Coming of professional age (I’m 27) in 2008, I’m facing a dilemma not dissimilar to Marshall Herskovitz’s characters in quarterlife, but I wouldn’t call it a crisis as much as an identity conundrum. The characters of quarterlife are all pursuing creative fields. Whether a writer or an actor with a day job or a filmmaker simultaneously going for broke and going broke, they are all cobbling together an existence through multiple pursuits. As a director, playwright, producer who is totally engrossed with and fascinated by his job with outside.in, I face a similar course, or should I say, courses. At the moment, I love everything I do and am neither willing nor prepared nor forced to drop any of it. In fact, my shortest route to a satisfying life is most likely to continue advancing my progress in all spheres. I thrive on the interdisciplinary approach. (My liberal arts background surely plays a large role here.) So, here I am, casting a wide net, and seeing what it catches.
There’s nothing new about this approach. It’s now commonplace for anyone over 50 to have CV’s that reflect time spent with several different companies, if not several different careers. By no means, is such a CV an indication of fickleness or failure; it’s just what the “mobile workforce” does. However, the mass exposure caused by Web 2.0 has added a new level of confusion to this game and the social networking sites are only just starting to reckon with it.
A year ago, I could send customized resumes to different potential employers. If I was applying for a directing gig, I’d send a list of my directing credits along with theatre references. To outside.in, I sent a resume detailing my office work since college. This is a win-win scenario. For the employer, it saves the time reading about irrelevant experience. For the applicant, it helps him present a focused persona and a clear story about why he’s right for the job.
Enter LinkedIn and Facebook. It’s no secret that employers, especially those in media, look up their applicants, and sometimes even seek out recruits, on LinkedIn and Facebook. Much has been written about how college students present themselves on Facebook–the embarrassing party photos that turn off recruiters, the over-revelatory status updates and profiles–and much of it is chalked up to the general lack of responsibility of college students. Most people recommend they clean up their act, and Facebook offered the solution of group lists. I, for one, haven’t taken the time to sort out my lists, but I’m sure some people have and I’d like to hear how it’s working for them.
Facebook, though, does not have the explicitly professional atmosphere and purposes that LinkedIn has. It’s easy to blame college students for those dumb drunken photos they put on the internet, but what do you do if you’re a computer programmer who is also a freelance graphic designer? You can only have one profile on LinkedIn, and you’re clearly best served by creating the most specific and least confusing picture of yourself. If a company wants to hire me for my BusDev skills, but sees on my LinkedIn profile that I’m an Entertainment Professional, it’s not going to help my cause at all. Likewise, if I were to describe myself as a Media BusDev person and a theatre employer views my profile. This is the Mono-Profilic Dilemma. The 21st C economy enables and may soon necessitate that people pursue multiple career paths in multiple fields. Yet, 21st C technology also necessitates that I create one public persona for all to see. The two are incompatible. Fortunately, the fix is easy (I hope). LinkedIn needs to enable multiple profiles per user and multiple group lists.
I encourage an argument about privacy, commitment, and deception in the comments.