Blog Post

On Becoming a HASTAC Scholar: What It Means To Create a Professional Identity

I was recently at a meeting of academics and alt-academics who run professional organizations and professional meetings and heard two people from two different professional associations, one in the humanities and one in a social science area, note that, in their informal polling of job interviewers who come to their national conventions, something on the order of 75% say that the first thing they do when they see the name of a potential job candidate is Google the person.   Well, of course.  When you think about it, don't we all do that?   But how many graduate programs today advise students to pay attention to what appears when their name is Googled?  

The same career or professional development advisors in departments who worry over job letters, vita, job talks, and other aspects of professionalism (if you are lucky enough to be in a department that cares about such things) is likely not to have said to candidates, "Google yourself and see what comes up.  Is that the professional self you want to present to the world?"

Yesterday, stranded in an airport with too much time on my hands, I decided to play a little game.  I went to the beautiful HASTAC Scholars page. I enjoyed reading the bios and clicking through to the different blog posts Scholars had already listed.   And then, remembering this conversation, I Googled about a dozen of the scholars by name.  

In cases where HASTAC Scholars had already made blog posts (I tried to avoid the HASTAC Scholars where there was no photo and the ominous "no activity yet" legend), I was impressed by how often HASTAC came up when I Googled.   For some, this is just about the only online presence you have now: no worries!  Your online identity looks terrific. Professional and impressive--even if you are just starting out.

I was pleased to see how often a blog post or this landing page came up  when I Googled the name of HASTAC Scholars.  When I clicked through,  there was an extremely professional presentation of the HASTAC Scholar on the HASTAC page, a mini CV placed within the context of a very active and vibrant and respected scholarly community.  Even if you have a Linked In page, there is something distinctive about being visible among other HASTAC Scholars, honored and also contributing.

Interestingly, even in cases where people have their own blogs or appear on those of others, there was something about being sent to a contribution on a professional blog that "framed" one's own ideas within a network, a community, a professional place.  

NB:  If you blog elsewhere, think about reblogging on too for exactly this reason.  It's not the same as publishing in a journal, but there are many of the same features of placing yourself within a context with a solid, respected, and long history that shines a great light on the particular contribution you make.   Once you have a photo up, make sure to include the url for the HASTAC Scholars page on your CV.  You want people to see you in a community like this, as a contributor already, even at an early career stage, to the life of a profession.  

In addition, the professionalism of the presentation, the clear display that so much shows what an honor it is to be a Scholar, is simply impressive.  It's good company to be in!   As a "control" (the scare quotes are because there was absolutely nothing randomized or scientific about this), I put in the names of some current or recent doctoral students in the humanities--and who are not HASTAC Scholars-- that I know and Googled them too.   What emerged was sometimes very impressive; but other times it was quite chaotic, not always flattering, everything from an insulting Rate My Professor to a silly Tumblr.  

There are so many reasons to be a HASTAC Scholar.  Among those is the not-so-trivial side benefit of instantly having a public identity, beginning the turn toward being a public intellectual, even if you have never taken this turn before.  Many of you already have.  But for some this is a first time, or the first time as a professional student (undergraduate or graduate).   Becoming a HASTAC Scholar, filling out the application and writing your introductory blog, gives you an  almost "automatic" professionalism, a curation of your own online professional identity. Going to the HASTAC Scholars page is, quite simply, impressive.  If you are making a cv, make sure to give the url prominence. This is an honor. And given how badly we do as a profession in representing ourselves, this is a handsome and appealing one.  Congratulations! It was an easy beginning and it is just a beginning.

Given that, I also want HASTAC Scholars who use an icon or a cartoon instead of a portrait to think about what is gained--or lost--by not using a photograph. It is possible it makes a difference. I don't know. What I do know is that your very participation in this community, even before you do anything else to take advantage of this unique and supportive network, is already helping to secure a "curated" online identity that allows you to present yourself to those who are looking at you in an highly professional way. My point: use this singular opportunity and make the most of it! Helping to create a community in this case also contributes to your own professional, curated identity online.

I also hope you will help out the tireless (and extremely tiny--remember we don't charge dues!) HASTAC staff by constantly tweeting one another's blog posts, responding commenting, and in other ways making this network as active and interactive as possible. This is not only a service to the profession but, again, it becomes part of your own professional, curated identity and rounds out who you are, what you offer, and that you are the kind of person one would want as a colleague.  It allows you a personality more vivid than the resume, an almost "pre-interview" introduction of yourself . . . that, no doubt, is another reason (besides it being easy) why some 75% of interviewers Google first, then slog through the resume. 

If you haven't yet, Google yourself. See what comes up. It's not only gratifying, but, by seeing yourself in this way, it helps you to understand how even a single blog, especially one well framed and with an appealing title, begins to build an online identity. In turn, that helps others see how you interact with the world (i.e. with colleagues, with students, as a leader in a profession). Tell us at HASTAC about your teaching philosophy and solutions to in class quandaries or tools you are building or other tools you are using or ideas you are having, theories you are proposing:  all that. When you tell the HASTAC community, you are also telling a larger world what you are, what you represent, and what you will contribute (and already are contributing) to the professional worlds--within academe and in society at large.



Great advice, Cathy--I've passed it on to our university's HASTAC Scholars!


Just checked and am very happy to report that my HASTAC tag shows up on the first page when I Google my name. Such great company to be in. I actually have led several workshops on this subject -- what I like to call the "Googlesume." Working with students and sometimes colleagues as a group, we google the names of volunteers in the room and close-read what we find, talking frankly about our impressions. It's a really useful exercise. I segue into talking about practical strategies for improving what shows up in the search. I agree, Cathy, that the Googlesume is an extremely important "document" for folks looking for jobs (indeed, a part of the application).


On Facebook, Kevin Fogg, a Duke alum who is a historian of Islam in Southeast Asia, noted that my blog sent him blogging about why he has such a beautiful personal blog, in addition to his other scholarly peer-reviewed book:  the importance of public scholarship.  I could not agree more!   Read it here:


And Jesse, I love it that you give workshops on this.   For the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge we require all students to create their own professional blog, again exactly for all the reasons above as well as for the ones Kevin and you emphasize.   




Hi Cathy and Jesse,
Thank you both for sharing advice on how to craft smart HASTAC profiles and "Googlesumes." 

It's also worth noting that if you want to have an accurate view of what turns up when your name is googled, you ought to follow these instructions for getting outside the google filter bubble:


Thank you for this post. It still surprises me how many of my own colleagues have no idea how important their digital presence/identity can be in the process of evaluation by a department, job, or fellowship committee etc. I have helped a number of my colleagues start Twitter accounts, make websites, and consider how they would like to begin curating their own digital identity. However, becoming a HASTAC Scholar has motivated me to take that risk and start blogging (partly because it is required on our part---but it was definitely the push I needed to finally start doing it!).

I am one of those vigilant digital scholars, Googling my name about once a month (at the very least) just so I know what others can see about me at any given moment. This is definitely such an important aspect of our profesional development as scholars, and I am trying to think of ways we can get this line of thinking started at earlier stages (i.e. graduating high school student) so they can begin thinking critically about their participating in such spaces. Again, thanks for this post...lots of ideas are floating around in my mind that I should write down quick! :)