Do blogging and CVs mix?

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.

Categories: academic life

Comments (6)

  1. coturnix says:

    My blog is on my CV. So is the connection to Seed Magazine. So is the Anthology. And the organization of the Science Blogging Conference.
    Someone is going to LIKE that – shows I am a leader in new ways of doing things – and will hire me not despite but because of my blogging, perhaps as someone who can update their department in this area. A department like that – an enlightened, forward looking one – is a place I’d want to be in.

  2. Evil Monkey says:

    So finish your damn degree so you can get there :D

  3. Dan R. says:

    Mark CC got his new job at Google at least in part based on his Blog.

  4. Neodecanoic says:

    I work in the engineering field, and one of our biggest problems is that people go through the interview process being dishonest about who they are – not about qualifications or experience, but about the kind of person that they are – they try to portray themselves as the kind of person they think you want.
    Aside from meeting the fundamental requirements for an engineer, the most important thing when employing a person into a highly strung design team is that his/her personality fits – reading through this post I wished that more of the people we interview had blogs, because then it would be easier to figure out if they will fit, or cause merry hell in the team!
    So yeah, while it isn’t academia, I think that in the long term if you have a blog, it can’t hurt to tell the prospective employer – it will help both of you in getting the best possible fit. And if they don’t like the way you think – you would probably have hated the job anyway.

  5. It works in the other direction too. I went for an interview once at a billion dollar internet company. While waiting in the lobby, I googled (actually, this was so long ago that I Alta Vista’d) the name of the Director who was schedule to interview.
    At a key point in the interview I mentioned that I approved of something he’d done years earlier at Apple.
    “You really do your homework!” he said.
    I then pitched him the notion that I was overqualified for the advertised job, and they needed to create a new management position, hire me into it, and then I’d supervise whomever they hired for the original job, as well as liaising with other Directors, VPs, and even the Board of Directors.
    By now he was impressed enough to march us in to his boss’s office (she was a VP). I got the job.
    So I’m all in favor of online job-related processes. By the way, I’ve had my resume on my web domain for about a dozen years. It’s nice in an email to just give the URL of a CV, rather than cut & paste it in, poorly formatted, in ASCII.
    Unfortunately, I ended up as a dual report to the Director and the VP; the VP and Director battled; the VP stabbed folks in the back to become Senior VP; and so the VP prevented me from continuing to talk to all the VPs that I had been visiting. But let’s not dwell on the negatives. The Web helped me get a high-paying job — over a decade ago.
    I also link to pages of my blog and/or domain in emails to academic places where I’m applying for tenure-track positions.

  6. mollishka says:

    I figure, I know why I blog, so if someone asks me (in an interview situation, say), I’ll be able to answer honestly. Kind of like you say, if a potential employer thinks that blogging is a waste of time because it’s not research, then they probably think that lots of not-research activities are wastes of time (not good), and, personally, aren’t focussed enough on my actual output as a scientist.
    As for the Googling thing, I try to make sure that Googling my Real Name doesn’t hit my blog on anything related to “mollishka.” On the other hand, I don’t blog anonymously; it’s reeeeally easy to figure out who I am by poking around on my blog.