Bloggers Need Not Apply

by Charity Mouck, Assistant Director of Career Services & Employer Relations, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

I stole the title for this article from one I read in the July 8, 2005, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Their article by the same name ran in that issue and I remember reading it with great interest because I myself am an avid blogger and web designer. The basic pretense of that article and many that have followed since then, was that students, faculty and staff, which we can collectively label “job seekers”, may in fact be hampered in their efforts to find employment because of a little side hobby they have called blogging.

For those of you not familiar with the term, blogging is what one does with their blog, which is short for the word weblog. A weblog is a website that presents and archives information in a chronological format. Basically it is a venue for writing, ranting and the disclosure of whatever information the blogger sees fit, which can include pictures as well as the written word.

Blogs can focus on a wide variety of topics ranging from politics and religion to fitness and parenting. The vast majority of blogs in the blogosphere (which is the name given to the internet community of bloggers) are generally considered to be journals or online diaries. In this type of blog, the writer typically discusses their daily life, including events that happen to them, their opinion on a great variety of things, and sometimes their opinions of other people. It is this type of personal disclosure that is beginning to cause some individuals grief when it comes to their employment processes.

As the article that I read in The Chronicle mentioned, employers are become more web savvy at tracking down information on prospective employees. Before the rise in popularity of the internet and the rise of Google – which is arguably one of the best search engines out there – your resume, cover letter, portfolio and references were likely all the information a potential employer had about you when you applied for a job with their company. Now finding information about you if it exists online is as simple as entering your name or email address into a search engine. And sometimes information that you think no one would ever find might be right there for the whole world to discover.

You may have also come across articles recently that mention specific websites that are causing concern as well when it comes to the job hunt. Popular sites like Facebook and MySpace allow people to create an account free of charge, which then gives them access to webspace where they can blog, upload pictures of themselves and have open conversations. All of this occurring in a completely public forum that anyone with an account can see. On some sites, you do not even need an account to see the information.

Article after article has been published about individuals, including students, who have posted pictures of themselves in compromising situations, blogged about controversial topics or vented publicly about other people and then have seen consequences of that behavior. The internet offers anonymity rarely, but the illusion of achieving it is everywhere.

I have had an account on Facebook for about a year and a half now. Occasionally I will look up students or the groups that students at my institution have created, and I am shocked at what I find. I have also gone to other sites like LiveJournal, which is a popular blogging site, and again find similar open disclosures. If I can do it, anyone can, including potential employers.

Perhaps this is an area that we need to start thinking more about in our Career Services offices. In workshops we often discuss the need to positively portray and professionally present ourselves, but are we discussing this in terms of the internet as well? I know I don’t. Maybe we need a whole new set of workshops, addressing everything from email etiquette and electronic resume scanning to frank discussions of what we ourselves find on websites and in public journal spaces. As I said before – if we can find it, so can employers. Stories are everywhere about people not getting jobs because their online antics are seen as liabilities, or of people losing current jobs because of inappropriate disclosures.

As I also mentioned before, I have a personal blog of my own. I have been blogging since 2002 and have taken every precaution to keep my personal writing completely separate from my professional endeavors. I never write about work. I never discuss highly sensitive or controversial topics. And I never use my real name or pictures. In fact I never give out the URL to my site to anyone but personal friends. But that didn’t stop my dad from finding my blog, did it? Nope!

If you are interested in checking out some of the sites I mentioned here, or reading more articles, please visit the following links: LiveJournal, MySpace, and Facebook.

“Bloggers Need Not Apply”The Chronicle of Higher Education

“What You Say Online Could Haunt You”USA Today


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