When I started my personal weblog a year and a half ago, I had to make the decision as to whether I’d splash my name all over it, or whether I’d remain anonymous. The former seemed less trouble — no sneaking around in the dark, operating under a nom de blog that I’d hate in a year or two — but the latter had one advantage: if potential employers were to Google me, they wouldn’t find my website. Translation: they wouldn’t find where I’d written about my days-of-the-week knickers or that one time I stepped in elephant poop, or a hundred other things I might not want them knowing about me before I had the chance to wow them with my firm handshake and appropriately-chosen interview outfit.
Despite this, I chose to use my own name on my site anyway. What can I say? I’m lazy and I wasn’t coming up with very good pseudonyms.
Fast forward to a month or two ago, when I started applying for a new full-time job. As well as including my telephone number and e-mail address on my cover letter, I started adding my blog’s URL as well. I figured it couldn’t hurt. After all, I was applying for writing jobs, and here was a whole portfolio of my writing just waiting on the web for potential employers to discover. If they weren’t interested in the polished, staid clips I sent them about elegant dinner parties and designer handbags, perhaps they’d prefer reading about the time I sprained my neck by flipping my hair forward. (No joke, I really did that. Hurt like a bitch.)
We’ve all heard the horror stories about how blogging and work just don’t mix. Right off the bat, I can list five people whose personal websites have got them dooced from good jobs — they’ve become human warnings for the rest of us. The cardinal rule — until now, at least — was keep your work and your blog as separate as possible. Don’t let your boss — or your potential boss — on the internet. Not if they’re going to discover your own little slice of it, that is.
But it seems the rules have changed. Late last year, two bloggers were hired (in the same month, no less) for extremely high-profile positions in mainstream media, merely because they’d built up a presence for themselves on the internet: Corynne Steindler, former editor of the media gossip blog Jossip was offered a position writing for the New York Post and ex-Gawker editor Jessica Coen was hired as Vanity Fair’s deputy online editor. If you’ve got a blog, it seems, you should shout it from the rooftops.
Says Jeff Jarvis, a blogger-turned-success-story, in a Fast Company article from last year: “When people go looking for thoughtful people to work with, like anything else, they’re going to Google it. If they come across you, and find that you have good things to say, you’re steps ahead of the next guy, who the person doesn’t know.”
You heard the man — if you’re looking for a career change, get thee to some WordPress software. My own blog, in the end, won me the job of my dreams last week. And while it was slightly awkward on my first day to be introduced to people who responded with “oh, we loved reading about that time you stepped in elephant poop!” — people who weren’t even in the department I was hired in, by the way, I mean we’re talking about the janitor — the fact remained that the internet did it again. It got me something I wanted. Turns out it’s good for more than just ordering a Russian bride after all. Who knew?
Holly Burns is online at www.nothingbutbonfires.com