While many of you are thinking about issues related to blogging and interviewing, let’s take this opportunity to have a more constructive conversation on benefits and pitfalls of blogging while on the job market. Warning: I want the discussion in this thread to be focused on a wide range of experiences, questions, and generalities, and if I see it disintegrating into more rehashing of the specific case a few posts below, I’m going to exercise my moderation super-powers.
Let’s say you’ve got a blog. Maybe its focused on your science, maybe it’s more a journal of your life as a scienitst (or engineer, etc.) At first blush, your job application and interview experiences seems like natural blog fodder. It’s a major on-going part of your life for months, you’re probably slightly obsessed with it, and you could definitely benefit from the wisdom of those who have gone before. But, whether you are pseudonymous or real-name, you’re probably concerned about how a potential employer will interpret your writing. Is there a way to blog your job search experiences without jeopardizing your career prospects themselves?
Maybe. Certainly plenty of us, including both Alice and myself, blogged while on the market, even blogged about interviews, and still got great jobs. Did we all just get lucky? Or is there a way to minimize the risks?
Having given this some thought, both in the distant past and more recently, here’s what I’ve come up with. While I generally like to keep things on a positive spin, this mostly ended up as a list of “don’ts.”
- Consider whether your primary objective is to get a job or to let your job search experiences be a lesson for others. For most of us, I’d wager it’s the first.
- Consider your audience. Here at Sb we’ve got relatively big microphones and there’s a far better chance that our blogging will be discovered than in some little blogrolled corner of the sphere. BUT the search committee chair doesn’t need to be a regular reader of your blog for news to make it back to him or her. It could be a student in the department, another faculty member, or some random person off the internet. Some people take delight in solving the “mysteries” provided by bloggers, and what you write has a potentially infinite audience. So follow the #1 all-time rule for blogging: Do your best to avoid writing anything that could have negative repercussions for your career or your personal life.
- If you don’t want it to be obvious where you are applying or where the interview is, try to give as few specifics as possible. Geography, field, departmental composition, timing, etc. all can significantly constrain the realm of possibility. Rather than writing “I’m nervous about the job talk I have to give next week in Boston,” try to write something more like “I’m nervous about an upcoming talk.” Either of those statements can be followed with “I’d like your tips for calming the butterflies in my stomach,” but one leaves a lot less to the imagination.
- After the interview, try not to share too many negatives of the experience, even if you don’t want the job. Search committees at other jobs may get wind of the negativity and decide that it is an unfavorable reflection of your personality and not simply a result of a bad experience with a particular university. If it is really important to you to share the negative experience, and even to name names, do so in a way that casts you in the best professional light possible. I did this part way through my search, and I have no regrets.
- It’s not just the tone of your blog posts that counts, but also your comments on your blog and elsewhere in the blogosphere that can also have reprecussions. Rereading my comments in the post linked above, I probably could have taken out a damn here or there and still have gotten my point across.
- Asking another blogger to post your questions on their blog can be a way to remove the seeking of advice from the rest of your body of writing. Again though, it’s not foolproof and see rule #2. Bloggers agreeing to host such questions should consider whether they are willing to deal with any potential fall-out and consider whether someone could construe that the blogger is being disingenuous and asking their own questions in guise of a “hypothetical friend.”
- Closed forums where readership is more tightly constrained and better known seem like a safer bet for candid discussion of job searches. Form a google group with a bunch of current job searchers and maybe some veterans, and have your discussions there. It’s still possible that someone could cut-and-paste something out of such a forum and forward it on to a search committee, but if you have trust in fellow forum members that should be a moot issue.
- A single post-mortem blog post that focuses on why you chose the ultimate job and focuses on the positives of the successful employer, rather than the failings of the unsuccessful ones, should be a fairly safe way to chronicle your experience for others to learn from. And congratulate you. (But it doesn’t help with the advice seeking bit.)
There’s a lot of academic politics that deserves more open discussion so that future faculty know the way the world really works, but the professional and legal risks are just too great. Along those lines a note to grad students/post-docs in a department where a search is being conducted: Be very very careful of describing the search process or commenting on particular candidates. At least one beloved grad student blogger had negative reprecussions in her department for unflattering observations of a candidate. Don’t risk turning yourself into the next cautionary tale on the internet.
If I went on the market again, would I personally blog my search? Definitely not in the way I blogged my previous searches (too many identifying details, etc.) And as a faculty member, it’s traditional to keep any search activities under the radar from colleagues, so I probably wouldn’t risk blogging it at all until everything said and done. I’d seek advice from people individual over email and in closed forums with known members.
Now it’s your turn. Have you blogged a job search? What did you learn from the process? Any advice for bloggers soon to be or currently on the market? Is there a way to use your blog to help you search, while minimizing the risks?