Monday, November 29, 2010

In which I become a disabler...

I have identified a situation in which I am anything but an enabler.

My younger son is learning to drive. He's doing very well, and his instructor speaks very highly of his progress. Whenever possible, I let him drive me around. On short jaunts to the shops and such, this is fine. It's the longer trips that are the problem.

The other night, I let him drive to rugby practice. It's a distance of some 8 miles or so, along a minor road. He has a tendency to drive rather close to the left side of the road (this is the UK, remember, where we drive on the left), and, when he changes gear, he tends to drift even further.

I'm sure his instructor deals with this kind of thing day in and day out, and is inured to it (judging from the utterly unscientific sample of my two sons, this seems to be a fairly common tendency). I, however, am less accustomed to it, and my rising stress levels were doing nothing for my son's confidence.

Eventually, he pulled into a side road and instructed me to drive the rest of the way. I was mortified.

It seems that when I fear for my personal safety, I am unable to be the unfailingly encouraging person I would like to be.

L plate image by canonsnapper

On why we should be generous

Those who still adhere to an older business model are puzzled by those of us who engage in the various social spaces with people who, in effect, are our competition. Happily, we advise each other on the best way to tackle this or that problem, and we take uncomplicated pleasure in the knowledge that we have helped one another.

Today, courtesy of a new Twitter follower, Indira Balki, I was reminded of this poem which reflects much of this attitude:

One Star Fell and Another by Conrad Aitken

One star fell and another as we walked.
Lifting his hand towards the west, he said–
–How prodigal that sky is of its stars!
They fall and fall, and still the sky is sky.
Two more have gone, but heaven is heaven still.

Then let us not be precious of our thought,
Nor of our words, nor hoard them up as though
We thought our minds a heaven which might change
And lose its virtue, when the word had fallen.
Let us be prodigal, as heaven is:
Lose what we lose, and give what we may give,–
Ourselves are still the same. Lost you a planet–?
Is Saturn gone? Then let him take his rings
Into the Limbo of forgotten things.

O little foplings of the pride of mind,
Who wrap the phrase in lavender, and keep it
In order to display it: and you, who save our loves
As if we had not worlds of love enough–!

Let us be reckless of our words and worlds,
And spend them freely as the tree his leaves;
And give them where the giving is most blest.
What should we save them for,–a night of frost? . . .
All lost for nothing, and ourselves a ghost.
I have nothing to add to that.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

On Thanksgiving

I'm sure you already know that we don't have Thanksgiving in the UK. That would just be silly. But I have many American friends, readers, followers, etc. in the various spaces I occupy online, to whom this holiday is very important.

This post is for you. I would like to wish you a happy Thanksgiving, although I'm sure you have better things to do than read my blog today.

Americans tend to be much-maligned in the UK, but my own (entirely unscientific) observation is that the very people who thus malign them are often equally guilty of the characteristics they disdain so very vocally.

So may I say that I am thankful for you?

Thank you for your warmth, your acceptance, your support, your enthusiasm. I am glad you and I have crossed paths.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Assessment model blues

Last night was 'parents' evening' at my son's school. It isn't officially called parents' evening anymore, and hasn't been for some years, because the students themselves are a very important part of the three-way meeting. Nevertheless, the name has stuck on a colloquial level.

Our younger son is a grafter. Always has been. Every single one of his teachers spoke highly of his work ethic. This was no less true in the subjects where he is struggling. His classwork is always done, as is his homework. He contributes to class discussions, and raises excellent questions. He participates wholeheartedly in group work.

For the duration of his school days to date, every teacher (bar one) has found this child a joy to teach.

And it has been a joy to address his education as a parent.

This may have something to do with the fact that he has known since he was just three years old that he wants to be an explosives demolitionist. Of course, when he was three, he didn't know that it was called that. We didn't either. But as his commitment to this career path has remained strong for the past 14 years, we have learnt a lot about it along the way.

The problem for him at the moment lies with the assessment model. Particularly in respect of pure maths. In order to take Maths with Mechanics, which is essential for his future career, he has to take Pure Maths. And he isn't doing terribly well in the tests. In fact, it is fair to say that he is doing poorly.

Part of the problem is that he was placed in a rather low set for maths (over our objections, just by the way) and that set did not cover some sections of the syllabus. As a consequence, what constitutes revision for the rest of the class, is totally new work for those who were in that set.

But the teacher (Ms Verity who has previously made an appearance in this blog), has said she only wishes he could produce the same work in the test situation that he does for homework. His homework, apparently, is excellent.

The difference is that, when it comes to homework, he can open the text book (yes, they still use them) to the example page, and adapt the worked example to the problem(s) at hand. Or he can look it up online. If he struggles to make sense of the example, he can contact a friend via text message or instant messaging and they can work through it together. He has identified a study buddy, and he checks in with this kid, if he's unsure of his workings.

This sounds rather a lot like life, or like the reality of a working environment to me. Don't you agree?

In a test situation, you're deprived of those options. You can't research the solution and then apply it. You can't get a friend to check your work. You can't ask for support from someone with particular skill in this area.

But I think he is demonstrating a very mature, resourceful skill. A skill that will stand him in great stead for the rest of his life. A skill which far outweighs being able to manipulate surds... whatever the heck they are - I don't think they had been invented yet, when I was at school ;0).

Sadly, we haven't yet figured out how to assess that particular skill. We have only figured out how to subject kids to sensory deprivation and expect them to work purely from memory, and fail them on their inability to manipulate surds under these conditions.

You might think that I feel this way just because this is my son we're talking about, here. But I hope that my track record on the subject of assessment stands on its own merit.

In order to better equip my son to meet the current assessment criteria, we have decided to hire a private tutor (as an aside here, I should point out that the school has laid on extra lessons to help kids like ours catch up, but that these clash with rugby practice and we consider his sporting interests to be a valid component of a well-rounded school education).

Oddly enough, the tutor himself has made his own appearance on this blog before! Thanks to his background, we believe that this young man will be the right person to help our son make up the deficit. Of course, this is going to cost a fair amount of money, but our son has amply demonstrated over the years that he is more than prepared to put in the work from his side. Like I said: a grafter. And he needs this, if he is to get into the university he has identified, to get the qualification he has chosen in order one day to "blow stuff up and get paid for it". Because of that, we consider the money well spent.

But it doesn't mean that it sits easily with me. It is a little like training a performing monkey.

But I am satisfied that my son already demonstrates the sort of characteristics that an explosive demolitionist requires: he is sensible, responsible, hard-working, resourceful, determined... Put that on a report card!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Job hunting with social media

As you know, I have been job-hunting lately. And I've been thinking about the history of job-hunting... or at least my experience of it.

My first few jobs were part-time or holiday affairs while at school and drama school, and they were a case of word of mouth. I was advised by someone in the know that John Orr's was looking for holiday sales staff for the Christmas rush. I was advised that Communikon School of Performing Arts was looking for part-time drama teachers. I was advised that the provincial board needed adjudicators for drama eisteddfods. This was in the very late 70's and early 80's.

Once I graduated from drama school, and while I was waiting to be discovered by Hollywood (or at least the SABC), I found a couple of jobs in the small ads of the local newspaper. This was in the early 80's.

My first office job was found via newspaper ads, again. But this time, it was a feature ad. The same applied to my next office job.

In much the same way (feature ads in the newspaper), I found a job at a theatre agency in Cape Town, but I treat this one separately, because this job led to my getting a few photographic modelling assignments and a contract as a TV presenter (at which I sucked, royally).

During this phase, I met and married my husband. For a year after this, I tried and failed to find a steady, 'proper' job. Of course, my efforts were never enough to please the in laws, who felt that I was sponging off their son. This was in the late 80's, and my search consisted of cold-calling and responding to newspaper ads. It was soul-destroying. But I took every opportunity to upskill, and did run the occasional computer applications training course (as they were then known) during the dry spell. This was to prove the best move I'd ever made. After nearly a year, I finally landed a job working in a learning centre... and found my vocation. The company that had set up the learning centre was way ahead of its time for the market, and the initiative didn't take off. I found myself back on the job market within 16 months. But this time, I had built up something of a network and a reputation.

I went freelance. I tapped the network for opportunities, and they came. I worked as a freelance training consultant until we left South Africa, fitting my career around my children. During this time, I got to work with some of the big names of South African industry, as well as taking on ad hoc overflow work for specialist training organisations. I was offered a few chances to take full-time posts with some of my clients, but, with my husband's full support, I opted not to accept them. I will never regret having been able to be a hands-on Mom, even though it almost certainly impacted my career development.

When we arrived in the UK, in 1999, I took a year out to settle the family in to our new home. By the time I started job hunting again, it was via the local newspapers. I took a part time job at an FE college. We had pretty much decided that I would go back to work full time only once both our sons were in secondary school. However, I continued to scan the papers for opportunities. When a 'perfect fit' full time job came up earlier than expected, we decided to take the plunge. The office was 3 miles from home. I could make the trip in 7 minutes. Our kids were 11 and 9, and would be home alone for 1.5 hours each afternoon. We lived in a safe neighbourhood. This was 2002.

During this period, the Internet began to come into its own as a place to go job hunting. I found and applied for my next job via the world wide web. I felt so modern! This was 2005.

In 2008, the wheels fell off and I found myself at a crossroads. I decided to take the plunge and go back to being self-employed. But it had got a whole lot more complicated since my last shot at it. And I was under pressure to earn more, because our commitments had been based on what I had been earning while working for 'the man'. That was in 2008. I did look for alternatives, and didn't find a whole heck of a lot, so the Learning Anorak was launched.

Now that that venture is coming to an enforced close, I am job hunting again.... and it looks very different.

I have automated searches in place with several of the biggest recruitment agencies. Almost daily, there are jobs I can apply for. Sadly, as I have mentioned before, the first-line screeners are not the very clued up. They are utterly unable to identify that skills in X map across to requirements for Y. So I get turned down for a lot of jobs I could do blindfolded... sometimes within minutes of submitting my application.

I also check out the online vacancies pages of some of the organisations I am consciously targetting. This is a huge plus.

But I am also able to be far more pro-active than before. When I was job hunting way back in 1988/9, I was at a loss as to what else I could do. Other than cold-calling and responding to ads, what was there? Especially in a city in which I was unknown (ergo, no network). This time around, I have put feelers out across the network, which is global. I have made my position known on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I have written a blog post. And all of those have taken several hits.

The support from my beloved community, while thus far not yielding anything, has been enormously comforting. Harold Jarche even created a hashtag for me on Twitter (#YesYouShouldHireKaryn). Okay, so it didn't get a lot of take-up, but the fact is that he did it. It was a very kind gesture from someone who has become a real friend, even though we have never met face to face. This is the beauty of the network. And it didn't go unnoticed. Someone, a complete stranger to me tweeted something to the effect that he didn't know who this @karynromeis person was, but she must be worth hiring, based on the support she's getting from Twitter "big hitters".

I have had several job offers, actually, but all of them have been spam, bar one. The one genuine job offer I received was at a lower rate of pay than I was getting 5 years ago, and involved 3 hours of commuting time every day. It wasn't easy to pass up on the bird in hand, but I decided that I had to. The level of sacrifice by my whole family simply wouldn't be worth it. Fortunately, my incredible husband has been staunchly supportive. He simply will not have me sell myself short. He has always had more faith in me than I do in myself.

It remains to be seen if this method of job hunting yields something more quickly than previous methods have done.

Watch this space.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Amber Naslund on the ROI of social media

Here is a woman whose point of view very closely reflects my own. There are some things that simply cannot be quantified.

I can’t believe nor understand how many companies can’t also accept the fact that deeper and broader personal connections can net stronger business ties, too, whether or not you can capture the data proof points that bear that out. It’s been that way since the dawn of time.
Read the whole post here.

Putting myself out there

As you probably already know, I have been dealt a series of severe professional blows since July this year. The consequence of this could very well be the demise of my business (barring a miracle, that is). As a consequence, I have been applying for 'proper' jobs in order to keep paying the bills, while - hopefully - being able to continue doing the job I love (although I am quite open to considering alternatives). This has been a very interesting exercise.

I have made full use of automated searches to track down potential jobs, and - to be fair - there have been several likely candidates every day. What has been disappointing is the realisation that the first line screeners on the other end are totally ill-equipped for the job. Of course, they probably know nothing about my field, and so they are utterly unable to say "Ah! She has oodles of experience of X. That maps across perfectly to the advertiser's requirement for Y." To them, X only equals X. As a consequence, I have had 'bong' emails in respect of jobs I could do standing on my head with one hand tied behind my back, jobs that may as well have included my name in the job description... sometimes within minutes of submitting the application.

So the method has its flaws. As a consequence, I thought I'd put the boot on the other foot. It may or may not work. I thought I'd advertise myself as a potential employee, and see whether that works any better.

My CV is online, so I won't bore you with that. Instead, let me tell you what I'd like to do and where I might like to do it:

  • As my pseudonym (learning anorak) implies, I am passionate about learning, and passionate about learners. I am an enabler 'tot in my murg in', as we say in Afrikaans (down to the marrow). I will go to great lengths to help people reach a new place in their journey, whether it be personal or professional. Can there be a better way to end a day than to know you gave someone a leg up to something they couldn't access before? My husband and I head up a ministry in our church that seeks out and gets to know visitors and first timers, invites them over for a meal, and introduces them to people with shared interests. This is not unlike my approach to learning solutions. Find the people. Learn about them: what they do, what they need. Put them in touch with the right people and/or the right information.
  • I can see myself helping an organisation streamline its learning and development provision, un-bottle-necking the L&D team, and embedding learning in the workflow. Taking learning to the point of need so that when Joe Bloggs hits a bump in the road during his day job, he can access the answer, implement it and get on with his life. That would be my dream job!
  • I'd love to work with people/organisations who are venturing out into the realms of using social media, either for corporate/commercial identity purposes, or as learning tools. I would like to help people overcome their fear. For many years, I taught rank beginners how to use computer apps, and found it enormously rewarding. I have a knack for taking the unknown and relating it back to the already known.
  • I have worked with and for global non-profits, collectives, small-to-medium private businesses, public sector organisations, a further education college and FTSE100 blue chips. I have no objection to going back to any of those sectors. I have never actually worked for a university, but, during my Master's degree studies often thought how much I would love to help faculty members move into the spaces their students already occupy (and some that they don't), to harness the learning potential of those.
  • I'd like to work at the Open University. I visited them some years ago, and was struck by how much everyone seems to enjoy working there. I remarked on this to one manager, who agreed, saying "We have our fair share of part-timers, full-timers and never-go-homers." I relish the idea of working in an environment where people get so caught up in what they're doing, that they occasionally forget to go home. Being something of a workafrolic myself (yes, you can 'borrow' that term, I did), I can relate to this.
So there you have it. Any potential recruiters out there looking for a person like me, you know where to find me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Edublog awards 2010

The 2010 award nominations are now open. Nominations are invited in the following categories:

  • Best individual blog
  • Best individual tweeter
  • Best group blog
  • Best new blog
  • Best class blog
  • Best student blog
  • Best resource sharing blog
  • Most influential blog post
  • Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion
  • Best teacher blog
  • Best librarian / library blog
  • Best School Administrator blog
  • Best educational tech support blog
  • Best elearning / corporate education blog
  • Best educational use of audio
  • Best educational use of video / visual
  • Best educational wiki
  • Best educational podcast
  • Best educational webinar series
  • Best educational use of a social networking
  • Best educational use of a virtual world
  • Best use of a PLN
  • Lifetime achievement
You will notice that the list includes things like wikis, Twitter, webinars, podcasts, PLNs, social networking and so on.... so it's no longer just about blogs, per se.

Nominations can be made in a variety of ways. Find out more here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On shame and honesty

At the time of writing, I am preparing to close down my business and declare bankruptcy. This has been on the cards for some time, now. While I have been open about the state of affairs, I have been very guarded about the effect it was having on me. I have been very busy presenting a brave face and looking as if everything is just fine.

It has meant that I have had to pull out of all the conferences I was scheduled to attend and/or speak at. It has meant that I have had to turn down invitations to all manner of interesting sounding events. This, in turn, has left me feeling largely excluded and marginalised.

Deep down, I have been feeling like an abject failure, and burning with shame that my ineptitude looks set to change the life circumstances of my husband and sons. My husband works unbelievably hard, and commutes two hours each way, every day. The thought that - through no fault of his own - he might lose his home, has been almost more than I can bear.

Finally, I confessed this in an email to a friend/colleague, and her response has overwhelmed me:

No Karyn, please do not feel shame, stand proud, you have never robbed anyone nor done anything underhanded, you have worked honestly and with sincerity, and you have done your best...and you are such an inspiration in yourself! i always felt lifted when talking to you and seeing your spirit.
Yes, dammit! I have never robbed anyone (although a few have robbed me). I have never been underhanded (although - again - a few have been underhanded with me). I am sincere and honest. And I have done my best. I am able to say with certainty that I have inspired some people along the way. Many have been kind enough to tell me so. And yes, I am by nature an encourager.

I know. I am naive. I have admitted it before. But I will not apologise for that. Nor can I see it as a fault. I would rather be naive, than be conniving, grasping, and looking-out-for-number-one-at-the-cost-of-everyone-else. I don't see how anyone could be in this business if that was how they rolled.

So, yes. Learning Anorak looks set to close its doors at the end of this month. And, no, I'm not handling it at all well. But as of today, I can add defiance the things I feel.

I'll let you know if that turns out to be a Good Thing ;o)

Monday, November 08, 2010

On specialist roles

Warning: this post contains a lot about my favourite sport (rugby union).

About half my lifetime ago, probably even less, if you had unloaded a rugby union team off a coach in front of me, I'd have had a pretty good chance of identifying the position of every player without needing to see the numbers on their backs.

Don't believe me? Watch me. Rugby is in my blood.

  • Anybody with cauliflower ears is pretty certain to be a forward (# 1 to 8), and will be involved in the scrum. Let's look at them first.
  • Those two Sherman tanks are almost certainly the props, (# 1 and 3). They will be the ones who prop up the hooker (more of him next) in the front row of the scrum. Don't expect much speed from them, but don't get in their way, either. They will charge right over you. Or through you. The one with two cauliflower ears is the tighthead. The one with only one cauliflower ear is the loosehead.
  • That square block of a man with no neck and a crazy glint in his eye, is the hooker (#2, known in the US as 'hook'). He has got to be a bit nuts (not unlike the guy who counters instinct to fling himself into the path of an oncoming hockey puck) - he gets picked up by the two biggest guys on the team and shoved face first into a pack of 8 opposing beefcakes bent on destruction.
  • Those two giants? Well, they'll be the locks (#4 and 5). They also form part of the scrum, hence their heft, but they are also great jumpers who will try to win the ball during lineouts.
  • Those two slightly shorter guys, with the great musculature are probably the flankers, (#6 and 7), aka wing forwards. They'll be pretty quick on their feet, but not the fastest by a long shot. They'll probably be first away from the scrum when the ball comes out.
  • But hang on. We still have one big guy here. Well, he'll be the eighth man (#8, obviously enough). A bit like the running back in American football. He is quite often also tall and fairly quick for a big guy, and will be off after the flankers when the scrum breaks up. He'll be one of the first on the scene when there's a ruck.
  • Now we come to the littlest guy on the team. In days gone by, this guy could be really titchy. But quick and slippery, like a wet bar of soap. This is your scrum half. This is a guy with a real rugby brain. He sees the bigger picture. He gets the ball from the forwards to the backs (where the speed is). Every time there is a scrum, a ruck or a maul, a good scrum half will be right there. He gets the ball out and feeds it to the team whippets, who come next.
  • Those lean guys, built like 100m sprinters? Those are your wings. #11 is your left wing, #14 on the right. These guys can run like the wind, and have an awesome side-step. These are the guys to whom to the scrum half will be looking to pass the ball, because they have the best chance of outrunning the opposition and making it to the try line. If you were picking yourself a dance partner for the prom, these were the guys to go for - they'd be the best on their feet... and they're often the best looking guys on the team, anyway!
  • The guys who are most difficult to classify on appearances alone (for me, at any rate) are #10, 12, 13 and 15. You'll know they're not forwards, because they're not so beefy. They might even be as good looking as the wings. They look as if they could be pretty quick, too. They are, in numerical order, the fly half, the two centres and the full back.
But, as I said, that was a while back. These days, it isn't so easy to tell. I guess the most standout moment of confusion for me was when Jonah Lomu first burst onto the scene. He was built like a brick outhouse, but was said to run the 100m in 10 seconds flat. I watched him run. I believe it. At 6' 5", he looked like a lock, but he played wing. In his early career, he was pretty unstoppable. He could keep running, with several opponents attached to his waist, he could side-step like a dancer, and could execute a hand-off second to none. He was a contradiction. No. He was several contradictions. He could do it all.

These days, the back line seems to have beefed up. The forwards are often deceptively quick. The scrum half (with a few notable exceptions, such as Ireland's Peter Stringer) is no longer diminutive. Increasingly, team members play out of position to cover for one another.

Is it such a stretch to say that this is what I think has happened, or is beginning to happen in some cases, in the workplace?

People have become adept at using the technology that used to be the province of the IT team. Individuals collaborate without needing to be instructed by their managers to do so, or with whom to do so. People have identified experts within different arenas within the business and are quite happy to go to them for help rather than approach the L&D team.

It takes one set of skills to train a rugby team of uni-disciplinary specialists, it takes an entirely different mindset to train a team full of players prepared to have a go anywhere on the field, should that prove necessary.

In the same way, I reckon we need to be looking to the skill sets traditionally required by management and the L&D team, and consider how different these need to be going forward, with a bunch of people far more comfortable at thinking on the fly and adapting to changed parameters as necessary.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

How free can a 'free school' be?

I haven't really paid too much attention to the recently introduced concept of 'free schools' in the UK, other than to be vaguely pleased that the opportunity now existed for a different educational model.

Then, last night I was talking to someone who heads up an organisation that is applying to establish one in his local town.

We were talking about what his leadership team had in mind for the school. What they envisioned. How they planned to tackle the concept. He had some great ideas, looking at working with the local business community, and calling upon the expertise of real, live working people to contribute regarding the sort of work they do, and the skills required to do it successully.

I was thinking: what an opportunity! After all, many of us in this space agree that the current education model is broken. That repeated tweaking is not going to fix it. That it ought to be scrapped and a new one developed from the ground up.

My contention is that we should start at the end. We should ask ourselves what the ideal school leaver looks like: what can s/he do, what does s/he know, how does s/he approach challenges... all that stuff. And we shouldn't just make up our minds in a vacuum on this point. We should engage with entrepreneurs, business leaders, community leaders, etc. We should ask them what school leavers need, and then work backwards from that point, figuring out how we're going to help them get there.

I thought my companion was ideally situated to exactly that. To come up with a model of education that actually prepares young people for life and for the workplace. In theory, the establishment of a Free School would enable his organisation, as a charity, to lead the school as they see fit while being completely funded by the government.

BUT... the practice isn't going to be that straightforward.

The school would have to meet the same standards set by the government for all schools in the UK and as such will receive the same OFSTED inspections.
And it's this bit that worries me.

How far are these free schools going to be able to stray from the government appointed model, if they still have to jump through the same hoops?

For example, I envisage a model of education that more closely reflect real life and the workplace. People working together on a project and the end result being, well, the end result. People working in teams with a mentor who serves as a guide on the side, rather than a sage on the stage. People being encouraged to explore and to share their learning with each other. The teacher being on the journey with the students. No-one ever being shut away in a room and subjected to sensory deprivation, being expected to rely entirely upon their own memory, seasoned with understanding, to demonstrate in the space of 90 minutes that they are conversant with material they have spent the last x number of years studying.

But, if they are going to have to meet the same KPIs as existing schools and sit the state exams at the end of it anyway, in order to be placed on a bell curve and evaluated via the same mechanism as the production line model... well, is this really going to be possible?

I sincerely hope that they give it a jolly good try, and am certainly willing to contribute if called upon to do so, but I wonder if the term 'free' is entirely accurate. It sounds a little tethered to me.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Siemens: Questions I'm no longer asking

This post is so brilliant, I wish I'd written it myself! George Siemens has absolutely nailed it with this one. While many people are still squabbling over the scraps like the gulls in Finding Nemo (see below), George has long since reached "ah shaddup" point.

The questions he's no longer asking are:

  1. Is online learning more or less effective than learning in a classroom?
  2. Does technology use vary by age?
  3. How do learning styles influence learning online?
  4. What role do blogs or microblogging [insert tool in question] play classroom or online learning?
  5. How can educators implement [whatever tool] into their teaching?
  6. Is connectivism a learning theory?
I won't steal his thunder by revealing the answers here - go and read them on his blog. You won't be sorry.

And now for those gulls...

Monday, November 01, 2010

On being Google-able

Today my Twitter stream includes this observation from Rob Brown.

Being anonymous does not serve your purposes. If people find nothing about you online, they move on to the next candidate.
I was surprised that this has been his experience. It is certainly not mine. Although my CV contains links to various parts of my digital footprint, I have found that these are seldom followed. When applying for jobs or bidding for work, I openly invite people to research me online to gain fuller picture of the person behind the application/bid/tender.

On one occasion, I applied for a particular job at a large organisation which claims to be progressive and innovative. The man who would line manage the role set up a phone interview. In preparation, I googled him, and partway into the interview, I asked a question based on something I had learned from this research.

He was slightly taken aback and asked, "How did you know that?"
"I googled you," I explained.

There was a pause.

"You did what?"
"I googled you. I did a search on your name on Google. I had already researched the company, and I wanted to learn a bit about you. After all, we would be working together."

The whole interview changed after that. Not only had he not done any research into me, but he was affronted that I had taken this bold step. To him, what I had done was tantamount to stalking. I might as well have rifled through his garbage can and taken photos of his wife collecting his kids from school.

I wanted to have the argument with him. To explain that, if you put stuff out there in public space, it is with the tacit understanding that people can and will access it. I wanted to point out how much more he could have known about me, had he reciprocated.

But there seemed to be no point. There was no way he was going to hire me after that. Besides, I wasn't sure that there would be space for me in an organisation which didn't seek to leverage every available means of effective talent management.

Bearing in mind that I work in the field of online learning, and the beneficial use of social media in the workplace, you would think that my (very) public profile would take a lot of hits from people considering doing business with me.

I wish.