What if your CV is not enough? (part one)

Editor’s note: Recently I read an article in Forbes magazine which claimed the Curriculum Vitae (CV), which we all use to describe ourselves when we apply for jobs, will be replaced with your ‘digital footprint’ in the next ten years. In other words, people will understand you and what you do via searching for you on Google. There’s some evidence that how you behave on the internet already affects your employment prospects.

I don’t know if this future will really come to pass and the CV will die, but it’s an interesting idea for those doing a PhD to think about. If you need to have a clear digital identity to compete in the job market, what should you be doing now toward that aim? So I have asked a few of the PhD students who I think are already doing their digital identity well to write about the strategies they use.

The first in this series is Andy Coverdale, a PhD research student at the University of Nottingham who is exploring how social media facilitates doctoral practices and identity development. He blogs at http://phdblog.net and is on twitter as @andycoverdale. Over to Andy:

I use my blog to develop ideas, to disseminate work in progress, and to create links with other academic bloggers. My blogging practice is invariably informed and shaped by my role as an educational researcher interested in social media, but I wish here only to present a personal perspective based on my ongoing experiences as a PhD blogger, and explain how those experiences have come to influence and contribute to my doctoral studies.

Blog Writing Contexts

The discipline of regular blogging has helped me shape and refine my writing skills, and has been particularly useful when I’ve not been writing towards my thesis, such as during intense periods of data collection and analysis. Blogging has given me the opportunity to experiment with personal and expressive forms of writing, and challenged me to engage with non-specialist audiences. Whilst guides to blogging often recommend developing a consistent writing style, I’m happy to do the opposite. I have no problem mixing lengthy ‘academic’ posts with short, quirky anecdotes and musings, and integrating writing with multimedia such as images, video and sound files.

Blogs can encourage academic enquiry within a social and discursive environment, and celebrate diversity and freedom of expression. As PhD students, we should be instinctively curious. Many of my blog posts address ideas, concepts and issues beyond the relatively narrow focus of my thesis, exploring social, cultural and political aspects of my research field, and peripheral and interdisciplinary contexts.

No academic writing need exist in isolation. Restructuring and re-appropriating texts for different formats and different audiences is not only an efficient way of working but also a valuable academic skill. I have found blog posts can provide ‘building blocks’ of content for a thesis chapter, a journal article or a conference paper. But I think this process works equally well in reverse. I may find it useful to choose a specific topic, problem or argument from an existing text – writing I may have submitted to my supervisors, a draft paper, or part of a thesis chapter – and ‘blogify’ it; perhaps in response to another blog post or a current debate, to emphasise a personal perspective or experience, or to engage a different audience. And if you think about it, blog-like texts are prevalent in academic writing: in proposals, poster texts, and abstracts – in fact anywhere where you need to summarize, or disseminate to a specific or general audience.

Process and Documentation

Over time, my blog has accumulated to represent a comprehensive documentation of my doctoral practice, charting the incubation and development of ideas, concepts and arguments. As such, it provides a powerful and searchable narrative of my doctoral experiences and my academic and personal development. In adopting this approach, I concede some of this content is (and will become) academically naïve and critically contestable, or may simply be no longer relevant, but collectively it contributes to a transparent and authentic representation of progress that is routinely removed from formal academic dissemination. In this regard, I often find it useful to ‘self-comment’ on my posts, not only in response to another comment (which I always try to do), but as a ‘note to self,’ ensuring that developing ideas, new trains of thought and reflective processes are kept within context.

Engaging and Imagining Audiences

Like most PhD students, I am part of an institutional community of scholars that provides access to formal and informal peer support and supervision. But these can be inconsistent and limited in both scope and regularity. Blogs and other social media provide an opportunity to establish additional channels of dissemination, discussion and critical feedback beyond the physical and disciplinary boundaries of immediate research communities.

My blogging plays a central role in an ongoing arrangement of integrated social media practices that has helped me develop a sustainable network of academic discourse founded on relationships of trust, friendship and professional identity. I particularly value the support, ideas and critical perspectives of a small number of readers who have come to comment regularly on my blog. I recognise the nature of my research field ensures I have access to a critical mass of academics who are actively engaged in using social media, but initially I found it difficult getting visitors to my blog. I actively promote my blogging activities through other forms of social media, in particular Twitter, and comment when I can on other blogs. Bloggers choose their own ‘imagined audience,’ and whilst mine is partly derived from clues to their identity (through comments, retweets and analytical data etc.), I’m happy enough that it is largely inconsistent, transient and unknown. Much of the time I’m probably just writing for myself anyway.

Final Thoughts…

I admit, whilst some PhD blogs are highly revealing and almost confessional in nature, I adopt a degree of self-imposed professional reserve and editorial judiciousness. As such, I can hardly claim that my blog represents a ‘warts and all’ account of my every experience and emotion of doing a PhD. But if I am to claim my blog even slightly represents my doctoral journey, then it is only right that my blogging practice is, on the one hand, confident, coherent and developmental, and on the other, messy, hesitant, inconsistent and inconclusive.

I don’t think academic blogging should be immune from scrutiny and critique, and there’s no real excuse for sloppy or offensive writing or poorly constructed arguments. But I’m not overly concerned about so-called blogging etiquette. With its strong historical links to personal biography, citizen journalism and social commentary, academic blogging has inherited deeply embedded and culturally acknowledged values of subjectivity, informality, openness and experimentation. Blog writing needn’t be subject to impositions of formal academic protocols and orthodoxies.

There are many platforms for academic discourse and research dissemination where opportunities for risk-taking, provocation, creativity and personal reflexivity are virtually eliminated. A blog needn’t be one of them.

Related Posts

An open letter to social media

Social media and your PhD

What if your CV is not enough? (Part Two)

21 thoughts on “What if your CV is not enough? (part one)

  1. In some ways, Andy and Inger, our own blogging and online presence will be combined in our online identity, and while I agree that our CV work is increasingly going to be similar to our web presence, I think they will be somewhat akin to general job interviews now — let me see your resume, and then I will Google and FB you to see what else you say and do that is not found on your resume.

    I agree with you, Andy, about writing for an audience while also enjoying the process. I think to write always for the audience and write in a way that you expect others to follow and search on and such has the potential to take the joy out of writing. For example, I am writing this comment as I appreciate and respect both of your work; it is not so much from the perspective of where I should comment or who will see it or such. I am not sure if any of us have that sort of focus that we write in a way that removes the sparkle or joy in communicating ideas, all for the sake of the trail we leave.

    Of course, we do leave a trail, with or without awareness of our digital identity.

    Jeffrey

    • You raise an interesting and important point Jeffrey – must we all mind our ‘academic manners’ online as much as we do in say, a seminar? Will this take the (amateur) fun out of blogging? Hmmm.

      I tend to agree on your other point, can’t see the CV dying, but can see how it will be less important over time.

      • You know, watching our “academic manners” is an interesting concept, especially depending on to what extent we see a separation between online and offline behaviour. In some ways, offline behaviour seems to be the “norm” for traditional education, while online behaviour is always present, trackable, and lookupable. I figure that anyplace where my name / avatar is used online, I can be watched, so better try to be somewhat coherent (or professional?) knowing it can come back to me later.

        Of course, this makes me wonder about fracturing identity in order to just say what we are thinking at times, though once they are separate, it may be a challenge to link back again.

        Jeffrey

      • Lessig in Code v2.0 uses the example of a forum for practicing lawyers that insisted on the use of proper names. He says that allowed them to ‘borrow’ from the social norms of that group offline to moderate the behaviour online. People’s reputations were at stake when they posted. I don’t see that changing, but I’m not sure it needs to take the fun out of blogging. I’m sure we are all careful to some degree about the topics we choose to post on (whether consciously or not) anyway, and it is important to recognise that the things we put out there can be used to judge us in ways we weren’t expecting. I guess we just have to make sure the tone (fun or serious) is one we are happy to be identified with!

  2. This scenario works both ways. It is inevitable that some recruiters seeking to make an informed decision on a potential employee will search the internet. Ultimately, it is what the individual has done than what they say online that counts and solid references can back this up. We do encourage graduates to manage their online reputation and start by googling their name to see what comes up and then go about changing or adding things, especially on LinkedIn, in order to give the right impression.

  3. I doubt the CV will be replaced by a digital footprint, but it may be replaced with a media kit.

    However there is only a limited amount you can find out by googling. People have many different online identities. You couldn’t, for example, find out my past web activity by googling my name. There are things in my digital footprint that may be detrimental to a job application but I know they will never be found by your casual googling employee. Also, it depends on what you’re looking for on the internet as to whether you find it.

    I wouldn’t ever encourage people to google themselves to see what comes up- if you work in the media you will inevitablly come across criticism directed towards you personally and responding to, for example, a youtube argument will never make you either look clever or feel better about it.

    Ultimately, though, maintaining polite behaviour on the internet can only be a good thing, and if people are going to be more likely to do that if they suspect an employer might be googling them, then that can only be a good thing.

    • Like so many aspects of work-life bcanlae Jerry understanding what you are best at doing and spend 80% of your time doing it, is the first step then finding someone that has mastered the skills you need to complement what you do best.Alone, you can only grow as big as yourself with the efforts of others contributing you can grow exponentially!Enjoy!

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