What if your CV is not enough? Part Two

Editor’s note: This is the second post in a series inspired by an article in Forbes magazine which claimed the Curriculum Vitae (CV) will be replaced with your ‘digital footprint’ in the next ten years. If, indeed, you will need to have a clear digital identity to compete in the job market – what should you be doing about that now? I have asked a few academics who I think are already doing their digital identity well to write about the strategies they use.

The second post in this series is Sarah Thorneycroft, an academic developer who I met on Twitter. Sarah’s research focuses on redefining education in digital spaces. She has called this piece: Not just cardboard castles: digital identity in three dimensions”

If you don’t mind venturing into the macabre for a second, imagine your gravestone. I’m willing to bet it doesn’t say:

“Here lies so-and-so; their doctoral thesis was a critical analysis of the pseudo-social constructivist paradigm inherent in early 21st century pedagogical practices”

And it probably doesn’t have a list of your recent publications and conference papers. However, a quick Google reveals this kind of one-dimensional profiling is rampant in academia and it’s easy for postgrads to succumb.

Traditionally, creating an academic identity (digital or otherwise) involves an institutional profile which outlines your professional experience, publication record and grants. This functions as your sole ‘face’ for networking and professional interaction. Academics venturing into digital spaces often maintain this approach, keeping their profiles and blogs as ‘professional’ as possible. Postgrad students and early-career academics who are keen to build a professional name will often feel the pressure to promote their scholarly work to the exclusion of all other endeavours.

Creating an academic identity often involves simply creating a ‘cardboard castle’ for oneself – it looks good from one angle, but viewed from another it is one-dimensional and lacks substance.

This is where I think we go wrong – the after-hours parts of our lives aren’t just irrelevant fluff. Building an identity – especially an online identity – that is three-dimensional and profiles us as real human beings, rather than just publication machines, has benefits beyond just the warm and fuzzy.

For instance, I’m a gamer, and I advertise this fact on my institutional profile page. I have a picture of my WoW toon and everything (quelle horreur!). Now, while it’s true that about 99% of people in academia do not *get* gaming, for those that are willing to stop and think, the fact that I am a gamer provides quite a lot of information about who I might be as a professional. I am likely to think laterally about problem-solving, work effectively in teams, be a highly self-directed learner and be willing to investigate alternative avenues to resolve issues, among other things.

I’m also a musician who plays in a huge variety of ensembles and genres – that’s on my profile too. It tells you I’m committed to developing high-quality craft, communicate effectively with a wide variety of people and am open to new ways of thinking (also, that I am occasionally willing to wear odd costumes).

I’m a baker/cake decorator, and my institutional profile has a link to my cake blog too – possibly not as easy to extrapolate professional qualities here, but who wouldn’t want to hire someone who guarantees cupcakes at every staff meeting?

The two other things I have linked on my profile are my blog and my online research site for my Masters thesis. Both of these are scary. My blog sometimes criticises my institution and often criticises higher education in general. Research that is self-published publicly (with comments enabled…!) is the stuff of nightmares to most academics. But they are there because it shows that I am constantly engaged in dynamic research conversations, believe in open access to research, and am willing to take risks and practice what I preach.

Creating a three-dimensional identity isn’t just about selling the nice stuff that appeals to everyone – it’s just as important to challenge as to please.

As well as being part of my professional profile, all of the above are managed through my Twitter account. I know that most of my followers won’t know what ‘rolling a new lock’ or ‘getting ganked in STV’ mean, or who the Bach or Brian Setzer I refer to in concert promo tweets are, but many do. Some of the most effective academic interaction I have on Twitter is a result of ‘personal’ tweeting.

A few months ago the Chronicle of Higher Education posted an article on a study that found professors whose tweets included personal information ranked more highly among students than those whose tweets were purely scholarly, and I don’t think this is limited to students. Think about the professional colleagues you most respect – I doubt they are the ones you know as references only.

Ultimately it comes down to who you want to be when you are Googled. Do you want to be known as

“Somebody, J. 2011. ‘Pseudo-social constructivist paradigms in early 21st century pedagogical practices’. PhD thesis, some university press, somewhere”.

or as someone who is a dynamic, approachable and engaged researcher and professional, who, sometimes, also likes to knit, play soccer or kill zombies with fire? I know I will always choose the latter.

Are you really interested in me now? You can see my institutional profile here

Related Posts:

What if your CV is not enough (Part One)

10 thoughts on “What if your CV is not enough? Part Two

  1. Ben says:

    Great post! It is going to be interesting to see where we end up in the next 10 years. We are certainly transitioning, with some academic really getting involved, especially in social media and other being incredibly cautious.

    I love to see an academic on social media, and to learn things about them. For me, as a grad student it has two major benefits:
    1. It can make introductions easier at conferences and so on. In fact you are more likely to make a connection before a conference via something like twitter.

    2. Also, when you are doing research for a literature review, it can be very difficult to associate authors with their work, which is important when you want to discuss it with someone. If you can associate a journal article with a photo and some interesting personal info, it is much easier to make the link

  2. Mary-Helen Ward says:

    I have made so many useful contacts in the academic support world on Twitter and through blogs – you, Sarah, as well as Inger and lots of other people. I find that I tend to keep up with people I meet in these places more than with people I meet at conferences who aren’t so visible online. It’s become an important part of my professional development, but I’d have to think about how I’d incorporate it into my CV.

  3. ingermewburn says:

    Same here – I am careful about the personal / professional boundaries, which is complicated sometimes by institutional politics – the power of gossip can never be underestimated…

  4. Deb says:

    Thanks for a most engaging and enjoyable post Sarah. I believe developing a professional digital identity is important for many professionals, and you have made some very relevant points. I loved the bit about the tombstone (gosh had never thought about that!), the ‘guaranteed cupcakes’ (what more do we need?) and ‘who do you want to be when you are Googled’ – that is so profound!

    The growing concern is that academic work is increasingly being ignored by policy makers (and possibly other circles of influence?) because the traditional methods of dissemination, peer reviewing process and lingo of academic writing etc makes it less ‘user friendly’. I think this is just one example of a ‘sign of the times’, that academia needs to move out of its comfort zone, take risks with exploring opportunities that new technologies are enabling. Even if that means complaining about these institutions in the process, they ought to encourage that spirit of pushing the boundaries that goes hand-in-hand with creativity and experimenting with new ideas and methods of knowledge making.

      • Sarah Thorneycroft says:

        Me too – I particularly think some issues have arisen out of the fact that we *don’t* have a tenure system (well, nothing more than casual vs permanent positions) so the whole idea of boundary-pushing and radicalism has kind of dissolved in higher ed. I wrote a post on this recently too: http://sarahthorneycroft.com/?p=299 (sorry to blow own horn…!). I think anything we can do to make academic work more visible and more valued is a good thing.

  5. Siddhi Pittayachawan says:

    I agree with you. These days people are creating new kinds of CVs. Personally, I believe that since I’m going to have my digital footprint as soon as I use the Internet anyway, instead of being scared of identity theft, I rather produce my footprint in a way that nobody can steal. If you google my name, you will see I leave my information everywhere. Although I don’t write a blog, I have other things going on in my life and you can actually search more about me on the Internet.

  6. ultrahedonist says:

    Interesting post. What if your main, very passionate interest outside of your discipline is, say, sex & sexuality? It would be nice to not have to hide that, but it doesn’t seem like it would be particularly prudent to have that linked to your academic work…. 🙁

Leave a Reply