Blogging and jobhunting

18 Jan
businessman at a laptop

‘Dude, WTF? It says here that she eats tofu. Eeeeew. Let’s hire someone else.’ (photo: photostock)

At a careers conference I was once told that fifty per cent of prospective employers admitted to Googling their applicants’ names. Of those that Googled – twenty per cent of them decided not to give applicants the job on the basis of what they find online. (Citation needed, I know.)

I am currently job-hunting. I also have a unique name. I also blog and write for a variety of places.

For any potential future employers reading this, I would like to add some SEO keywords to do with how great I am:

  • Hannah Chutzpah punctual
  • Hannah Chutzpah well-dressed
  • Hannah Chutzpah great communicator
  • Hannah Chutzpah fully housetrained
  • Hannah Chutzpah 10,000 blog hits in a week
  • Hannah Chutzpah pretty eyes

However – jokes aside, I do feel somewhat vulnerable.

woman with a megaphone

Subtle like a foghorn (Photo: imagerymajestic)

As I said, I am a writer. I write stuff. When I am proud of something I’ve written I try to get it out there. A small amount of things I have written are out in the public domain (chapbook, magazine, poetry magazine, blog, another blog, live performance) as well as some straight-up journalism (local paper, B2B, etc.). I am not ashamed of any of it but at the same time not all of it is appropriate for a chat around the water cooler, either.

For any kind of artiste trying to make a name for themselves; being easy to find is usually a good thing. As a job-hunter it’s more of a mixed blessing.

Also, as of April last year I’ve had a weird and unexpected civil rights/zombie thing going on. I was happy to put my name to the whole fiasco because I care about civil rights and I reckoned I was well-placed to draw attention to it. The bank holiday weekend of the royal wedding was the first time I put my name on this blog, and for a few weeks I became an unofficial spokesperson for my fellow arrestees. If it ever came up in an interview I would hold my head high and say the police gave me crappy lemons & I made civil rights lemonade.

kissing a jar of hoisin sauce

And while I’m confessing stuff: sometimes I spread hoisin sauce on toast and call it lunch

However, it is definitely unfortunate that if a prospective employer Googles me, one of the first things they will find out is that I’ve been arrested. Also, depending on how far they want to dig they could discover that I’m a mouthy lefty, I swear sometimes, that I have poetry which could be interpreted as a bit gay, and I quite like snarling at cameras at a weird ¾ angle while peering over my glasses. (I don’t know why… it’s just a thing I like to do sometimes… no judging, ‘kay?)

As I said – I consciously put these things into the public sphere because I thought they had merit, and I don’t particularly want to work for anyone that would have a massive problem with any of them – but at the same time: I am unemployed. I am unemployed in a recession and I would seriously like to get employed again as soon as possible.

office people giving a thumbs up at a laptop

‘We’ve read your stuff but we still like you’ Aww… thank you, fictional colleagues. (credit: photostock)

I am a good worker and my life outside of work is no one else’s business. However, stuff about me is out there, it is very easily searchable and I have no idea how many prospective employers may have already looked at my (very good) CV and then Googled me… and then decided not to get in touch.

Some people would say I should just not have this stuff out there if I think it could affect my employment. To some extent they’re right but I would argue back that the same way I keep my personal life out of the office, the office should keep out of my cyberspace. My blogging won’t affect my ability to hit deadlines and punctuate well – so why should it matter?

It shouldn’t. But it almost certainly does. And (though the zombie horse has clearly already bolted/shambled) I can feel myself beginning to self-censor with other things. Unlike many female bloggers I have not (yet) had the pleasure of receiving actual abuse – but I am starting to feel the scrutiny of the prospective employer. Though I am not yet deleting anything, I am starting to get nervous.

For example – I am currently brainstorming (and quite excited about) an idea I’ve had for an article on people’s attitudes to ‘the C-word’ (as it is coyly referred to). I think it could make for a pretty rich cultural study. I started drafting a survey and got over 30 friends lined up to answer it – but then I remembered that I’m a job-hunter. With a very Googleable name. And then I just pictured someone receiving my very impressive job app, rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the sheer sparkly quality of my CV, and then Googling my name…. and finding ‘Hannah Chutzpah c*nt’.

And then I took some time out from the C-word article planning and started writing this.

I admit full responsibility that in most instances when my name is on a thing it’s either because I’ve put it out there or because I’ve allowed someone else to – but – call me idealistic or stupid – I still can’t quite resign myself to actively trying to hide my online presence. What would the point be in a blog which is 50% writing showreel if I can’t put my sodding name to it?

I don’t have any answers. I have a kvetch and a plea. I am a good worker but I’m also a (relatively) well-rounded human being with interests outside of work. I promise my occasionally colourful out-of-office life will not intrude on what I do in the office – so pretty please can we all draw a line under online presences and also… giveusajob?

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3 Responses to “Blogging and jobhunting”

  1. James January 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    as the author of a book of poems containing prominent swearing, drugs references and gay sex who also works with nice literary ladies and (occasionally) conservative US school groups, I share your unease. the only strategy I’ve found that makes any sense is to be rigorous in resisting the temptation to think of the Web as private space. also, having no shame helps.

    re. your article – have you read Germaine Greer’s thoughts on the subject in THE MADWOMAN’S UNDERCLOTHES? also, Rochester is brilliant at using the word, qv. ‘The Imperfect Enjoyment’.

  2. Brice Stratford January 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    I don’t think there’s such a thing as “out-of-office life” and “office life”; there’s just life and an attempt to keep aspects of it hidden. If society was anti-semitic and you were Jewish would you hide it or would you fight against anti-semitism? Would you pretend to be straight in a homophobic office to get a job?

    Having said that, I would (and have and do) prefer to be living in a squat and stealing meals than working in an office. Artistic compromise is worthless – either one respects one’s vocation enough to starve, or one gives it up and indulges it as hobby (with no remaining delusion about personal priority).

    • hannahchutzpah March 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

      I *have* worked in places where the boss has said mildly antisemitic things, & in another place where the boss refused to shake women’s hands… I raise objections where I can, but in the interests of a) not souring working relationships and b) keeping my sanity, where it’s a big objection I tend to vote with my feet. This is far more about practicality than cowardice – as an underling I doubt that I’d have much impact on a straight, middle-aged male WASP who reads the Torygraph, so it probably isn’t worth pulling your boss up on every objectionable thing they say.

      Working (or trying to) to earn a living doesn’t make me any less of a writer. For one thing plenty of my work has been editorial or copywriting-based so it’s honed the same skillsets, for another thing all the objectionable characters are going to wind up in something I write in some way, shape or form. In fact, at UEA, where I studied creative writing, they often told people to go off and have some real-world life experience so they’d actually have something to write about.

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