About a month ago, I saw that the CIA was coming to a job fair on campus. Fueled by my love of television shows like Scandal, I went to the CIA website and clicked on the career tab. I read a couple of paragraphs about what the CIA screening process is like. When I got to this paragraph, I closed the window–the CIA is never going to hire me:
“Be prepared to undergo a thorough background investigation examining your life’s history, your character, trustworthiness, reliability and soundness of judgment. We also examine your freedom from conflicting allegiances, potential to be coerced, and willingness and ability to abide by regulations governing the use, handling and the protection of sensitive information.” (emphasis mine)
Here’s the thing: I’ve been living my life in public since 2006. My real name has always been connected to my blog and my Facebook page has always been filled with details about me that the rest of the world probably doesn’t need to know. I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years, have considered killing this blog and starting an anonymous one. But I don’t. And there are a lot of reasons for that.
Last night, a friend mentioned that, while she found my latest blog post compelling, she wondered if it (and others) wouldn’t perhaps come to haunt me in my job search. Would certain employers be turned off when they Google my name? I am certain they would. I told this friend I’d considered this before and decided it was worth the risk. The employers who would cross me off their list because of my blog? I don’t want to work for them.
But I’ve found myself obsessing over this friend’s question ever since. I woke up thinking about it this morning. The stakes are different now: instead of being a graduate student worried about her professors coming across a whiny blog post, I’m a job seeker worried a hiring manager might come across an incompetent one. Do my reasons for keeping a public blog still hold up? Ultimately, I think so. Here’s why:
- I’m a poet-blogger. I want people who like my poetry to find me here and hope that they’ll find something in my writing life (other than poetry) to connect to. I want people who come here because I talk about grad school, or job hunting, or whatever to then decide to check out my poetry. I need my name here to facilitate those exchanges.
- Whatever mistakes I’ve made so far, I’ve made authentically. The giant f**kups of my life aren’t sources of shame for me, but learning experiences. Telling a dear friend’s secret and losing her trust: a mistake I spent years trying to rectify and will spend the rest of my life trying not to repeat. Losing my first “grown-up job” because I was under-qualified and scared to make a mistake: an experience that buoys me and urges me to take initiative when I’m feeling tentative. A million small mistakes in between and since? They’re mine, I own them, and it would be impossible to hide them. They inform the way I approach the world.
- I very much dislike the notion that we should keep ourselves to ourselves (I think I’m paraphrasing Stephen King) or act as if. Here are some true facts about me that I cannot conceal without great personal cost:
I come from a working class background and do not always behave the way my upper-middle class comrades think I should.
I suffer from depression and generalized anxiety disorder. These things are under control, but they’ll always be a part of me.
I am leaving academia. I do not see this as a failure or a source of shame. I do, however, see a dearth of information available for others to do the same, and I hope living my mistakes out loud on the internet will be useful to them.
If any of these facts would keep me from getting a job, then they would also keep me from being happy or productive in that job if I concealed them during the hiring process. I cannot hide who I am and thrive. It’s not how I’m made. So, I write a public, mostly uncensored blog with my name printed across the top. And if you don’t want to hire me because of it, that’s okay.