(The Humanitarian Social Network)
Recently, I've been on the job hunt, and have taken the advice of a few people to spend more time writing pieces online, to try and establish some credibility and be positioned as someone who has something interesting to say. Along the way, I've written one or two pieces that may have been interpreted by certain large NGOs negatively. In fact, I have been called on behalf of one NGO in particular who advised me not to post an article like I had done in the future, if I wanted to be employed by them. The problem was not that I criticised their work, but rather that I advocated for a method which the NGO themselves did not employ. As they put it, "I didn't sound like they sounded".
Generally, when I tell people about this particular situation, they are somewhat surprised that it garnered this reaction, since I was simply stating an idea that was different to an NGO's method of doing things as a talking point. However, more recently, I had a conversation with a seasoned development worker who said that by writing things in the public sphere that were controversial and could possibly be taken as negative by NGOs, I was setting myself up for being difficult to employ. His point was essentially: "It's ok to have an opinion, but as soon as you put it up in the public sphere and attach your name to it, you make yourself an easy target for organisations to say "we don't agree with what you wrote, therefore you're a risk we can't take".
My counter-argument was that an NGO that did not encourage discussion and a wide range of opinions was probably not an enjoyable place to work, but he saw this as being too idealistic. He said it's ok to have discussion as long as it was internal. Once it goes public, and your name is attached to it, that's a few steps too far.
There already is a great discussion about this up on Dave Algoso's blog here: http://findwhatworks.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/would-you-hire-me-if-... but I'm interested to know whether people who have put up critical/controversial stuff in the public sphere have noticed a negative impact on employability. Has it closed more doors than doors opened?
I guess the idealist in me, while acknowledging his points, doesn't want to believe that we live in a world were debate and free speech can be so stifled, simply in order to land a paid job.
but one can blog anonimously, and that's it. end of the problem.
I think the real problem is when you're actually already inside an organisation (emergency work), as, say, senior manager, the free speech is nowhere to be seen. And I'm not talking about expressing an opinion over dinner, bitching about logistis not being able to deliver the trillion tonnes of hygiene kits/tshirts/seeds and tools ordered 6 month ago. I'm rather refering to disagreeing with bad, harmful, objectively lousy practice by the structure itsef, by top management or HQ, and being fired/invited to leave with some financial compensation (!) because of your disagreement on corruption/grave irresponsibilities.
I still have to come across the organisation (humanitarian or not) for whom critical analysis, transparent financial practice, thinking brains among staff are a valued and welcomed thing rather than a threat. Perhaps in the field of social entrepreneurship?
ah, but truly, truly anonymous, is really really really hard on the internet... someone always will find out, someone will always know, and they will always tell someone... at least, well, if you have something to say that is valued.
humm I dont think it is SO hard actually. could you tell who I am?
If a hiring manager with my real name on CV googles me during a hiring process, they will find no pictures at all, no blog links, no pictures, no nothing. Not even my linkedin profile (hum have to make that visible). I don't claim to have somehtign important to say, but this is pointless when being assessed by hiring managers, as a mere disagreements over work culture can make you "unfit"....
I dont think its a question of having something valued to say online. The author of the late Tales from the Hood, one of the most relevant/incisive/funny voices I have heard about aid, blogged anonimously right? and certainly he has something to say, but chooses to do it anonimously, even here, then I guess online resence control actually works...
But then haven't we lost the whole purpose of the blogging - as noted by Weh? He thinks writing on line will help him maybe find a job. Anonymity means that it doesn't help one little bit.
I've been thinking about blogging for awhile, but trying to decide if my time is better spent doing something that will actually further my career - studying Spanish, reading books about development, reading other peoples blogs and commenting, etc. - rather than blogging anonymously. I firmly believe that if I wasn't anonymous, my job prospects would decrease - no proof, but I think so.
well, I guess this begs the question of what IS the purpose of blogging?
If it's to advance one's career, then that has an influence on how you blog, what you blog about, whether or not you blog anonymously.
If it's to advance the state of the humanitarian systems (variously defined), then there's another set of factors which influence the what and how of blogging.
and so on...
I can't speak for anyone else, but the purpose of blogging for me, and what we pore hours over at WhyDev, is primarily because we know we're doing the right thing. We believe we're stimulating discussion, getting people to think further, and helping people to work together.
If by the by, you manage to pick up contacts, people look out for jobs for you or it advances your career, then that's a bonus.
But that then begs the question, why do you want to advance you career? Again, not being able to speak for anyone else, I want to get a job, because I think I have something positive to offer. So blogging because you want to contribute positively, and blogging to advance your career are inextricably linked. And that's not a bad thing.
First an apology Weh! I didn't mean to try to say why you would blog - I just misconstrued from your original post. Apologies.
I guess when I said "further my career" I actually meant "be better at what I do." So, if I can speak the local language, understand development better, learn from others in the field, etc. - I would be furthering my career as I would be better at what I do.
For me, the decision about whether to blog or not is kind of about wanting to find some space to think through my own thoughts about what I do and how I do it. Of course, to some degree, I feel like aidsource, reading books, and working through the discussions on other peoples/org's blogs kinda gives me that space already - so I want to be sure that I am growing in the best possible way.
Staying for Tea's recent cautionary tale in charts has probably convinced me NOT to start blogging, but submitting to other more group oriented spaces may be a better way for me to meet my own purpose.
Lisa - I think it's important to separate the personal decision to blog or not from the more general notion of whether or not blogging matters, is a 'good thing', contributes to making the industry better, etc.
Aaron's post is amusing and touches a nerve. But I feel the need to push back a bit. Actually, I pushed back several months ago :) here. While of course blogs, including aid blogs, run the gamut of technical/wonky to obsessive narcissism to plain irrelevant (no, I won't link examples), I do believe that there is inherent value in having The Conversations publicly. Something that blogs and blogging can do very well.
Finally, while I won't go into detail, my own negative and costly past experience with an employer over blogging would seem to affirm the notion that blogs do potentially have the power to steer discussions, influence attitudes and beliefs, and shape perceptions.
Very glad to see you in AidSource, engaging in these discussions.
All the best,
No need to apologise, Lisa!
Writing online for me provides a public space for me to air my thoughts, which means that I need to be clear on what they are before I have anything published. I find this invaluable. It's the same feeling that I got when I started teaching students to get myself through uni. Before you can talk with some authority on any topic, you need to be clear in your own mind about it.
The other benefit I think is getting stuff out off blogs and onto more mainstream sites, which is something I'm trying to do more of. Being too introspective and closed off to the public can be limiting.
As amusing and close to the bone as Aaron's post was (we crossposted it on WhyDev), there's still a (perhaps naive) part of me that believes that by putting opinions out in the public sphere you can make incremental changes to the way the world works. Of course, as you point out - there are many ways in which you can do this, of which blogging is only one. Interesting discussion!
I'm looking for work now. I've sharply critiqued the way most planning and evaluation is down, poked fun of how much time I spend blogging and tweeting online, put the beat down on a popular 'innovation', slammed microfinance for 'losing its soul', and wondered out loud if soldiers weren't as good an investment as schools in 2011 Afghanistan. So, I guess I'll let you know.
I haven't read your blog, but fwiw, I believe we need these ballsy voices, though I do prefer that we have some shift from "bitching" to "constructing an awesome reality where we aren't screwing it up."
Good luck in your search!