Sacrificing Privacy for Opportunity​

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It seems that everyone today from college professors to business professionals has a cut and dry formula for successfully landing a job out of college. The formula looks something like this: 1 LinkedIn Profile + 300 Connections + 3 Internships + 1 College Degree + 3 Letters of Recommendation + 1 Online Portfolio + 1 Blog + 5 Job Search Engines = A Job. Seems simple enough right? So that has been my formula and I’ve followed it to perfection. Most college students and professionals would agree that this is the best formula to use to create a solid foundation for the future. But what this magic formula doesn’t account for is the hundreds of hours spent online crafting this perfect and professional version of ourselves, not to mention the amount of information about ourselves that we put online… and that’s something that can’t be measured.

How the job hunt has changed…

Just a few weeks ago when I was enjoying my weekend off in Saint Augustine, Matt and I met an older couple that we completely hit it off with. We started discussing everything from politics, social media, job hunting, etc. They had tons of advice for me about life after graduation and how to prepare myself as I enter this so-called “Real World” that everyone always talks about. Of course, many of their suggestions included using LinkedIn and Indeed, creating a portfolio, networking with people, and getting recommendations. All of which fall into that formula for landing a job.

I told them that I plan on working in communications, public relations, and digital media and how I’m preparing for a career. I shared with them that over the last year I’ve spent all of my free time writing a blog, editing my LinkedIn profile, juggling multiple internships, job hunting online, applying through sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter, and “connecting” with people who currently work in communications. As I was telling this couple about my never-ending work of writing, editing, searching, and uploading content online for the purpose of starting my career, the woman made a comment that stuck out in my mind and has not gone away since. She said, “Today, younger people have to sacrifice their privacy for opportunity.” I couldn’t agree more. In order to start a career, my generation of college graduates has to do it online and follow the exceptions of us during the digital age.

This woman also told me that when she was a 22-year-old fresh out of college, job hunting meant walking into a place of business, filling out an application, and handing it in a few minutes later. It was done in person and the only information that they used to determine whether or not to hire you, was what they saw on your application and how your interview went. Today, people do the entire job search online while employers do their entire recruiting process online. Whether or not they choose to hire someone depends on what they see on the resume, the application, LinkedIn, social media sites, personal portfolios, and blogs. Employers can do extensive research on you as a person and decided whether or not you’re qualified and whether or not they like your online image.

Through my endless pursuit of landing that first job out of college, I knew that this modern way of job hunting was a bit odd, but it never really bothered me. The way that graduates job hunt today has always been drilled into my head through high school and college. I accepted the fact that I had to have an online presence to find jobs in the industry that I want to work in and it began to feel more normal. But this idea of sacrificing privacy for opportunity has been becoming more apparent as I actively job search.

How do we sacrifice our privacy for opportunity?

LinkedIn Profiles

There’s a couple ways we sacrifice privacy for opportunity. One of the most obvious examples is that now it’s expected that young professionals have a LinkedIn profile. This profile is online for everyone to see and have access to your resume and other important information about you. The LinkedIn profile shows all of your major projects, schools that you’ve attended, your past positions, the duties you’ve had, and past volunteer experience. This can be a blessing when it comes to networking and job hunting, but it could also be seen as an invasion of privacy. The reason being that it’s not only expected that people create this profile, but it’s expected that they regularly make connections with other professionals online. By making more connections, the user gets endorsed for skills by the people they know in their industry and get recommendations from the people they’re worked with. It’s also expected that this portfolio is updated every so often to include any new projects, jobs, or volunteer experience. The reason being that only way to really stand out on these sites is to build the profile and show that we are well-rounded individuals who are constantly growing and learning from each new life experience and have the tech savvy to broadcast it to the world. However, what if someone isn’t comfortable with having all of their professional experience being visible to everyone else online? But unfortunately, that’s the only way to have those opportunities is by sharing as much professional information as possible with as many peers, professionals, and recruiters as possible. Once someone has a profile created and is kicking butt on LinkedIn and is job hunting across several sites.

Blogs and Portfolios

Another example is how every college graduate today is told that they must have a blog and a portfolio. (Not to hate on blogging, because I’m completely in love with it!) These are both incredible tools that are meant to showcase young professionals skills and abilities to make them more hirable than someone else competing for the same job. These blogs and portfolios are meant to be displayed on your LinkedIn Profile for potential employers to see your work. The problem with this is, people already have a lot of information about themselves online today. Asking people to write lengthy posts about themselves and their opinions could be intimidating for some. For a few of my classes, I had to create blogs and regularly publish content for class assignments about the projects I was working on or about something we were learning in class, such as SEO. I had a lot of fun building the blogs and then publishing and presenting the content for all of my peers to see, but I noticed that some of my fellow students were not as jazzed about this. They didn’t like the idea of having their name on a new website, they didn’t like having to publish their class assignments online for anyone to read, and they didn’t like having to do it regularly. What felt fun and natural for one person, felt like an invasion of privacy for another.

Job Searching Websites

Another way that college graduates sacrifice privacy for opportunity, is that in our digital era, they now search for careers online through sites like LinkedIn, Teamwork Online, Zip Recruiter, Indeed, and Career Shift. Job hunters share their personal information through these sites, and then use it to browse open positions in different companies. These sites are user-friendly and make it easy to find job listings, apply for them quickly, and get instant feedback.

Unfortunately, a major downside that I’ve noticed about these sites, is that once you start sending out your resume, the websites actually start to apply for jobs for you. The real problem is that they don’t usually match the positions that you’re invested in, and you’re not even notified when this happens. To make it worse, I haven’t been able to figure out how to stop it from happening. I had gotten several calls back from companies thinking that it was a job I applied for so I scheduled my interview. Because of this, I ended up going different interviews for those positions and quickly realized that not only did I not apply for those positions but they were also pyramid schemes! My “interviews” consisted of people trying to suck me into the company like it was a cult. It definitely felt like an invasion of privacy knowing once I found out what was going on. Another more minor downside is the more applications someone sends out, the more and more junk mail shows up in your inbox. Too many junk emails to sit down and unsubscribe from all of them every day. These sites are supposed to be tools to help college graduates become successful, not sell their information and send people out of bizarre interviews.

Social Media Accounts

It’s worth mentioning that this idea of sacrificing privacy for opportunity is not just done on websites that list jobs. It’s also highly popular on social media channels like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Vine. Countless millennials have become successful and famous due to their social media presence. They shared enough of themselves online and they created enough of a buzz and a following that they’re now established “content creators.” Now there is real opportunity found online. Millions of people have been able to create a full-time career out of sharing their lives on social media. Some of them can make hundreds of thousands of dollars from one simple Instagram post. However, for most people, this doesn’t work out. The vast majority of people that constantly share content online hoping to be the next famous digital nomad, don’t make it. Which means that they now have tons of information about themselves online, and no income from it.

Another big issue as it relates to job hunting is how easy it is for employers to find people on social media. Many employers check out someone online before they even consider hiring them. This is because companies want to know how the employees spend their free time and what kind of people they are like after the workday ends. Even if it isn’t a company policy, sometimes hiring managers are still curious. Which is why some applications now ask people to copy and paste the URL of their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

In my opinion, this is a huge invasion of privacy. Personal lives and work lives used to be completely separate. People went to work from nine to five and then went home. What happened in their personal lives was no one else’s concern when they left the office. Now our personal and work lives are so intertwined that our personal lives are an open book for anyone who wants to learn about us, even those that we don’t necessarily want to know everything. I know I don’t want my boss to know everything that I do on my weekends, or at home, or when I’m on vacation. Not that it’s because I feel my social media is inappropriate, but because that is my personal life. How I spend that time when I’m off the clock shouldn’t be monitored. The other issue with social media is that my generation only posts the filtered versions of themselves, not their true selves. And those filtered versions are usually carefully crafter for their friends to see. Social media was originally created to socialize with friends, not for people to stay in touch with their bosses and share their weekends with each other. Is it fair to tell millennials that they must represent a cookie cutter corporate image online?

We’re always on call

In this specific example, technology really is a double-edged sword. For my generation, technology has made it so incredibly easy to stay in contact with people. At any given time, my boss could text, send an email, or call me. If he has any concerns, I can be contacted immediately. The problem is that even when it’s our personal time, people are now expected to pick up the phone or answer an email for work. I’ve answered calls from work at the doctor, having dinner with family, and even while I was running on the treadmill. The problem with being able to communicate with each other so easily means that we’re always on call. We’re always expected to work. Co-workers and bosses call you off the clock to ask “did you get my email.” Of course, we did! But we’re busy having a romantic dinner right now!

Remember…

This issue of sacrificing privacy for opportunity is just another example of how my generation has become Lost Online. I’m lucky because I want to be in communications and digital media. I love writing and I love creating content online. But what I don’t love is how it’s demanded of everyone in my generation. It’s a requirement that everyone should follow this formula, while also updating at least 4 social media profiles. We’re already consumed by technology for incredible amounts of our day, but the internet, universities, and modern employers are demanding more. It’s important that in this digital age we remember that we’re not robots. Not every aspect of our personal and professional lives has to be written on the internet for everyone and anyone to come across. So when I hear someone scolding another for not having a LinkedIn, or a Facebook, or a portfolio, or an Indeed account, it makes me cringe. Technology is a tool and can be incredibly helpful when it comes to finding work, but it’s not the only tool.

What are your thoughts on scarfing privacy for opportunity? Was there ever a time that you felt you had to sacrifice privacy in order to get ahead professionals? And should it be required that everyone follow the formula for success even if they feel uncomfortable having all of that information online?

Photo by Autumn Clark @autumn.clark.photography

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