisher, or even your struggles to get published by the New Yorker (unless you're really funny about it).

Agents and editors can Google search, too, and before we sign you, we usually do. It can be so hard to feel the love when we read that you've already been rejected fifty times. We know it happens, but we don't need to know that it happened to you. And we certainly won't feel comfortable sending your work to editors with that kind of info so readily available.

This writer from About.com explains that employers will scour your blog if you mention the link in your resume. And if even you don't, they will google you.

If it's on your resume, the employer will look at it. One hiring manager I spoke to always looks at the applicant's web site if it's listed. Another told me that she would try to find out as much about the candidate as she could, including looking up the person online.

And then there are the more frightening stories. For example, a blogger who posted her picture in uniform on her blog was fired.

Ellen Simonetti, the flight attendant in Texas, said she was suspended without pay, then benefits, and subsequently fired, by Delta Airlines this fall. Allegedly, her release was for posting photos of herself in uniform on her blog, which contained a mix of fact and fiction, she said. She'd never mentioned Delta by name as her employer, Simonetti said, and once Delta contacted her about the photos, she removed them from her site.

Even a cheeky comment can get you suspended.

A state employee who posted snarky comments online about an economically troubled community in rural Virginia was suspended from his job Tuesday after sparking outrage among the region's leaders.

Of course as I'm writing this, I can already envision my future employer reading this post, examining the lines carefully, jotting down a few notes, scratching his or her chin. I better at least proofread this.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.