Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Career Digest advisory on employers and personal blogs

An issue of the online newsletter Career Digest (Sept. 18, 2006, Vol 6. Issue 39) provides an article by Selena Dehne of JIST Publihshing, that claims refers to an ExecNet survey finding that 75% of recruiters investigate applicants by looking at the blogs, personal sites and profiles, and that 26% admit turning down candidates based on more personal stuff online.

The tone of the article tries to be positive, and suggests creating weblogs that are narrowly tailored to specialized accomplishments, and provide downloadable elements or portfolio-like materials of ones professional life. Of course, sometimes work that one has done for an employer or client is proprietary and it is not always simple to do this legally or safely.

It would seem that many career counselors would advise limiting blogging to one's area of expertise and staying away from social controversies. Imagine, for example, how and consulting firm that sends its associates to clients imagines this kind of issue. A client might be distracted by finding out that some consultant on its premises was "involved" in some social controversy that seems disturbing.

This leads us to a conundrum with most distrubing social and political consequences. Indeed, written material about some social issues (dealing with religions beliefs, sexuality, political affiliations, and the like) may on an intellectual level be perfectly legal and legitimate, but create a disturbing impression in the mindset of some people because of their own social backgrounds -- and they may be customers paying the mortgage. Partly for this reason, many people stay away from personally visible involvement in social controversy and depending or lobbying organizations or unions to represent them, often with some attitude of solidarity. Personal publishing with the help of search engines offers society the opportunity to turn this around. But fear of employer reaction -- and of expected social conformity -- could well keep special interests alive and keep many political issues polarized, as they often have been in the past. Many people may want it this way, because their livelihoods depend on politicizing issues into bureaucratic hierarchies. Call it "partisanship." So where new tecnology will allow ordinary people to break this up is really up for grabs now, given all the reports about the way employers are reacting.

I have advocated that employers develop blogging policies, and tailor them to the job to be offered. A job in which an associate will be known publicly to be connected to the company or will be known personally by clients is certainly more sensitive to the effect of personal blogging and social networking. Blogging policies could become as routine a part of the workplace as are computer usage policies today.

I had an impromptu conversation on a plane today that pointed out that even low level employees of tech firms can be in a position to give away damaging secrets on personal blogs, and many more tech companies have very recently been taking this very seriously. Whole contracts can be lost because of leaks from individual employees. But this sounds like a simpler area, dealing with confidential information and trade secrets. Employment policies have always required that these not be disclosed, even outside of work.

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