My latest Naturejobs postdoc column is now available. In it I discuss some of my motivation for moving to South Africa – so you could argue that regular readers have got the widescreen technicolour version already, although the emphasis is a little different.
It may not be the right time to be plugging this, given that a recent editorial by the Naturejobs editor has caused a bit of a stir amongst some of my blogging colleagues. The piece is entitled “could blogs replace rèsumès?” I can’t say that I feel the two things are strictly equivalent to each other, but the article isn’t actually arguing that they are – it’s more a reflection on whether blogging can help or hinder your employability. It’s an interesting question, but some people felt that my blogging compatriot Iknownotwhattodo was rather unfairly singled out as an example of someone who has unwisely transcribed their complaints into the public sphere where potential employers can see them. He personally seems quite sanguine about it, but others are a little het up.
I agree that it’s not the best example: because Iknowwhatotdo posts anonymously, anyone searching on the web for the name on his CV is not going to easily stumble upon his blog (I don’t think Google is quite that smart yet). By contrast, anyone typing in my name will find Highly Allochthonous. They will also see that I have talked about life in academia – and not always in a wholly positive way.*
So, should I be worried? I try to be quite measured in what I write, but I certainly can’t guarantee that I’ve never written anything that couldn’t be viewed as unfair, or intemperate, or indiscreet – as Johnathan Badger points out, “it isn’t possible to say anything interesting without potentially pissing off somebody“. In fact, I suspect the bigger danger is not so much that someone would think my blogging was inappropriate, but more that they thought it was a waste of time, a sign I was not fully focussed on research. Such an attitude would also tell me quite a lot about my potential employer – such as the fact that they may not be someone that I’d be happy working for – but it is a risk.
Right now, of course, I’ve seen little evidence that many of the people responsible for hiring and firing within academia (outside the US, at any rate) currently even know what a weblog is.That will probably change, but at the moment I probably have some control over whether they find out about my blogging activities. Which brings up a whole new question: do you think you should mention your blog in academic job applications? I’d be interested in your opinions.
*As an aside, when I applied for the Nature gig I actually did mentioned my blog, as a demonstration that I was interested in writing about academic life and that I would be capable of producing regular content. I have no idea whether it was treated as a positive thing (or even whether they looked at it) but it obviously didn’t count against me.