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Musings of A Young Professional With An Online Presence

March 10, 2015

As someone who has a personal website, blog and is somewhat active on social media, I often wonder about how my online presence comes up to potential employers and people I might want to collaborate with, i.e. from a professional standpoint.

I first started with an anonymous wordpress account and then after meeting with people in the start-up world and business industry, I was told that personal branding was vital. At the very least, I was informed, I needed to own my name as a domain. With the world moving into a new phase where social media looked like it was here to stay, this made sense. Aside from teaching myself how to create and maintain a website, I was introduced to a means of expressing myself. This website and what I choose to write about has evolved over time. Here are some of the things I have deliberated:

Be Yourself Branding Where honest opinions are welcomed: If I choose to write about issues like social determinants, homelessness, cancer, mental health etc., my posts inevitably publish my point of view on a number of topics. I was much more hesitant as first. I worried about whether publicizing certain views would get me eliminated as a potential candidate. Now, I recognize that my career is also about me deciding where I want to work. I wouldn’t want to work somewhere that didn’t recognize health inequity and the marginalization of groups of people. My values and those of the organization/group/ I want to work with should align at least to some extent. Presenting an honest, professional front is ultimately in my favour for getting where I want to be in my career while holding onto my principles. As voicing my opinion is something I will likely have to/want to do at some point in my career, why not start now.

The ongoing #CUPE3902 strike at U of T is one example. To what extent can I express my view without potential repercussion from professors or the graduate department or others? Discrimination exists. Institutions like U of T are powerful and it will not do to underestimate them.

Where the personal and professional overlap: My decision to write about my journey through cancer is a personal one. However, this is now available for potential employers to see. I suppose I am fortunate in that cancer is considered a public health issue and therefore I can link my personal experience to a professional understanding and analysis of mental health, cancer treatment and recovery, awareness. I have another lived experience to speak from. Given what I am passionate about, my personal and professional do overlap. I think a lot about my different identities these days, which could link back to being a reflexive public health practitioner. I think about where I come from, where I grew up and about migration and culture and assimilation. Again, poignant when my research interests focus on immigrant mental health.

Where privacy is concerned: I always keep in mind that whatever I publish on this website is accessible essentially forever. I think a few times before I publish anything and try my best to only say something when it is of value or useful or an interesting insight into some aspect of being a human. Sometimes it may seem like my life is an open book, but actually I am a very private person. This stems partially from how I was brought up. I am learning where being vulnerable makes me stronger (as a person and as a potential hire) and how to navigate having an honest, professional and valuable online presence.

I know people who use pseudonyms on Facebook or Twitter so that hiring managers or admissions committees can’t find them. Depending on the content, this is likely a smart move. A Google search will perhaps only return a clean LinkedIn profile. If nothing comes up however, I’ve heard people can get suspicious. Who isn’t online in this day unless you are really anti-social media and internet in general.

It helps to periodically assess the goals of a website or blog and iteratively develop it as you go. This refers to the original content as well as things we essentially endorse by retweeting, fav-ing or liking on the internet. At the end of the day, isn’t it worth spending our time cultivating those professional relationships where we can be our true selves?

2 Comments

  1. Newfangled MPH

    Such an important topic to bring up among young professionals. I agree completely with your feelings towards being hesitant in posting your personal opinions alongside your name. I have my site as a brand title, but my name is there in the about me- I struggled with putting it out there at first, but felt it was important to own up to who I am and what I feel. It’s terrifying at first, but then, like you said- you realize if someone wouldn’t “choose” you for your views or opinions, it may possibly have not been the right fit. And on the other hand, many times future employers and fellow professionals can find your site, and social media as impressive for writing/posting what you want and feel. Own yourself and your thoughts, it’s so important not only professionally but personally. It’s how you grow and develop.

    • Nadha

      I especially like your last sentence about owning yourself and your thoughts. I’ve grown through this process of sharing my views, but it also stems from my interest in writing and my convictions that certain issues are not spoken about often enough by groups of people who have lesser privilege or power. Taking certain steps myself (such as this blog) allows me to use my voice.

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