A few years ago I went to see feminist writer Nina Power speak at the University of Sussex, and came away with something she said that really stuck with me – that in the modern economy we are forced into being 24/7 “walking CVs,” constantly networking and advertising ourselves until our whole lives and personality are swallowed up by our CVs. Now, I thought then (and still think now) that this is a nightmarish scenario and not to be encouraged.
That’s why I feel a little bit uneasy trying to create myself a ‘personal brand’ for Thing 3. Other people have explained the problems with branding a person more eloquently than I can – I broadly agree with this post, for instance, and I’ve seen the same anxiety voiced in a few other cpd23 blogs. Of course, we all have to sell ourselves sometimes – in job interviews and grant applications for example – and if we are trying to market a service, then creating a brand is an essential step, but I find the pressure to constantly maintain an online presence that is supposed to “portray an accurate reflection of who you are” yet still sell yourself at all times, to be a whole different ball-game.
However, in the spirit of not being grumpy and cynical, and taking on board the wise words of Ned Potter (and the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy) – DON’T PANIC – I shall attempt to muse upon how people experience me professionally online.
My Twitter name is LibraryEms, as I created it mainly to tweet about all things library based. I was planning to use it for everything, but some other LibraryEms has already made a WordPress blog! (if this ruins my career I’ll be extremely peeved). So, I’m LibraryEm for the blog. I don’t use my real name, and for now it’s going to stay that way. Here is a useful post on online anonymity – I have gone for the author’s third definition of anonymous: “Pseudonymous but identifiable to those in the know. A consistent identity with enough details relased that those nearby in the offline world can identify the person.” I’m new to the profession so my blog will naturally be more of a reflective sort than an advice-giving sort – I don’t feel the need for the world and his aunt to be able to find my thoughts so easily just yet. I’m willing to sacrifice a possible disadvantage in real-life networking for an element of caution online – after all, I’m such a baby librarian that I’d probably have to explain who I was at networking events anyway! My Linked-in account has my real name, as I’m happier about it being attached to a purely professional CV. Oh, and my Facebook uses my real name but I keep my privacy settings super-high!
My photograph is a silhouette of myself dancing in front of a sparkly Christmas tree.
Pros of this – who doesn’t like Christmas? And it’s consistent over several forms of social media. Cons – it has nothing to do with libraries and doesn’t show my face. I will think about changing it if I find another good one.
Professional vs Personal
If I told you that I was not only an enthusiastic new information professional with an interest in special collections, but that I was also loved reading and watching films, learning languages, getting involved with LGBT, women’s and disability rights, visiting museums/galleries/authors’ houses/stately homes, especially if they have a cafe with tea and cake, satisfying my woolly left-wing politics by reading the Guardian, hiking in the Peak District and posting irate comments on online Daily Mail articles – my online presence would be erring towards the ‘personal’ . However, I wouldn’t be being ‘honest’ about who I was, because that’s just not the way it works – everyone creates the identity they want people to see online, whether they keep it professional or add personal details (for example, I might want to show that I’m a well-rounded, fairly cultured, politically motivated yet not too threatening type of librarian!). At the end of the day, I add a few personal details just because it’s more fun that way :-). Nothing I wouldn’t want my boss to read though!
I took a long time deciding on a theme and photo for my blog – I went for the simple, uncluttered look, and the pretty library photo. Any advice on how it looks visually would be welcomed, as I’m not very creative. My Twitter has William Morris wallpaper, which I quite like, although it doesn’t match the blog.
I don’t come up on a Google search at all at the moment – although if I add ‘library’ to my name it brings up the Bodleian Law Library website, where I am listed as a graduate trainee. I’d quite like to get my Linked-in CV to appear, but it doesn’t seem to. Ideally, when I have done more ‘library stuff’, I’d like to appear related to projects I’ve taken part in, articles and (non-personal) blog posts I’ve written, professional and volunteer roles I’ve taken on, presentations I’ve given etc. So I better get started with doing all those things – scary! As I said before, I’m happy with my reflective blog and Twitter feed being fairly hidden for now.
The more I’ve thought about this, the more I realise that I’m so new to the profession that I don’t even have a brand yet. All I can try to demonstrate is that I’m enthusiastic about the profession, eager for advice, willing to take on new things, and curious about all aspects of the library and information world. Hopefully, as I work out what I want my career path to be, I can work on how to reflect that online.
What does anyone else think about my brand?