Journal Archives

  1. If you’re an independent consultant, entrepreneur, or an expert in your field, you’ve probably heard it: Writing a book is one of the best things you can do to level up your career. And, as a media consultant who wrote a book on social media three years ago, I can tell you that’s absolutely true.

    But I can also tell you that it isn’t easy, and not just for the creative reasons that come to mind—squeezing out all of your literary juices onto the page and having them whipped into compelling shape is only just the beginning

    [Read the rest on Forbes]

  2. I’ll admit it: I hate business books. Outside of the fact that most of my work focuses on making the world a better place, which often runs rather contrary to the profit-focused schemes of the business world, it’s the–deep breath–buzzwordsthat really do me in. There’s only so much “seamless leveraging of synergistic core competencies while maintaining brand integrity and mindshare in the value system of the new economy” that I can take before the urge to set the book on fire becomes too great, and I risk violating deeply-held principles I have about book-burning.

    [Read the rest on Forbes.]

  3. Some more thoughts on my previous post, and a couple of things to clear up. Two misconceptions arose from my post because I chose not to lay out a lot exposition on some of my own beliefs on how the world works. Let me rectify that now. Read more →

  4. UPDATE, 1/19: Follow-up post is here.

    A post from Internet analyst/author/smart-person Clay Shirky titled “A Rant About Women” has got quite the discussion going around the Intertubes. Read (or at least skim) it before continuing; let me also take this introductory opportunity to do the obligatory feminist thing and thank the dude for taking time out of his busy schedule to wrestle with the giant questions of why don’t women do as well as men at X. Here it comes… thank you. OK, so I’m being a wee bit sarcastic, but seriously: it really is nice to see these conversations happen outside of the usual suspected fora of listservs, blogs, etc, all for and by the ladies.

    Much of the resulting discussion has been a bit heavy-handed on both sides– “OMG, he’s totally right!” “OMG, he’s totally wrong!” Some great points have already been well covered by others, especially Jezebel blogger Anna’s point that women aren’t allowed culturally to be the aggressive jerks that successful men are. This was also the place where I had the most visceral reaction — the conclusion that we need to teach women to be more like men: more assertive and aggressive, demanding of what they want and need. This approach to solving the “where are teh womenz” problem misses the mark in a way that 70s & 80s power feminism also missed the mark for me. The “we’re just as good as men” statements and subsequent actions set the wrong frame. It assumes: Read more →

  5. iStock_000004755197XSmallOver on FastCompany, there’s a blog post covering a report about employers’ checking out of candidates on Facebook, and the news ain’t lookin’ pretty from the headline: “If You’re Applying for a Job, Censor Your Facebook Page.” The crux of the study says that 45% of employers have rejected job candidates based on what they found on social networks. (Which also means, by the way, that 55% haven’t rejected candidates based on what they found. More than half.)

    This is probably most unemployed people’s worst nightmares, especially given the scarcity of jobs within certain industries and overall economic climate. I can get denied because I had a couple of drinks with friends on Saturday night? Here’s the breakdown of what can evidently keep you from getting hired:

    • Provocative or inappropriate photos or info–53%
    • Drinking or drug use–44%
    • Bad-mouthing previous employee, colleague or client–35%
    • Poor communication skills–29%
    • Discriminatory comments–26%
    • Lied about qualifications–24%
    • Leaked confidential info from previous job–20%

    As FC’s Kit Eaton points out, I can definitely understand a couple of those. Lying = not okay. Leaking = not okay. Discriminatory comments, while fairly grey here = probably not okay.

    The bigger issue with studies like this are the potentially limiting effect that our social network activity is having on changing the culture around us. In a big section of the book I’m writing right now, Share This!, I talk about the huge potential for the overlap between different spheres of our lives to fundamentally change the expectations we have of one another (especially when it comes to gender, race, sexuality, class, etc.), and shift our culture towards values of trust, empathy and shared purpose. The portraits we are creating of ourselves online are fundamentally political and radical. With our participation on social networks, we’re saying, “This is what it’s like to be a person in these shoes.”

    What’s emerging is a trend towards more authenticity as we become more transparent about different parts of our lives. It’s not a requirement (or even desirable) to reveal every last tidbit of ourselves, but more an opportunity to share what previously might not be acceptable in different parts of our lives. We belong to numerous social circles ƒ" jobs, politics, neighborhoods, hobbies, sports, religions ƒ" and now that everyone’s lives are overlapping, the sharing is happening with all of us at the same time.

    Sure, there’s a line you have to draw with what you share– there are countless stories now about Facebook getting you fired or evicted, and many of them are within reason (i.e., you set fire to your apartment and you post pictures to your Wall… um, yeah, that’s going to go get you in trouble). As for the more mundane and average parts of our lives? I say the more we can share, the better. (And here are some thoughts about what to share for those just getting started.)

    Employers that don’t value this kind of additional information about candidates are setting themselves up for failure in a world that’s becoming increasingly reliant on reputation and recommendations. For one, candidates that aren’t out there establishing their expertise and building their social capital with these tools are going to fall light years behind, skill-set-wise, those who are. Additionally, it’s a rare window into more of a candidate’s personality than what gets presented in an old-school style interview, and employers can see who might match and who might not.

    If companies expect us to hide parts of ourselves from semi-public view, it could have a chilling effect on people who are using social networks and media to explore and present identities that are not culturally accepted, or at least roles that aren’t traditional. Could this mean that LGBT lawyers have to re-closet themselves to get hired by a power firm? Or that stay-at-home parents, mostly moms, have to gloss over the fact even more that they’ve been out of the workforce when trying to return? This is dangerous and potentially damaging to the positive, personal-is-political force in motion right now: This is who we are, and we’re here to stay.

    In the end, companies are going to have to change the way that they view the information they find on social networks. Ten years ago, a Google search that turned up some TMI might be cause for alarm. But now, especially as younger generations are swimming in all kinds of online social networks, can a company freak out over “inappropriate info,” whatever that is?

    Who, exactly, are they going to hire?

  6. equalizerAs more people are jumping into the social media river, many are wondering what they should share online — specifically, where are the boundaries between personal and professional behavior in this brave new world, where we’re all able to peek into the windows of our friends, family and coworkers.

    I talked in pretty simple terms about some different approaches in “The non-fanatical beginner’s guide to Twitter.” With this post, I’m going to flesh out some of the nitty gritty and help to answer some of the tougher questions.

    It used to be said with one of the very first popular online social tools — email — that you shouldn’t write anything in a message that you wouldn’t want to appear in the New York Times. Few people ever followed that rule, thank goodness. How boring would our lives be if we all subjected ourselves to Grey Lady standards of information sharing?

    Nowadays, new tools make it easier to share as much of ourselves as we want, and especially if you’re just getting going, it can be difficult to know what’s okay to post and what isn’t. A flat-out easy beginner’s guidepost comes from the illustrious Susan Mernit, who told participants in a workshop we led: “If you’re wondering whether you should post something or not, you probably shouldn’t.”

    The genesis of this proverb comes from a key principle of social media: Authenticity is king. That word is being thrown around quite a bit these days (“authenticity,” not “king,” heh). Social media “gurus” and “mavens” often slip “authenticity” into smarmy marketing posts. Ignore them. They are not the guides you are looking for. But authenticity is.

    First of all, let’s make it clear that despite technology’s best efforts, we still have multiple authentic selves. We are the same person, for sure, at work and at home, but the mix of personality components we use is at least a little bit different in each setting. Social media makes the mix slightly more transparent, thus we have to think more about which parts we present, as well as when and how. But just like our personalities in the offline world, it’s those different parts that make us unique — and our perspective and experiences interesting.

    One of my cousins, who’s a therapist in D.C., told me recently about a model of thinking about intimacy in relationships as a stereo equalizer, where things like reliability, trust, availability, etc., are the main components. Skew one of those bands outta whack, and the whole mix is off.

    Social media authenticity works much the same way. It’s a mix of personal insights, professional announcements, expertise (whether it’s a job or a hobby), general passion, lots of opinion, and often humor. (Question to advanced users: What other bands would you add to the equalizer?) It takes some experimentation to figure out what mix sounds right to you. This is why Susan’s advice is so dead-on: What you perceive to be good, what you feel comfortable with, that’s what people will pick up on as they share in your experiences. For people who are largely private folks who don’t want to tell the world about the silly stuff their kid just did, that’s fine. Share more about what you thought when you read an article related to your work. It also doesn’t have to be your most familiar voice, either, if that doesn’t make you feel comfortable. You can maintain a fairly professional tone in social media (though do try not to be emotionless) and still provide value.

    It’s all about the mix that’s going to make your voice sound good — to you and others.

    For some people, it’s easy to share personal news and events. Me, I have no bones about tweeting funny things my mom says, details of a party I’m at, or (loads of) pictures of my dog. It’s a way for me to keep a running log of things that are important to me. That said, my guidepost is to not share things that would make me feel vulnerable, like details of my dating life. I share things once in a while about my health, either to reach out for help or to show solidarity with others, but I consciously keep it to a minimum … simply because that’s what feels right to me.

    The experimentation can be uncomfortable to start with, but know that it’s okay to make mistakes here and there; social media is quite a bit more forgiving than more traditional forms of media (and I would say, also more forgiving than blogging). Worried about it all being Out There? Jaclyn Friedman made a great point recently in a workshop I was leading about how our perception of social media is rapidly changing, similar to how our perception of tattoos has changed in the last 50 years. Think about the attitudes toward a person who got a tattoo in 1959, versus attitudes now. It’s the same with social media. Ten years ago, someone getting a swig of TMI via Google might have had an adverse reaction, versus today, when seeing something a little off-topic in a Twitter stream is no big whoop.

    That said, I do want to mention that there are some folks in jobs where more attention needs to be paid to privacy and security (you know who you are). There are different parameters to work with when establishing your mix, but you shouldn’t keep yourself out of social media altogether. Almost all of us are, in some way, already represented online. Social media sites generally appear within the top 10 search results; you should do your best to influence how you appear, even if it’s to show that you’re largely a very private person.

    In a really big picture sense, I see all of our social media voices combining into this huge, glorious mix that has a real chance to change our cultural perceptions and values. (Note: this is the premise of the book I’m writing this summer for Berrett-Koehler.) All of this social technology has a humanizing effect on our digital interactions. Much like everyone getting tattoos, if we’re all presenting our authentic selves and experiences — versus relying on gatekeepers to tell our stories — we stand a chance to cause a tidal wave of change and inject our values, finally, into a culture that has long ignored too many of our experiences.


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