business, software, web design

Separating Your Work and Private Website

Recently I spoke with an undisclosed individual about the job market… and of course, about websites.

The consensus with employers is always this: separate your professional side from your private life. That’s definitely good advice. No one wants to hear about your drinking problem or the fact that your like to play with imported machine guns and spit fire at Mardi Gras festivals. And yet…

It’s interesting to note how business culture has changed. I’m hearing more about how businesses want you to “fit in” with what they have going rather than just being an expert. (This “business as a society” rather than “business society” mentality probably accounts for the silly and therefore (in my opinion) unprofessional custom of calling people by their first names, which gives those who insist on it the delusion that everyone is a friend and not just an acquaintance.) Let’s not get confused, however – employers are looking for personality, not personal life. They may want to know that you are a type A individual who enjoys life and can live harmoniously with everyone but not care (or may not even want to know) that this personality stems from your yoga or Buddhist beliefs. And yet…

If you’ve been reading the news, you may have heard about the issues Facebook has been having with employers. It’s against the Facebook usage policy for you to give your password away to ANYONE else for ANY reason, employers included. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop employers from asking people for their Facebook passwords so they could browse around and see what people were up to. I understand not wanting to have crooks in your business, but if they were so adamant about having people present a professional face, why are they just now looking through their employees’ private lives?

(And now for a couple paragraphs about my own stuff.)

On that note, let’s connect that to websites. Some time ago, I put up a personal website on which I host various things like free computer code and what not (sorry, nothing for web design… yet). It was one of my first projects, and it showed off my skills as a designer. I’ve since done almost nothing to improve the layout or graphics (except change the background image), but it trumps just about every other personal website out there that I know of aside from those that are meant to be portfolio sites… but those are in part professional, so they don’t count. But there’s an interesting point…

When I started getting into the CS business, I read that if you have a personal website, you should show it. Great… I have one. It’s not your industry standard junk, but I have one, so I showed it to people. It uses only a teeny amount of javascript (and no one but me knows where it’s used unless they look at the code) and it wasn’t programmed in php, so it doesn’t turn any pointy-haired heads. However, I do note that the only seriously personal thing on there is the link back to here, which I should probably remove if businesses don’t want to know my thoughts (though it’d be pretty easy to find this place if you found my site). The primary problem with my site is that it’s a quasi-personal-achievements site whose purpose, I realize, is about halfway between personal and professional. That’s not really a good spot to be if I want to please the biz world, and few other people are going to look at it to be impressed.

Back on the topic of business, if you have a website, determine its purpose. If you want to show it to the business world, then it needs to be a portfolio site, not a personal achievements site much less a personal life site. It’s not your blog, it’s not your musings, it’s about showing your best. IGNORE it when business blogs tell you to. If you don’t think an accomplishment is worth showing the public, then you’re probably right. Go with your gut instinct – if you don’t want to see it, chances are, recruiters won’t want to (and they’re probably either lying to you if they do or they don’t know themselves well enough). But of course, this is broad generalization, and you may get lucky. If you really want to mention an accomplishment but don’t know how people will take it, then make it brief and be specific. Don’t elaborate on something that wasn’t a milestone in your professional achievements. (I say “professional” as in “you knew what you were doing” not “you do this for a living”.)

That’s it for you as a job seeker or employee.

Back to criticizing the industry… Oh wait, I’ve already done that enough in previous posts.


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