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Journey to my MBA

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blogs can help boost a career or sink it

I really connected with this article. This Blog is not private anymore as it once was. I can't really talk about work or particular people in my life because I know it'll bite me later. Besides, it's not polite to say things about people on such a public banner. I've learned to limit the issues or struggles that I write about to my own opinions without hurting people close to me... especially work.

I mention this because... I think there is a healthy balance of openess and controlled expression when it comes writing about ones work and life. I hope this article sheds some light on what it means to do healthy Blogging. Without a clear understanding of this, the experience of Blogging for MBA students and applicants will lose its' therapeutic qualities and enjoyment very quickly. Blogging is not for everyone.

By Stacey Burling, Philadelphia Inquirer
Tue Sep 13, 1:04 PM ET
PHILADELPHIA - Terrence Ryan knew Scott McNulty in passing at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where they both work.
But it was McNulty's blog, or Web log, that made Ryan take a harder look. It showed Ryan that McNulty, a systems administrator, really knew computers. More important, it revealed his ``geeky love of technology,'' a personal quality that ``tends to work really well in our department,'' Ryan said.
Because of the blog, Ryan offered McNulty, 28, of Philadelphia, a promotion to systems programmer on a team responsible for information-technology services. McNulty took it.
He still writes his blog -- a blend of his musings on the personal and technical at -- knowing that several of his co-workers and his bosses read it. ``It's had a very positive impact on my career,'' he said.
About 10 million Americans now write blogs, ranging from the confessional and edgy to the technical and mundane, estimates Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Thirty-five million read them.
For businesses, blogs and other forms of personal Internet communication constitute a new frontier fraught with promise and peril. On the one hand, companies are scrambling to use them as a recruiting and marketing tool, and are encouraging some employees to blog. On the other, they are wondering how to deal with the damage that current and former employees and dissatisfied customers can do on the Web.
The result is a ``mild level of social panic,'' Rainie said. ``The lawyers and the marketers are, in many cases, at least in covert war with each other.''
For the moment, much of the news falls into the ``cautionary tale'' category. In August, a California automobile club fired 27 workers for posting messages on the Web that offended co-workers. Not long before, a Boston University instructor was fired for blogging about a distractingly attractive student; a blogging nanny was fired for telling too much about herself and her employers, and a New York beauty editor lost a new job because of blogs about the fashion industry.
Andy Fox, a senior investigator who conducts background checks for Investigative Group International, said Internet searches on prospective employees were now commonplace. For high-profile jobs, he said, ``I'll run everything down on Google if it goes to 27 o's.'' Each o in a Google search is worth 10 entries.
Curt Hopkins, a 41-year-old freelance writer in Oregon, began keeping an online list of people whose blogs got them fired, disciplined, or rejected for new jobs after his own blog sidelined his quest for work at Minnesota Public Radio last year.
``It just seemed so antithetical to the notion of free speech,'' Hopkins said.
Michael Skoler, MPR's managing director of news, acknowledged that Hopkins' blog was an important factor in the decision not to hire him. He said he was concerned about Hopkins' use of profanity and name-calling. ``It didn't seem to represent good journalistic judgment,'' Skoler said.
Hopkins and others are now calling on companies to write blogging policies. ``My feeling is, whether you're an employer or an employee, you need to broach the topic,'' said Hopkins, who currently is figuring out how to protect bloggers in repressive countries.
International Business Machines Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. have instituted blogging policies. Both focus on helping employees write entertaining blogs without revealing company secrets or offending suppliers and customers. IBM discourages anonymous blogging or covert marketing. Sun urges employees to expose their personalities but warns that ``a blog is a public place and you should avoid embarrassing your readers or the company.''
Tim Bray, Sun's director of Web technologies, said the company realized it needed the new rules as it prepared to encourage employee blogging and discovered an impediment. Sun had a policy ``that no one can say anything publicly without prior legal approval.'' With the new rules in place, more than 1,500 employees now have blogs hosted on the company's computer server.
In Newtown Square, Pa., software maker SAP America Inc., which wants employees to blog, is updating its media policy to include blogging. ``We encourage people to communicate, but to stay within their area of expertise,'' said Steve Bauer, vice president of global communications. As for private blogging, ``anything that would really go against our values as a company would be certainly discouraged.''
Jonathan Segal, a Philadelphia employment lawyer, said that overly restrictive policies or publicity about company attacks on bloggers could hurt a company, particularly if it wanted creative young employees. ``It may have the effect of driving talent away,'' he said.
Some companies have begun monitoring what is said about them in blogs or other Internet sites. But employment lawyers said big companies are unlikely to have the time or desire to regularly read every employee's blog. People are more likely to get in trouble when a meddlesome co-worker or offended customer tells higher-ups.
Still, employment lawyers caution that the 1st Amendment was designed to protect people from the government, not private employers. Only a few states have passed laws preventing companies from reaching into employees' private, legal activities.
All bloggers, they said, would be wise to write as if their bosses, future bosses or grandmothers were reading over their shoulders. While many currently are recommending that bloggers with incendiary messages write anonymously, some experts say that won't work if a company really wants to find out who you are. And it won't look good once you're caught.
``If you didn't think you were doing anything wrong, why did you hide your identity?'' Segal said company lawyers were likely to ask.
Heather Armstrong's Web address,, spawned the verb used for someone fired for blogging, as in ``he was dooced.'' Bored and frustrated at work, the Web designer used her name as she wrote what she called ``caricatures'' of co-workers, but never named them or the software company where she worked. Someone sent the link to top executives. At 26, she was dooced.
Increasingly, people familiar with company hiring practices say, job-seekers should expect that the company will do an Internet search on them.
``Anybody who is hiring would be absolutely, totally nuts if they didn't ascertain whether somebody had a blog and, if they do, take a look at it,'' Sun's Bray said.
A blogger himself, Bray ( knows Sun officials read his work before hiring him. After one interview, he asked, ``Is there anything else you need to know about me?''
``No, you're kind of an open source,'' his interviewer replied.
A fifth of companies currently perform general Internet searches on job candidates, according to a January survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Bette Francis, director of human resources for Strategic Products & Services in Cedar Knolls, N.J., started conducting Google searches of job candidates in February. So far, she hasn't found anything bad. The blogs she has seen have given her insight into the candidates' communication styles, work ethic and expertise. ``It's another piece of information,'' she said.
Bray believes that blogs can boost careers. Those who get in trouble for blogging likely have other problems, too.
``Those are the kind of people who would compromise their careers one way or another,'' he said. ``... Perhaps having a blog would speed that up.''
Marlyn Kalitan, senior vice president of career-management consulting at Right Management Consultants in Philadelphia, said blogs were like tattoos. What we think is fun and creative when we're young may be an indelible blemish later.
``You can't take the Internet so lightly anymore,'' said Kalitan, who helps people make career transitions. ``You can't think that this is just a fun toy, because it's not. It's a lasting record of who you are.''
At Wharton, Scott McNulty said his blog had grown more personal as more people he knew read it. But he remains circumspect about work. ``I've said I've had bad days,'' he said, ``but never, `I've had a bad day because Joe is an idiot.' That's not good territory to be in when everyone you work with reads your blog.''


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