Monday, March 29, 2010

Why I Don't Mind Potential Employers Scanning My Online Profiles

When I sit back and think, I realize that I first began working in 1985. I took a job as a cashier at a local family-style restaurant. It was pure nepotism because my aunt knew the owners, but that also meant I had to be an exemplary employee or the family would hear about it and that would not bode well for me. I was always on time, diligent, and polite to customers.

Back then, we were a fairly low tech society compared to now. For example, I had no cell phone with text messaging to distract myself with while I stood idle at the register between rushes of people. Instead, I'd reconcile my register or scrub down the counter.

I also had no camera in my cell phone with which to photograph myself at work, nor did I have an online profile to which I could post that photo and some pithy commentary about how many times I'd had to dodge the pervy manager's grabby hands.

It was more than a decade past that before I joined some rudimentary online sites and began building an online profile and presence. By then I'd worked my way up from plebe to manager level in my career. By then I was in charge of hiring people.

However, I still parsed paper resumes sent by snail mail, and relied exclusively on face-to-face interviews and written recommendations. It still wasn't par for the course to scan the Internet to vet a potential employee.

Now, however, more than a decade past that, it is standard procedure to Google a job applicant. Initially, I pondered whether that was any kind of an invasion of privacy, even if, by definition, posting something to the Internet conveys a total and utter lack of expectation of any kind of privacy.

I did definitely wonder whether it was any kind of discrimination to disqualify a job applicant based on something you found about that person online.

It's one thing to assume a person has a private life, political and religious views, friends, family and so forth -- but what does it mean to a potential employer to see it all on display, online?

It may be that I'm old school (or just older) but my online presence is fairly tame. A potential employer or client scanning my Facebook page will see a woman who is married with children, interested in both improving public education and staying on top of current health care for women news, dedicated to local politics and voting, focused on improving my business skills, in touch with friends, and active in some groups oriented around personal and business development. They'll see now and again my family takes vacations. I have allergies in the spring. They'll find the same on Twitter. Fairly ho hum. The same sort of stuff they'd find out about me near the coffeemaker in the breakroom or in idly chit chat during a meeting to break the ice.

In short, potential colleagues won't find out anything I mind them knowing, and frankly, if any of that makes me a bad fit for the job, I'd rather both of us know upfront. With time and experience comes wisdom, and I've learned it's so much better to be frank and honest about who you are and what your needs and job demands are instead of trying to conform to be chosen.

With honestly comes a better fit and more success and satisfaction.

It does mean I censor some elements I share online, but those are by virtue of my own personal privacy standards. It means using good judgment before I share something through social media. What's my standard of measure?

My own personal brand. Whether it's personally or professionally, I want others to view me as a thoughtful, considerate, mature, intelligent, accomplished, interesting person who cares deeply about her family and doing good in the world.

Before I post, I ask whether what I want to put up -- put out -- there adds to this idea of myself. If it does, then up it goes.

That's why I haven't hidden my profile, used a pseudonym, or otherwise attempted to hide or disguise myself. I feel proud not just of what but also of who I put out through social media.

It's been customary to counsel young people to censor what they post. Judiciousness is a good suggestion, but the new trend -- of hiding profiles and using online disguises of some sort -- is equally valid. Young people may grow up to regret some of what they put out there, but truthfully, that's part of the process. I truly regret some things from my youth, as well. I'm just grateful my youth happened before the Internet and cell phones and camera phones and recorders.

Today, that is all there and in play, and not just for the younger generations. Googling potential colleagues flows both ways: employees and employers. However, both potential employees and employers need to maintain perspective about what they find online, have an honest discourse about it, and discuss each's philosophies of boundaries. A client may not like my liberal leaning politics, but will that truly affect my job? That's a good question for an employer to ask. Perhaps it's an environment that doesn't mind topics such as politics coming in to the office, but if it is a problem, that needs to be out there.

What potential employees and employers find online can actually be a help to one another in figuring out what to ask and how to answer. It can be a better starting point than a simple resume that lists jobs and accomplishments. It provides an insight into the personality of the person. It can help each gauge more deeply how their own elements will match up against the job and workplace.

And at the end of the day, a good fit, which translates into finding someone likable, ends up being a bigger factor to success than ability to do a good job. (See: The Likeability Factor.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You Ought to Be Ashamed of Yourself

Last night I told my daughters, "You should be ashamed of yourselves."

I know modern parenting has it that we should never let our kids feel badly, especially about themselves, but the truth our family's morals and ethics my kids should have felt badly about what they did and about themselves.

We had just returned home from a short four-day holiday visiting my mother. A couple of those days I was at the South by Southwest Conference, and to cover my absence -- which nobody seemed to notice much, a good thing -- the family went on the Fun Run: lake, picnic, boating, kite flying, park, and more. It was days of outdoors and good times, which the kids loved.

After an easy and speedy drive, we arrived home shortly before dinner, and that's when the kids launched into bickering and insults that escalated into vicious behavior. My husband and I both tried several times to redirect, direct, intervene, and every other parenting measure in our arsenal, to no avail. I tried getting them to access their emotions, and talk about those instead of fighting and being cruel. I tried to think about their ages. I tried to consider that this was a big transition. I tried to keep in mind likely fatigue. I extended empathy and positive, constructive suggestions to problem solve. I tried leaving them alone. In short, I tried it all. My husband, too.

When they began the kicking and hitting, that was the end of our tolerance.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourselves," I told them. I explained how I understood that they felt badly, were angry, "But that's never a reason to be cruel and hurtful, especially violent."

I reminded them that when they felt temper flare they needed to try counting, try taking a break, ask a parent for guidance, or any of the other measures I've taught my quick-tempered children of a long line of redheads.

"You can tell someone you are angry, and you can feel angry, but you cannot, I repeat, cannot, be mean and hurtful on purpose, you will regret it, and then? Then you will feel really, really ashamed," I said.

You may disagree with my parenting. You may think I'm wrong, but deep inside, I'm pretty convinced I am right. I think I'm right to teach my kids to pay attention to the shame they feel inside and use it to stop themselves. I want them to learn to listen to their internal guides and use them to make good choices in life.

At some point, it seems that we all got this idea that we deserve to be happy, that we are entitled to feel good, and that it's our right to pursue our passion. All the time.

I don't think anyone wakes up and thinks, 'Today is a good day to have a bad day." I don't think anyone is at kindergarten graduation and says, "I want to be a (insert job that must be done but you don't generally aspire to) (like...lowly paid writer or porta-potty cleaner)..."

It just doesn't always turn out the way we planned. Sometimes life -- and our own emotions -- get away from us.

I don't know about you, but I'm okay with the fact that life sucks sometimes. That doesn't mean I enjoy it, it just means I understand that not everything gets to be ideal all the time. It means I know sometimes bad things happen to good people. It means I know I'm going to have to deal with and process bad feelings, such as anger, grief, frustration, and...shame.

Shame gets abused, for sure. We feel shame when we really needn't, and ashamed when we really shouldn't.

Someone pulls a mean girl on you and you take it to heart, think there's something wrong with you, feel ashamed. You try something and it doesn't work out very well, you feel a crushing sense of failure, feel shame. You wake up one day and it seems that while everything is going right for everyone else, it's all going wrong for you, and you flush with shame.

If we let it be a reaction and move past it quickly, work to better the cause, that's one thing. But too often we let this shame define us.

That concerns me, but what concerns me more is this full throttle attempt we so often make to never feel ashamed. "Don't let it get to you," we hear. "Don't be so intense," we're told. "Let it go," we're advised.

At some point, it starts feeling as if...we're asked to not feel, or not feel very much at all. At some point, it feels as if...our fellow humans want us to be automatons.

Maybe I'm missing the point but in general it seems we often have trouble with strong emotion, especially strong bad emotion. I'm here to argue in favor of the very worst of all strong bad emotions: shame.

Shame is a guide. When we use it and tap into it correctly, it reminds us of our moral compass. We should feel shame when we do something hurtful or wrong by our own ethics and morals. It's a touchpoint.

We're so good teaching ourselves to "get over" bad emotions that we can often focus too much on the "get thee behind me, bad feeling" and miss its purpose. When we exercise and a muscle hurts, that's our body telling us something. When we feel and it hurts, that's our mind telling us something. It's telling us that we hurt ourselves. We betrayed something crucial to our core being.

If we teach children to pay attention and understand this bad feeling guide, I think we teach them to be more compassionate both to themselves and to others.

After I told my girls to pay attention to that bad feeling and overcome it rather than feeding it, we hugged, and passed a pleasant rest of the evening. My older daughter even read a story to her little sister.

We don't need to get over bad feelings, we need to get through them. That's how we come out the other side not just feeling better, but being better.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tell me why

As my husband and I ponder the best place and path for our oldest daughter...

our beautiful precious Angel,
who feels so deeply and intensely,
thinks so logically,
and who is, apparently, not on the same track as her peers,
for intelligence or emotional development,
and who is,
according to educators,
just enough ahead to make it slightly challenging and uncomfortable

As we ponder her

amazing empathy
remarkable insight
deeply embedded and held intellectual curiosity
inspiring self-motivated learning and accomplishing

I asked her, off-handedly, for a real reason but no real reason what she thought of the kids in the grade ahead.

The only one I really know, Mom,
she told me,
was really really rude, like mean.

How's that I asked?
Heart pounding in my chest, recognizing that here we go again
I think

In the bathroom, my beautiful precious Angel said,
In the bathroom this girl told me that she hated me.

Hated me
echoed around the deep cavern in my chest created to house the huge love I have for my girls.

Hated me.

In the bathroom, my beautiful precious Angel said,
In the bathroom this girl told me that my classmate who I thought was a friend really, really hated me.

Hated me.

Who I asked, which classmate.

When she told me I was surprised not shocked surprised.

Tell me whyyy
Tell me whyyy
I may be mad
I may be blind
I may be viciously unkind
But I can still read what you're thinking

Do you think, I asked her,
Do you think that maybe she is afraid of your friendship with her friend?
Do you think she was trying to scare you away to protect her friendship with her friend?

As my mind hummed and hate me echoed around my heart, my girl told me
Told me that she asked her friend and her "friend" who always acted so kindly towards her as I could tell
Her "friend" who seemed to be so nice
Her "friend" who plays with her nearly every day on the playground
Her "friend" said
"Yeah I sort of do hate you."

And I thought I sort of do hate this a lot.
I sort of do want to tell your mother on you.
I sort of do want to tell all parents on both of you.

I tried really, really hard
to get over being a mad eight year old and furious mama bear inside

I tried to think what a real grownup would do.

Do you think that, I asked her
Do you think that she meant it?

I don't know, my beautiful, precious Angel said.
I don't know.

I resisted the urge to buy cotton wool for wrapping her in and instead wrapped her in my arms.

But, stoic, she resisted.

In both our eyes something bleak.

Let's go down to the water's edge
And we can cast away those doubts
Some things are better left unsaid

But they still turn me inside out
Turning inside out turning inside out
Tell me...
Tell me...

I tried to not make this me, about me
But I do not know, yet, how to overcome this sense I have of my girls not yet being out of me

In some way, they are more in my heart than ever they were in my womb.

It is how I know loving a child has more to do with being her parent than any part of giving birth.

A baby is born from a womb, but grows forever in a mother's heart, never born out of there.

It is why what she feels I feel and this I cannot stop.

So hate me echoes around that huge cavern that grew to house these girls as they grow in my heart.

And I try to think how to make it better, this hate that has been told to my beautiful precious Angel.
I try to keep my big mouth shut.
I try not to feel turned inside out.

These are the tears...
The tears we shed
This is the fear
This is the dread
These are the contents of my head

I'm sorry, I told her
I've had people be mean to me that way and honestly
I told her
Honestly I sort of hate them back and it hurts inside.
It makes me feel a little broken, or wrong somehow.
Like maybe there is a reason in me for them to not like me.

Yeah, she said.

But we can't all like each other, not all of us.

Yeah, she said.

As my husband and I ponder our beautiful, precious Angel and how to do right by her

the strength she has inside
the internal drummer
to whom she marches
her beautiful mind
the mind her teachers always call amazing
her sense of justice
her prevailing sense of how things should be
even though they are so rarely
the way they ought to be
and our girl
eyes wide open
and all other senses just as open
knows this
feels it all so keenly

What I know is this...
to survive, you have to shut it down
shut it down enough to survive

I do not need to wrap her in cotton wool
She is wrapping herself.

And these are the years that we have spent
And this is what they represent
And this is how I feel
Do you know how I feel?

How it feels to watch your child wrap herself.

In her head, I can read what she is thinking.
And I've heard it too many times.
I've said it too many times.

Cause I don't think you know how I feel
I don't think you know what I feel
I don't think you know what I feel
You don't know what I feel

Oh my beautiful precious Angel, heart on two lengthening legs, oh my baby, with my lumpy throat
I know how you feel.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Mighty Ducks: How new media successes got to be such lucky ducks

I recently spoke at the Mom 2.0 Summit, a wonderful event where businesses and market influencers converge in Houston to discuss what we're doing, how we're doing it, how it's working for us, and what next. I'm in the interesting position of being on both sides of that fence, and when I was invited to speak, I encountered a framing problem for my topic, "The Macro Impact of Social Media Engagement."

Despite this framing anxiety, I was honored to get a platform to speak, further honored by my amazing panelists (Joanne Bamberger, extraordinary pundit and lawyer; Loralee Choate, whose direct interaction with Valerie Jarrett regarding healthcare caused the entire Web to inhale sharply in admiration; and JJ Lassberg, whose creativity inspires enriched marketing and communication) and rich for choice about what to focus on in my panel. That's nearly as bad as having nothing, you know.

But as I spoke with my panelists -- and by speak I mean I spent a lot of time listening and asking questions first, which was sort of a stall tactic (lol) but largely to gain perspective -- a few things occurred to me:

1. What we seek in business isn't all that different from what we seek in life - we have goals, aspirations, hopes, and dreams and all lead to a sort of success we envision

2. My life and my business intersect, significantly - like many in this area of my field, I gained a beautiful network and community that has blossomed into work I love by connecting personally

3. Diversity can be complementary and intersect in unexpected ways - a DC political expert who talks on CNN, a famous Utah mom blogger, and a Houston-based communications consultant can end up having similar talking points that segue nicely.

In short, we built on the concept that you need to build a major highway of communication, with great rest stops, on the way to a destination:
  • Create a great blog or Web site, and invite others in as much as you go out to visit them.
  • Create a place they want to come, because it's valuable for them, and make it a clean, well-lighted space.
  • Get to know them, all of them, and value each of them, not just the ones who can Do for you. You never know who might become what for you...everyone has value, as Joanne said.
  • Pay attention to who comes, and in what quantity, but make that a piece of information, not the end all be all.
  • At the end of the day, content is king, and your mission statement always needs to hint at, "Ask not what my community can do for me, but what I can do for my community."
Our panel received positive press. More importantly, it prompted a lot of spring point discussions throughout the weekend, well after the panel ended.

Bringing us into your space with you

One of the best comments/highest compliments I received was from Leah Peterson, who said, "During your have this way of bringing us into your space with you."

Mission? Accomplished.

That's always my goal when I communicate, whether on my own behalf or that of a client.

The object is never to trap you or pull a used car salesman trick. Not at all. The point is to be there with you, seriously, honestly present, and to talk and interact.

All of this intersected near the end of the conference when a mom blogger caught me at a table and shared her story. "I just want to ask what it is that I should expect, you know, what else I can do," she said earnestly. She loved blogging and wanted to be successful at it.

"Tell me about it, what you've got, what you do, what you want," I said.

She shared her story about how she'd created a blog, put great content on it, worked really hard to be good, added in SEO, studied all the successful examples, and so forth.

I could tell that It, whatever It was, had not yet happened for her. She was actively pursuing the "what more can I do" angle. I bit my tongue in indecision. Should I tell her I thought she had it backwards? Tell the truth? Or compliment her on all she'd done so far, leave her with a wish of good luck?

Telling it like I think it is, and I bet I'm at least half right, or maybe three-quarters

I went with truth. I felt a bit arrogant, but she had asked, I have been doing this a while and have learned some hard lessons along the way, largely due to lack of mentorship at the time. Back when I began, there were not a 100 articles about how to blog, 200 about how to engage using social media, no conferences about it, and no major successes who were accessible. The rest of us felt our way, some landing it big, and some finding different paths, while others caught a rhythm that satisfied them. I didn't mention any failures because as my friend, the amazing President of Zoetica Kami Huyse quoted during the Ragan-Coca Cola conference, "There is no failure, only a yes or no to a hypothesis."

This young mom blogger reminded me of some mom bloggers friends I'd made along the way, but who had quit blogging when it failed for them. Many were writers who wanted to succeed at writing. We're a large club.

The difference between some and others in this case is the level of commercialization and experience. I've written and edited professionally and learned that the days of getting discovered by a movie producer in a soda shop are long past. You get discovered when you get in front of someone and that happens when you go to where they are.

Think of it as moving to a new house. When you move in, a few neighbors might drop by as part of a welcome wagon, but what are the odds that they will be your new best friends? When you do meet people you like, do they magically appear at your door, or do you need to build a friendship and then invite them over?

Blogging isn't so very different.

I can build a beautiful house, fill it with lovely things or the highest quality, and maintain a rich and vibrant home. That's satisfying if that's all I want from it. But what if I want to constantly filled with people, of all sorts, all of whom are wonderful in some way?

I have to go out and meet them, and it needs to be genuine and sincere. Same goes for blogging.

You can be wonderful and friendly, a marvelously charming and charismatic person, and you will still need to work to build and maintain relationships.

But even good friends don't always know what you want and need. Building the relationship is part of it, but you still have to pursue what you want.

In the end, you have to use your words. You have to tell people what you dream of, what you want, what you need, how you're available (if you are) for work opportunities, and keep your eyes and ears open to figure out when and how you can create an intersection that brings a win-win for you and others.

When you see someone succeeding at something you are interested in, talk to them about it. When you see a job you'd like, find out what qualifications it requires. When you see a job you'd like, sort of, don't be afraid to propose yourself with your modifications to the job.

You never know.

And that's what I told this wondering mom blogger who asked me what I thought she ought to do next.

She stared at me, said hmm, and turned away. I think I know why. I think it's because I used the words work and effort frequently. I think she, like so many others, subscribe to the Kevin Costner Field of Dreams Philosophy: If You Build It, They Will Come.

I confess, I never "got" that movie.

I confess, I don't subscribe to that philosophy.

Maybe it's because I'm a middle-class American born of middle-class Americans, but I believe in putting your best foot forward and your nose to the grindstone. That means trying. That means meeting a lot of No before you find that Yes.

Fielding the no to reach the dream of yes

A lot of people will tell you that things come effortlessly. They'll either say this outright or put on a good facade of ease. You might think you are surrounded by Olympic champion ice skaters who glide about beautifully with no trouble.

The truth is we're all ducks and under the water our legs are churning as fast as they can.

If I were an oversimplifier who loved to continue a good metaphor, I'd say there are two kinds of ducks: the one who sits close to shore and waits for someone to toss her a crumb because she is such a cute duck, and the one who cruises the shore and keeps a sharp eye out for any crumbs to snatch.

If you've ever fed ducks, you know who gets the crumb, even if you try to toss it to the patiently waiting cute duck.

Even so, sometimes neither duck gets a crumb, and sometimes your artfully tossed crumb lands right at the waiting duck's bill.

That keeps us all hopeful, especially when that duck gets a book deal about how to be the great duck who gets the crumb tossed her way. Then we all start thinking, well if I pose prettily alongside the shore and everyone sees what an awesome duck I am, I'll get a crumb.

Then some other duck gets a crumb. "I made sure to be by the shore, kept the water rolling off my back, and lo and behold...a crumb!"

We start thinking, "Wow, there sure are a lot of lucky ducks out there! I want to be a lucky duck."

We see other ducks munching crumbs, sometimes it feels like we see crumb munching ducks everywhere we turn. We start feeling like the Ugly Unlucky Duckling.

What you may not know is what happened during the ellipses. Usually, a lot of work and effort happened during the ellipses. Usually, a lot of no happened during the ellipses.

People don't want to hear about the no, though. People prefer to talk about the yes.

But never assume the no wasn't there because I guarantee was. Just like the baseball game in Field of Dreams -- a lot of bad pitches to get to the good one, and that's the one with the glory. But the bad pitches were worthwhile because they taught us something about the game, ourselves, and the pitcher.

You have to field a lot of no to reach the dream of yes.

(Now I have ducks and baseball all in the same metaphor -- an expansion team of The Mighty Ducks, only baseball. )

I didn't just shake my tailfeathers to land a crumb. I worked my tail feathers off. I still do. It takes just as much effort to maintain the yes as it does to get it in the first place.

It's a big pond but we're all swimming in it

Now, though, there are a lot of ducks on the pond. So how do you get heard above all that quacking? How do you develop yourself or your business?

Feel free to share your ideas here, thoughts, comments, and I'll be back with my answer later.