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:
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?