Google It

Ah the beginning of a new semester. Fresh new faces, a slew of new names to learn, and new classrooms full of new people to meet knowing that they’ve previously googled me.

As you know if you’ve done any reading of this blog, I keep and curate an extremely active digital presence. I also keep and curate a digital presence for several major professional organizations, and have helped even more begin their adventures into the digital world.

one of the more awesome shots that pops up in my google image search; me kicking butt at the Summer Sling this year

one of the more awesome shots that pops up in my google image search; me kicking butt at the Summer Sling this year

It’s not uncommon for me to meet people who are gun-shy about the internet. They think that curating an online persona entails revealing too much of their private lives, or somehow exposing themselves in a way they aren’t comfortable with.

The fact is this: in the digital era, you will have an internet presence. Depending upon the popularity of your name, that presence may or may not be immediately linked with you personally. Never doubt this, however: that presence can either harm or help you, and curating that presence is taking control of what happens when someone types your name into google.

Because, let’s face it, what do people do the minute an unfamiliar name crosses their desk? How to employers verify (or investigate) claims of expertise or previous employment? How does anyone know anything these days?

Taking your digital presence into your own hands is taking the power back from the system. By actively curating, you craft a presence that makes you more legitimate, more desirable, and more accessible.

In order to keep this presence clean and free of “unmentionable” (or at least unprofessional) personal information, the key is to create (and hold yourself accountable) to a set of personal protocol for social networking. Before I share anything on the internet, I take myself through a series of questions about the content. If the content doesn’t measure up to my protocol standards, I either find a way to share it that is protected by security measures (like facebook permissions groups, password walls, or private e-mails), or keep it to myself.

Here is my list of primary content questions that I make myself ask about anything before I post it to the internet:

             Would you be comfortable with someone reading this (tweet, status, blog, etc.) out loud at a job interview?

             Would you be comfortable with your students knowing these things?

             Would you be comfortable with this content being read aloud to your tenure review board?

 These are my “red flag” questions; i.e.: if the answer to any one of these questions is “no”, the content is not fit to be posted publicly. If the content is green-lit by these standards, I further ask myself:

             Are you currently of sound mind? (…i.e.: have you slept enough? Had your coffee yet today? Eaten recently? All of these are key factors that could influence good decision-making).

            Have you re-read this content to check for grammar, spelling, and proper attribution?

            Have you fact-checked this content with a reliable source?

These questions are “shelf it” questions; if I answer “no” to any of them, I can’t post the

Pro tip: google image will also pull from your youtube account; here's a still from some action vid of me cracking my bullwhip courtesy of this feature

Pro tip: google image will also pull from your youtube account; here’s a still from some action vid of me cracking my bullwhip courtesy of this feature

content until that answer turns into a “yes”. They won’t necessarily prevent me from posting something, but they certainly do some work to ensure the quality of my posts.

So as you begin to meet fresh faces this year, consider implementing your own set of standards for what the internet has to say about you. And, if you’re not already, consider putting your own two cents into the mix. I guarantee that, with some effort, the long run will be worth it.

The Secret

This morning via twitter I was asked a question that I cannot, in good conscience, allow to pass without blogging an answer: “What are some things no one tells you about Grad School?”

Buckle those seatbelts, folks.

The fact is that this is precisely the question which keeps me blogging.  There is so much that I didn’t know when I started this crazy thing (now my life) which I didn’t even think to ask about.  You know it’s going to be hard work, you know it’s going to be a serious time commitment, but I continue to prove to myself (again and again) that even if someone could have possibly described to me how very much toil went into being a full-time graduate student, I would not have believed them.

I’ve attempted to portray a realistic picture of the life of a Grad Student via this blog; the triumphs, tribulations, successes, failures, and everything in between.  But let me take a moment now to summarize these findings for you in hopes that it will help prospective Graduate Students, those spending their last “sitting duck” summer (i.e. have been accepted to a program and are making final arrangements to arrive and begin in September), or those who simply desire a better understanding of what it is that being a full-time Graduate Student actually entails.

First and foremost, consider yourself warned: you will work.  In fact, you will do so much

one of *those* people

work that you will become one of those people.  Those people who cancel on social gatherings because they have to stay home and work.  Those people who realize that they haven’t actually talked to a real person all day except for the poor undergrad library clerk.  Those people who, when they finish their primary gotta-do-it-now list, start in on their secondary should-do-it-soon list.  Those people who seem to subsist on caffeine and happy thoughts rather than sleep and positive reinforcement.

Prepare to become a machine.  A machine concerned only with your research.  How can you twist this weekend vacation into something you can write a paper about?  What do you find interesting about your hobbies and are those elements at all related to your work?  You will become single-minded; and that’s good.  It’s important.  Without a certain degree of tunnel vision, you would never be able to get through this crazy little thing called grad school.

You will become extremely stressed out about things that only a small subset of the population will comprehend.  Things of utmost importance to you, things which define your very existence for a week, a semester, a year, will be meaningless to those whom you care about the most.  They will not understand.  You will try to explain it to them.  They still won’t get it.  Make friends with your colleagues, they are your only hope for salvation.

You will need to find ways to satisfy yourself with small victories.  Most of the projects which you will work on will be long-term.  What this means is that, unless you find some method of self-validating during the process, you’re in for many years of banging your head against a wall and losing sleep over something which will only give by millimeters in any measurable length of time.  Without validation, you will not survive.  Figure out what you need to do to make yourself feel happy and fulfilled at the end of a long, tiring day of doing seemingly nothing.

You will be expected to know things that you’ve never been taught.  And no, it’s not fair, but it’s the way it is.  Find a way to understand what these things are, and how you can at least keep yourself from embarrassment (…nobody will tell you what these things are, by the way, that’s also left to you to discover).  Find a mentor.  Find someone on the faculty with whom you can speak candidly and with whom you feel comfortable enough to ask the awkward questions behind closed office doors.  They will understand exactly what you are going through and be able to give you the coaching you will desperately need.

my idea of a “day off” when I was getting my Master’s

This is a job.  This is your life.  This is what you are doing for the next two, three, four, five years.  It’s worthwhile, and will get you somewhere that you want to be.  If you don’t believe that with all of your heart; if that mantra isn’t something that you can turn to and depend on in your darkest, most stressful hour; quit now.  If you’re not excited by your work; if this is just something you’re doing to see some letters after your name or call yourself by a fancy title; you are never going to make it.  It takes passion, courage, creativity, the work ethic of Hercules, and the liver of Bacchus to survive grad school.  If you don’t think you’re up for it, you’re right.  If you’re lukewarm on whatever it is you’re studying, you will never be able to make it through the harsh times in store for you.

However, if you’re still reading this, if you’re still excited about buying books in September, if despite these warnings you simply cannot wait to get your hands dirty in the fall, you will find that Grad School is the most thrilling, fulfilling, and exciting adventure you can have.

And, in the interest of opening dialogue with my peers, I encourage you to blog, tweet, facebook, or somehow document your experience.  Get your story out there.  Answer questions.  The more of us doing this sort of thing, the greater a resource we can provide for the generations after us (including, by the by, our some-day students).  In the digital era, there’s no reason that we have to sit alone at our desks all day without anyone to sanity check for us.  Let’s have coffee; let’s keep each other afloat; if (after all) we’re not cheering for each other, then nobody else is gonna.

Three’s a Crowd

So I have a new roommate.

We seem to get along pretty well. He’s into theatre (like… REALLY into theatre), he’s directed a bunch of stuff (even a lot of Shakespeare which is neat because we can talk about it at great length), he’s written a few published items, he’s smart, talented, and really I don’t think I’m over-emphasizing how great he is when I say he’s a visionary and the voice of a generation. He demands a lot of attention though and I’ve found that spending time with him has really cut into my social time (as well as hours I can devote to other projects). He just has a lot to say and I find that, when I think a conversation has finished, it’s only just beginning. He could talk for hours and hours.

Well, I guess he has the prerogative to do so since he is an eighty-seven year old man.

I’m getting to the point now, though, that I really wish he’d just stop talking. I mean, I know a great deal about him (and you can always know more, but sometimes there’s knowing someone and KNOWING someone and you really don’t need to KNOW everybody). His stories are beginning to conflict. I’m starting to develop cross information and mixed signals. It may just be that he’s somewhat forgetful…

To make matters worse, the more I know the more I feel like I’m obligated to tell other people when I go to introduce him. It’s no longer good enough to say “Hey, this is Peter and he’s a director.” Now I have to tell them about the shows he’s directed, the places he’s lived, random bits about his personal life… I mean, most of his accounts are professional so I don’t know too inordinately much about his personal life (not enough to be awkward at least) but I do know a thing or two.

His presence in my apartment is really beginning to put a cramp on my life. I have spent the weekend almost entirely devoted to him. Tonight I’m home alone with him while my roommate goes out gallivanting with her girlfriends. I mean, he’s not possessive or anything, but I’m beginning to wonder if my obsession with him is bordering on “unhealthy”. I feel like he’s watching me every time I sit down at my desk to type. He does tend to hang out on my desk (and sometimes even on my desktop). I’ve pushed Jerry aside in favor of his company multiple times. I even precluded plans with other friends to hang out with Peter. Tonight I started googling childhood images of him and I’m in the process of making a powerpoint about all the things I’ve learned…

He does have a charming accent though, so that helps matters a bit.

….working on a big scary presentation about RSC founding Director Peter Brook. I feel

The B-Man

like that’s all I have to talk about these days. Would love to review Whistler in the Dark’s Dogg’s Hamlet Cahoot’s Macbeth or The Donkey Show (both of which I saw in this past week), but am unable to wrap my brain around anything that doesn’t involve my new English beau.

Oh, and by the way, night-time Pajama-clad trips to the library didn’t go out of style in your undergrad. Or at least I hope they didn’t because if they did, I’m about to commit a gigantic fashion faux-pas. Maybe if I wait long enough, the library will empty of credible witnesses…