Cut Out the Creativity In Your Online Resume?

From The Wall Street Journal Online

With the job market tight, some applicants are trying a little too hard to stand out.

This article is skeptical–with some reason–of job applicants disseminating too much personal information on the web. I tend to agree with the philosophy that less information is better than more, for purposes of professional presentation on the web.

Interesting perspective on creating your social networking profiles

Erik van Bekkum did something really interesting in creating his Ecademy profile — he enlisted the help of his friends.

In case you’re not familiar, Ecademy has as one element of its profile a field called “50 Words”. It’s intended to be a list of keywords that describe you both personally and professionally. It can also help you find other people like you by searching for the members with the most matched words.

It is quite an exercise in reductionism to try to capture your identity, your essence, in 50 words. Erik enlisted the help of his friends:

I tried to stay away from the business keywords only and introduce personal ones as well. To do this I started off with 15 personal keywords and 15 business keywords. Then I let my associates put in four new ones of each category and take one or two out from the ones I came up with (as long as they are motivated..). I did the same with some friends who were able to describe me better than I myself. The result is that I have a list of words that could describe me from my personal perspective (who I think I am, or want to become) and from the perspective of people that know me (who people think I am, or have been).

via Jack Vinson

danah boyd on boundaries, hang-ups and professional decorum

(NOTE: This is a discussion about appropriate boundaries in a professional context, and while not discussed at length, some of the things that are mentioned as inappropriate, some readers may find even the mention offensive. There is nothing explicit or anything like that—I’m just being sensitive to the very boundaries being discussed and letting you know up front.)

danah boyd (yes, for those of you who don’t know here, she chooses not to capitalize her name, so I respect that) is one of the most thoughtful and prolific researchers and writers on faceted identity in the digital world, or the idea that we have different identities in different contexts—professional, social, and romantic—and that we need to be able to maintain boundaries between those contexts.

Recently, danah stated her offense at an invitation to a party organized at the Etech conference in San Diego. Her issue was not so much with the photograph itself, but with its inappropriateness in a professional context:

I believe in social mores and social decorum. It is outright inappropriate to advertise a professional party in the way that one would advertise a play party. Different social contexts require different social norms. Images set expectations, intentions. Certainly, people have the right to offend, just as i have the right to be offended and state that offense. The point of my frustration is that offensive adverts are not the way to build community or encourage proper decorum that is inclusive.
[…]
The roles that i play in my personal life are different than those that i play in my professional life. At a professional activity, i want to go to a professional event, not one that is advertising itself as a sex party, offering up images of the expected roles of men and women. As professionals, we’re working towards gender equality; sexualizing a professional event does not continue that commitment.

I couldn’t agree more. I suppose that’s one of the thing that I find awkward about Orkut and Tribe—the lack of good boundaries between social, professional, and romantic.

It’s not that I’m a prude or anything. I just don’t even like being asked if I think a business colleague is “sexy” (Orkut), or seeing that people I’m interested in doing business with are in the “Open Marriage”, “Booty Call”, or “Bad Boys Are HOT” Tribe (Tribe.net—and those aren’t even in the “Mature” category).

Bottom line: unless you deliberately want to alienate a substantial portion of your audience, maintain a professional decorum, both online and off.

Voice and context in a multi-author blog

I had an interesting experience the other day… I was posting about me being selected as an expert for inclusion on another site, and I was having an internal debate as to whether to post it as myself in the first person, or as “admin” in the third person.

I ended up deciding that posting as some artificial 3rd person seemed very un-bloglike, very un-Cluetrain, so I opted for the first person.

It looked fine on our site. I was happy with it. But then one of my co-authors saw it in his aggregator, and there was no context as to who “I” was. My preferred aggregator, Bloglines, like many other aggregators, doesn’t seem to use the <author> tag. I’m not sure that I would want them to… at least in WordPress, which we use, our e-mail addresses are included in the author field. I see other feeds putting the author into the title or some other field, but not in any standard way. UPDATE: I’ve since (a) learned that our RSS was malformed and have fixed it, and (b) have modified WordPress to leave our e-mail addresses out of the <author> tag

So, I had to go back and edit the post title to have my own name in it. That feels really strange, too… writing about myself in the third person. The post, of course, remained in the first person.

This presents a challenge in a multi-author blog. I’ll have to do some more exploring. Let me know what you think as to how to handle this.

Use the Right Bait

One of the key benefits of online networking is that even people who don’t know you can find you based on your profile and connect with you if you meet their current needs or interests. In order to have that be effective, you want to build a profile that’s written in the way people will be looking for you, not necessarily in the way you want to promote yourself. It’s essential to understand that in the online world, traditional “personal branding” rules don’t necessarily apply.

The key difference is that in the real world, your visibility is predominantly controlled by your physical presence, but in the online world, it’s largely determined by search and matching engines. If you want to be visible on the web, you have to “give the people what they want”. Your profile keywords is the place to do this, not to put whatever clever, catchy name you’ve come up with for what you do — save that for the free-form part of your profile. For example, you may call yourself a “sanitation technician”, but if the rest of the world thinks of you as a “janitor”, then “janitor” is what you need to put in your profile keywords. You don’t sell “pre-owned automobiles”, you sell “used cars”. You may also want to include several common variations or broader terms in there so you catch everyone. For example, you may want to list yourself as both a “journalist” and a “writer”, or as both an “athlete” and “figure skater”.

When you’re out there fishing for connections, you can’t just put a hook in front of them — you have to use the right bait.

Be Prepared

The purpose of networking is to connect with people. One of the key differences between traditional networking and online networking is the ability to have a robust personal profile that is publicly accessible. That profile is a 24/7/365 invitation for other people to connect to you, and you want to do everything you can to make yourself “attractive” online. So before you sign up for any online networking site that has user profiles, be prepared with your profile and photo. Many sites heavily favor those with photos, and all heavily favor those with well-built profiles.

Your profile doesn’t have to be long or complex, but it should include your basic information – current and recent employers, industry, interests/hobbies, a brief bio, and links to your websites or anything else you’ve published online – blogs, articles, etc. Also, be sure to have your photo handy, both online somewhere and on your hard drive, and in a variety of sizes, so you can make it appropriate to the site’s profile layout.

Whatever you do, do not set up an essentially empty profile. Most sites will let you poke around as a guest without setting up a profile first, and an empty profile isn’t helping you, so there’s nothing gained by doing it. On the other hand, most sites have some way of showcasing new members, so if you set up an empty profile, you’re missing out completely on the additional exposure you get as a new member, not to mention whatever damage you may do to your reputation. If you’ve already done this, don’t sweat it too much – people are also pretty forgiving. Just get in there and get it done.