“Hey, I should warn you, Charlene has googly eyes.”
“What does that mean?”
They pop way out, like on a frog… or a bug.”
“Um, thanks for the warning.”
At the start of my career, I worked for a Fortune 500 defense contractor called TRW. One company, 30,000 employees. In an effort to maintain a mono-cultural workforce, they gave employees $500 for each referral that resulted in a hire. As a broke, newly graduated young adult, I was trying to create a cottage industry for myself. I just got my roommate hired, now I had my sights set on Renee. I was trying to prep her for her interview. I wanted to make sure she didn’t embarrass herself over Charlene’s googly eyes.
This was in the eighties. A decade before Google, the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent search engine, was created. Google had a different meaning back then. It was often used to describe someone so in love they couldn’t see clearly. That guy has my sister completely google-eyed, she totally bought his excuse for staying out all night.
In college, we used it to describe someone who was so drunk their eyes couldn’t focus. Joey was so google-eyed, he was hitting on Sandra’s mother.
And, of course, the frog eyes.
So, a few definitions, none very flattering. I’m not sure why Google picked that name.
I’ve been working in my current job for eleven years. Not the defense contractor position, but as the finance director of a small non-profit community center. There’s no room for advancement, no provision for a salary increase over a minor cost of living adjustment each year. I’m not keeping pace with expenses. My medical insurance goes up $400 to $500 per year. This eats up pretty much all of whatever raise I’m awarded. My kids are marching steadily towards college, and my two cars, with a combined age of thirty-three years, are begging to be replaced. And this morning, planning for a fancy weekend party, I realized I haven’t bought a tie or sports coat since the nineties.
My life is in need of a serious upgrade, and I’m not financially set-up to pay for it. So I’m looking around, as they say. I’m job-hunting. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of positions available in my tiny town. In the first few weeks of my job hunt, I’ve sent out three resumes. All three for positions that would be an appropriate upgrade in salary and responsibility.
But I haven’t heard anything back.
Back in 2006, when I scored my current job, this is how things worked. You sent off a resume via email, and you got back an email acknowledging that your resume was received. It would include a “thank you for applying” along with a timeline of the interview process. Nothing was automated. Even though email was involved, I felt like I was dealing with a person.
This time around, I fill out a form on a job hunting website, upload my documents and hit “Submit.” I get an automated response saying my application was received, and then… nothing. Not yet anyway. I sent out my first two resumes several weeks ago. I have to assume this is bad news.
Part of me says, don’t panic yet, you’re qualified for all three of those positions; your resume is clear and comprehensive; your cover letters rock. But then I think about Google.
In 2006, Googling my name was an innocuous, or even positive, experience. You might have stumbled on my bio page from my previous company, but most likely what you found were some fairly brisk running times from the road-races I entered. Back then, I was still running a seven-minute pace.
What do you find now? First and foremost in search results is my Twitter feed. I don’t use Twitter at all. I gave it a try about a year ago, but I really don’t understand the point of it. But ten seconds on this page will tell you enough about me to run like hell. Right there in my personal bio, I identify myself as a socialist. I’m not really a socialist (although I’m not opposed to theoretical socialism). I put it there as a joke during the election campaign when everyone was calling Obama and Sanders socialists. I never took the time to change it. I end my bio with “#breakthestigma of mental illness.” I mentioned this to Susan; she thought it was good. I’m working towards something positive.
Except… when I hire people, mentally ill is almost never on my checklist of personal qualities I’m searching for.
Pinned to the top off my Twitter feed is a link to my blog. And this is where the trouble really starts. If you want to know my deepest, darkest secrets, my blog works as a nice clearinghouse. The point of my writing, the reason I write and blog is to work through my problems. Which problems? Social anxiety, OCD, Tourettes Syndrome, depression, non-conformist behavior. Plus, there’s my desire to come to grips with decades of substance abuse. Oh, and my propensity to self-medicate the problems I just listed with alcohol.
Writing about these topics undeniably helps me. And blogging about them seems to help others as well. People are constantly telling me that they gained some self-understanding when reading one of my stories. It’s like I’m providing a public service. But these companies aren’t hiring a public servant. They’re hiring an accountant. A straight-laced, buttoned-up finance officer—and ‘mentally ill substance abuser’ doesn’t fit the stereotype.
I’ve left my blog off of my resume. Initially, I considered including it—sort of a bold, chin-up acknowledgement that I have nothing to hide—but I then I decided that was looking for trouble. Maybe somewhere out there is an employer who won’t spend time on Google before calling me in.
I’ve spent most of my career moving away from the non-diverse atmosphere I found at TRW. Twenty years ago, I moved on to a Vietnamese-owned technology company: and then to an international development firm that was staffed with (gasp) Muslims. Now I’m working for a non-profit whose dual mission includes social justice and fitness.
It’s easy for me to say that I’m simply not interested in working for a company that would disqualify an applicant for publishing well-written explorations on mental illness and substance abuse. But, I also understand that hiring a senior position is risky. Any blotches along the way leave an indelible mark, a stain that’s hard to overlook.
Undeniably, the best situation for me would to be to find an employer who wants to hire me because of what I’ve blogged. Many non-profits work in disability and substance abuse. Surely, there’s an organization out there that will be impressed by my technical background, and maybe a little google-eyed over my blog.