The Internet and Your Career

Question for Paul:

I am looking for work. I notice that you speak your mind on your blog. What do you think about internet branding and web presence when it comes to a job search?

If you are looking for a job or career, then you have certainly come across all kinds of advice about your online presence. “Make your brand stand out! Watch what you say on Facebook!”

So, let me get this straight. We have, in theory, freedom of speech, but in order to be employable people have to craft a contrived image to make a decent living? As someone who wants to see the good in others, I find it hard to imagine that all employers are scrolling the internet to find blog posts or Facebook statuses to disqualify job candidates. Now, it’s understandable for human resources to look into a potential hire for criminal activity or crude / racist or disturbing behavior, but that’s where the investigation should stop. In a free society, we should be able to express our political, religious, and /or philosophical beliefs (outside the workplace, unless it is part of the job) — without it impacting one’s employment prospects. The only thing that should matter is the fundamental question: can this person do an excellent job? Does this person have skills?

Of course, a part of that question includes qualities that affect the workplace environment– for example, is he or she a good team player, does the candidate get along with people, can this individual communicate well? My philosophy is simple: be yourself, be authentic. I personally would not want to work for someone who didn’t want me to express my convictions on my own time. Of course, a software developer on the job is not going to be talking about politics, religion, or philosophy; however, that person should be free to express themselves in the community or online. In other careers, for example a political science / international relations professor, one should have the academic freedom to discuss political issues and give opinions on the job as well (it’s part of the job description), while always respecting the contributions from colleagues and students.

The bottom line is one should be concerned with being a top-notch engineer, professor, lawyer, sales clerk or whatever– and not worry about image-making or branding. You should be hired based on your skill set, and not on an online brand. Show the employer concrete examples of what you can do and the rest shouldn’t matter.

That’s my opinion. That’s what I think. In the words of the Hodgetwins, “It’s just advice, it’s only advice, you can do whatever you want to do!”

Good luck!

La vie est belle, profitez de chaque moment.

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