Expressing strong – perhaps I should say edgy – opinions on a blog can make a person unemployable. Kim du Toit for example.
….the shock of discovering that my website made me unemployable by corporate America came at a vulnerable time. Desperate to become gainfully employed after closing my consulting business for the business failure that was Did Today, I put my resume out for work (and it is a fairly impressive one, I have to say). As most of you know, the corporation that offered me a job disappeared from the face of the earth after finding my website. To this day they’ve never returned my phone calls, the cowardly lickspittles. A few months more got me several calls, but after ‘due diligence’ those calls too dried up.
I gave up looking.
Kim du Toit is a ‘he’ by the way and very much a man’s man. To put it neutrally he is a gun enthusiast and 2nd amendment gun rights advocate. He started his blog before he realized it might be a problem, but he wasn’t naive about the consequences when he contemplated starting a business. He knew that Google would make his blog easy to find – particularly with an unusual name like Kim du Toit. His software venture ‘Did Today’ probably failed for lack of backers because of his blog. He discussed the possible impact of his outspoken blogging history with his wife before trying to start the business.
In the end, we decided that attempting to rewrite the past three years, or trying to cover it up, would be worse. Google will not be denied, but at the same time this blog could be a liability for the company.
Well, it was, just this past weekend. A prospective investor, check in hand, decided to do a little last-minute research, and Googled “Kim du Toit”.
He’s no longer a potential investor.
His reasoning was pure business: having an outrageous conservative gun nut womanizer as CEO might become a public liability in years to come. And he could be right.
He is too harsh on himself with ‘womanizer’ in the usual sense – he doesn’t brag about extramarital exploits, he just posts erotic, not pornographic, pictures of his favorite women movie stars at the weekend on his blog. The rest is a succinct summary of his corporate liabilities. Its just my opinion but I think what really makes Kim edgy to corporate America is that he enthusiastically reports incidents of citizens defending themselves with firearms against armed robbers and burglars and the like and makes no secret of the fact that he prefers it when the criminal ends up dead. I think it is important to recognize that the NRA (National Rifle Association) probably wouldn’t want to be associated publicly with his outspoken opinions, even if they agree with him privately. That is an important distinction. Public bodies, like the NRA and corporations cannot be associated with outrageous personal positions. It just isn’t what we think of as ‘professional’. So I would say that it is probably a good rule to not post material on the Internet that might be seen as ‘unprofessional’ or controversial if you ever want to work for an organization sensitive to such things.
A second easy lesson here it is that if you are going to blog about edgy stuff – make it anonymous. Blogging is not only more public than we think it is, it also stays around and can come back to haunt you. Sure you can take down your blog, but there are cached pages available and then there is all the material on other people’s servers that has been written about you. A good example of someone using a pseudonym effectively is Neo-neocon. She is a member of a very liberal family and profession in the very liberal northeast part of the US and blogs anonymously to make it easier to keep the peace. Even if her friends and family that disagree with her politically discover her blog, the anonymity makes it so they don’t have to bring it up. I would speculate there would be limits to how far employers would normally go researching your history on the Internet – the CIA and other tightasses excepted – and that in practice most people will just have to make it a common sense rule mask their more edgy material with anonymity to steer clear of unemployability.