on not being anonymous

When I started this blog back in May 2007, I was anonymous. I stayed anonymous until May 2008, when I started writing a weekly item for U.S. News & World Report and decided, what the hell, I’ll use my name.

Overall, I’m glad to be able to attach my name to this site — it’s an awful lot of work to toil away in secret over — but there have been a few weird effects:

* Sometimes people who are applying for a job with me make a reference to it — as in, “well, I’m not going to answer the weaknesses question that way because I know you hate it” or whatever. It’s a weird cheat sheet to how to interview well with me. Fortunately that hasn’t skewed things too much, because …

* Perhaps more interesting is the number of people applying for a job with me who clearly don’t read it. People, google your interviewer. You may find a cheat sheet.

* I once received a cover letter from an applicant that was MY cover letter — the sample I have posted here. She’d made a couple of alterations to it, but it was mine. I didn’t know if she’d done it intentionally, realizing the site she’d taken it from was the site of the person she was applying with, or if it was pure coincidence, so I asked. She claimed it was the former, but that’s so weird that I’m still not sure.

* Since my coworkers now know about my blog, I worry that they think that I must think I’m some perfect dream manager, which I’m not. I always want to tell them that I’m not deluded about this. I’m a better than average manager, but it’s easier to give good advice most of the time than to get real life right every single day. (On the other hand, I have no idea how often they read it, if at all.)

I’m curious: Have other people who have switched out of anonymity been glad they did it? Regretted it? Suffered ill effects?

{ 12 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I'm friends with people I have talked to via blogs, but it took a couple of years before we even exchanged first names. We have since visited each other's homes and families. But that of course is different.

    I think you have a cheat seat for many places as somethings you have written previously have come up in my own interviews, and I knew how to handle it or knew what it meant, thanks to you. If I were to apply to your company (although it's not my field), I don't think I would mention your blog unless you did first. We'd be there for the job at hand, not the blog. Of course, I might keep some of your tips in mind.

    You're doing the working people of America a service, and there is a percentage of us who look forward to it, read it, and follow it. Your name probably makes it a little more personable, that there is someone behind the blog!

  2. Jeff Scott*

    I write a blog and although I wasn't really anonymous when I started, I wasn't attaching my name to the blog either. When I started putting my picture, name, and job title, it felt better. However, over time, most of my staff found the blog and people began to wonder if I was talking about them or if items mentioned generically were about something specific. It made it a bit difficult over time and I am still struggling a bit on what to include and what not to. I am also a long time fan of your blog.

  3. Erica*

    My biggest issue with not being anonymous is the "what will people I work with think?" thing. Like, I want to give all sorts of career advice, but both my boss and my direct report readsmy blog. And what if he totally disagrees, or thinks I shouldn't be giving advice or thinks I'm a total jerk because of my helpful hints?

  4. Ask a Manager*

    Erica, I think you should experiment with it. Chances are high that your boss will love it, assuming that you're not giving crappy or risky advice, which you obviously wouldn't be. You'll give great advice, which will actually raise your stock in his eyes.

    If you're really wary, you could say to him, "Hey, I'm thinking about writing a blog post on ___. Any reason you wouldn't want me to do that?" But I don't think you even need to do that. (Especially if he's the type who will worry about something if you ask him if he's worried, but won't otherwise.)

  5. HR Minion*

    I'm happy I am no longer blogging anonymously. I had good reasons for starting out that way, but there are some opportunities that have come my way that I wouldn't have gotten if I hadn't started using my real name.

  6. TheLabRat*

    I've been dying to blog about my mom's current nightmare job. It's absolutely critical that I don't since the job just gets progressively more nightmarish. But then my own real life dictated that my poor blog get neglected for quite some time. So maybe when real life comes back around to letting me get on with my hobbies I'll be able to do (i.e. she'll finally be out of that corporate hell hole).

  7. Evil HR Lady*

    The next time I need a cover letter,
    I'm using yours. Just an FYI.

    I started out anonymously and came out for the same reason. I'm glad I did it. I think it makes me a better blogger because I truly have to be able to stand behind what I say.

  8. Anonymous*

    My business blog is not anonymous, but my other one–on green/simple living is. There are a lot of reasons for this, but primarily, I am a low-level employee, and I work for a company that is actually LOOKING for reasons to get rid of people. I simply don't want to risk my rants being found by anyone I work with.

    My business blog is a different matter altogether. It's known among my coworkers that I have a sideline business. I doubt anyone with whom I work reads it, anyway.

    I comment anonymously to THIS blog (which I love, BTW,) because my job is a crummy one, and I am looking for another. Obviously, I don't want to be found out.

    I think it all depends on one's life circumstances and sometimes on the content.

    Your blog is a big help to a lot of people, and I'm happy to know who you are! :)

  9. Gene*

    My first blog had my name attached and some of the people I know read it. I found it too restrictive, but that has a lot to do with family dynamics; even things that had nothing to do with any family members were assumed to be about them. My current one is completely anonymous, associated with an email that exists only for that blog, no photos that could be location identified with my location listed as {big city near me}-ish. I now write what I want, about who I want, in simple, direct words without obfuscation. I am working on a site related to my professional life, I'll associate fully with it; but personal commentary on it will be strictly business.

  10. Andrew*

    I've recently made the switch to writing with my name attached. For the most part, it's been good. It's helped me ensure my words are researched and careful, since they're attached to my name, and it's helped me to establish my Personal Brand/niche — a great advantage of blogging publicly.

    But, I definitely can understand and relate to the people apprehensive because of their work. I think that's why a lot of people don't write blogs (which is a shame because there's so much value in honest expression in blogs).

    Alison – what's your take? How would you feel, as a manager, if one of your employees kept a blog? I feel like you may be on the progressive side of the spectrum, so I'll follow up with: how do you think MOST managers feel about this issue? Is it an issue people should legitimately be worried about?

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