A reader writes:
What is your take on having a blog and how that might affect your career, especially if you are job-hunting?
I blog as a hobby for about five years now. I have a political blog where I often deal with controversial topics and issues and which I sometimes take staunch positions. It is well-written (I don't rant and rave -- this is where I do serious writing and reflection) and I try to be thoughtful in my posts. I also am linked to several nationally-known bloggers and have a growing readership.
My question is: as a hiring manager, what is your take on a potential hire having such a hobby? Would you hold their writings against them -- especially if they deal with controversial political and cultural topics? I make an effort to be anonymous and use a pseudonym but my true identity can easily be found out using a simple Google search. I do not mention any of my employers at all in my blog posts and tend to avoid topics that have to do with my employer's business. That said, I am not sure if that is enough precaution to keep me out of trouble.
Depends on the employer, and depends on how controversial.
Here's where I come down on it (and this is only my personal take, not representative of all employers): If someone is writing about a controversial issue and they're doing it in a thoughtful, calm way, then regardless of which side of the issue they're on, that's fine with me. But if someone is ranting, or so extreme in their views that they're scary (and that's subjective, of course), or just offensive, it's probably a deal-breaker.
Also, if I know about a candidate's blog, it's going to become part of their application package whether they know it or not. I'm going to look at it for evidence of how their writing is, how they use logic, what their judgment is like, and generally who they are -- like a MySpace page, it's definitely not off-limits. This could help or it could hurt, depending on the blog. (Side story: I actually once saw the blog of a candidate who had blogged about her interview process with me. It was well-done and it helped.)
In any case, personally, it's more about the type of thing above than whether or not I object to the particular views the person is espousing. In fact, I would rather not have a staff with identical views anyway.
However, it's a risk. Plenty of employers won't agree with me and if they disagree with your views may hold it against you. To some extent, this is human nature. Some of hiring involves personal chemistry.
Additionally, you need to be prepared for employers to require you to discontinue the blog once you're on the job, or at least give you rules about what you can and can't write about. In some fields you just can't have an outside blog that showcases your individual opinions. For instance, if you work on a political campaign that's moderate and you have a blog where you occasionally display more radical opinions, that's a problem for the campaign and they're going to make you shut it down -- because many people will see it reflecting on them even if it doesn't actually. So if the blog is important to you and you don't want to find yourself choosing between it and your job, it might even be worth asking about before you take an offer.
Anyway, this is a huge topic and we've only scratched the surface. Anyone else want to weigh in?