Last week Sukhinder Pabial (@sukhpabial) shared an observation on Twitter which has been one that I have often thought about. Make sure you go into the tweet and read the thread because it proposes alternative views around our different ways of how we present ourselves online.
It got me thinking that I had similar questions for a while now. Of course, I know that I’m not espousing that we divulge every single thing about our personal life out to the world – and I do understand the need for privacy. This is not what I’m talking about. Here’s his tweet:
In the field of Learning & Development, I’ve noticed a number of consultants who don’t share personal stuff. You just get no sense of who they are as a person or what their value set is. They say the right things for professional purposes, but rarely do you see them back it up in their interactions.
— Sukh Pabial (@sukhpabial) July 3, 2019
I understand that to some people, it’s all about the image and perception of professionalism than sharing anything that may be deemed too personal because people judge. However, the thing is, they’re likely they’re going to judge either way so why not share something that helps us understand that you’re human?
At the same time, I saw the above image by the excellent artist Hugh MacLeod from Gaping Void so it was a timely lesson between “image” and “substance” which I believe Sukh was pertaining to.
For a while now, I’ve had big questions floating around in my mind about how I’m perceived by others because I overly share at times.
Often I have wondered if I should have kept quiet about my knitting, my experiments with filming and video; my acting debut as Foreign Correspondent Shazza Breaknews for CNT News; my booktube videos and others – it’s become a right hot mess of my projects, experiments along with my hobbies and interests all under my own name across platforms AND Activate Learning Solutions.
Maybe I’ve overshot my personal vs professional ratio?
I’m not naive enough to think that what I’ve done is gone against the norm. However, I’m okay with this.
I figure if I’m not hurting anyone else, what I have noticed is that it allows me to connect and network with people a lot quicker and easier.
I’ve lost count of the number of people who have thanked me for “being myself” online but at the same time, I’ve noticed that these same people are not doing it themselves. So I can think either of two ways:
(a) I’m a leader/maverick/pioneer or
(b) I’m the fool/naive/the fall guy.
I’d be lying if I said that I feel most days that it was (b).
However, it’s made me more appreciative of people who do something different, or who don’t follow the crowd because they’re at the most vulnerable – and the ones who should be supported and acknowledged over others.
In these situations, I have questions floating around in my head. Here they are:
- How do people see me online?
- How do I want people to see me?
- If I share my personal interests, passions, projects, and hobbies, would I be turning away some people who just want to read or view my stuff related to JUST learning and development?
- If I come across as negative, do people in my personal learning network shy away from interacting with me or sharing my work because they fear being associated with me?
- How can I link, interrelate and connect the personal with the professional identity without coming across as ‘skewed’ towards one or the other?
- Am I potentially scaring away business for myself (and my now employer Adopt & Embrace) by sharing personal aspects of myself such as my knitting, book videos and Shazza shorts and/or these radical personal thoughts?
- Does the market place more value (hence more paid work goes to) people who are perceived as being “more professional” (Read: have highly curated content only around their business; only engage with people for the purposes of building a potential customer base; are considered “thought leaders” in their field, have written books or spoken at events? Or perceived as successful because they write about how busy they are? Or, who only correspond with people who are customers?)
- Who do I trust more? Who would I do business with? Who would I be proud to connect and refer others because I know that they’re genuine – and human – and who have lost, failed and learned rather than someone who has succeeded but learned nothing?
- Was my reason of not being able to sustain myself as an independent consultant because I stuck firm with my own ideas – maverick/or stubborn? – about how I should present myself to the world and NOT follow the typical business building or thought leader models that are currently being touted by many in the market?
- Am I a stick-in-the-mud for going against the mould or just plain stupid for not following the template that others use to build their own profile?
- Do I really have a unique-point-of-difference around learning or just rehashing what everyone else is writing and sharing?
- Are people deliberately not engaging with me online or in person because any association with me may affect their business because of what I say and share online?
- Who can I help who has nothing to gain professionally or business but just are doing great work that needs to be shown and shared to others because their ideal is to better themselves?
So there you go. It’s a good question that Sukh asked and one that will always be a sore point of contention as we try and marry up the professional and personal ‘digital’ identities that we have; and how much we share.
Personally, I’ve always espoused ONE identity – me – across all platforms but this is not going to be the preference for many people as they may prefer to compartmentalise aspects of their work and personal life.
I guess I’m lucky to be in a field where I can blend my interests and passions with learning and development because really, it’s all-encompassing. That’s why much of what I share about my out-of-work interests really have helped me be a better videographer, video editor, consultant, public speaker, networker, community member, blogger, and so much more.
Much of what I learned in my outside interests have had a direct application to my work.
To me, learning and development need not be defined as what is ‘professional’ versus what is deemed ‘personal’. To me, learning and development just is. It’s something we should be doing as part of life.