Muschamp Rd

Writing for your Future Boss

August 16th, 2006
Jakob Nielsen

Jakob Nielsen’s advice on blogging holds up pretty well with the passage of time. Jakob Nielsen is considered by many to be the guru on website usability. He can also come across as dogmatic and unwilling to compromise or to allow for artistic creativity. I prefer Steve Krug and his book. None the less, I tried to incorporate Jokob’s advice and to that end added a picture of myself in the sidebar when he originally advocated it. However it is his ninth point which inspired this blog post:

Whenever you post anything to the Internet — whether on a weblog, in a discussion group, or even in an email — think about how it will look to a hiring manager in ten years. Once stuff’s out, it’s archived, cached, and indexed in many services that you might never be aware of.

Years from now, someone might consider hiring you for a plum job and take the precaution of ‘nooping you first. (Just taking a stab at what’s next after Google. Rest assured: there will be some super-snooper service that’ll dredge up anything about you that’s ever been bitified.) What will they find in terms of naïvely puerile “analysis” or offendingly nasty flames published under your name?

Think twice before posting. If you don’t want your future boss to read it, don’t post.

I try to do this, maybe some people still don’t believe that, but I do proofread and edit my postings and emails, however sometimes things aren’t taken as you intended. Humor, particularly black humor or sarcasm can be misinterpreted or missed entirely especially when dealing with people for whom English isn’t their first language.

This point was driven home this morning during a phone interview I had with a potential employer. Both the people on the other end had read my blog and I got the impression they poked around a fair amount as I tried to refer them to my writing samples page and they seemed to have found it by themselves. I did link to it from my resume… They supposedly didn’t have a problem with the content or tone of my blog, it was considered a positive in fact, however I can see how it is also a liability.

I know all about discretion and restraint. I even used to work for a military contractor and they had no complaints about me in this regard which says a lot.

I’ve had a homepage online for over ten years. I also always post as Muskie or Muskie McKay in online forums. As a result there is a lot of potential results should someone Google my name. One advantage to publishing a blog or maintaining a website is it helps build your personal brand. If you don’t have a blog or your own website you are more reliant on other people saying what you want said about you.

You are your Google results.

To that end I’ve tried to be more professional of late in my blogging. I seem to oscillate between postings that are somewhat professional with ones which are not. A subset of my postings are only of potential interest to a few specific people, but I wrote them suspecting who might be reading, not that I’m clever or conniving, other people can be so transparent in their deception. I try hard to be honest and forthright. Once someone who I had corresponded with extensively online through a mailing list, posted after getting to know me offline, that I write exactly how I talk. I told Tom McCarthy that I took it as a compliment but I think he intended it as a bit of a joke at my expense. ;-)

I also try to help people. To that end when I spend a lot of time gathering information, information that I think might be of use to other people, I freely pass it on. Of late that often means a blog posting. This is one of the reason so many topics are covered in this blog. I’m not trying to come across as an expert on any specific topic, eventually I had to redo my taxonomy as you really should blog with an eye towards demonstrating your expertise and passion.

Expertise and passion those are two excellent things to keep in mine while writing, along with of course timeliness and timelessness. I’ve tried to become a better blogger. I spend a lot of time improving this website, including blog posts which are eight years old. That said I don’t always practice what I preach.

I tend to ramble.

Update March 10th 2013

I wrote this originally in 2006 and people are still trying to make this point in 2013. I obviously don’t do the best job of taking my own advice as I’m still writing for my future boss as I’m currently looking for a new job. I keep reading ‘expert’ advice and collecting it but it isn’t enough to overcome what people said and did during my MBA. I wonder how often my former MBA classmates Google themselves? My former classmates and university staff prefer to pretend I don’t exist, so much for alumni support and career services at the University of British Columbia.

Update February 22nd 2014

Apparently Justine Sacco doesn’t read mine or Jakob Nielsen’s blog. The dangers of electronic communication are real and they are never going to go away. We’re going to have to start teaching this in grade school, because by the time you’re an adult the damage is tenfold greater when you say something stupid, because you’re an adult, a professional, a PR expert, or at least you have to look people in the eye and claim that when you’re unemployed and looking for work.


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