Monday, May 9, 2016

The power of putting yourself out there

In the early days of my writing this blog, I would be surprised when people, sometimes people I was meeting for the first time, would tell me they read one of my posts. Over the years, I've come to be less surprised, but more grateful. While people have told me they have disagreed with my opinion, and I've even been threatened to edit or remove a post or two, in general everyone who has talked to me about one of my posts has been really positive.

I've written before about how nice it is to have someone talk to you about how something you've written has impacted them, but I've always focused on the positive experiences. I have realized in recent weeks that there are just as many negative reactions, and just as many possibilities for people to think poorly of me, form an opinion about me without ever meeting me. As wonderful as it would be for everyone to always heap praise, it is just as important to pay attention to the naysayers.

Tomorrow I'm presenting on the power of social media at the 20th Annual Professional Women's Association conference at UCSB. I've been putting together my slides, and thinking about how blogging has helped, or at least shaped, my career. The reality is that for as many job opportunities, projects, introductions and recommendations my social media presence has facilitated, there are likely many that were squashed by my personal reflections, my mentioning my children, maybe even because of my love of my pit bull (seriously, I've had people contact me privately...but look at this face!). At some point along the way, one of these things that I've shared through social media has likely meant an opportunity lost.
Darwin would like me to finish up this blog post.

And what?

I am who I am. If I didn't get an opportunity because of my personal beliefs or interests, then it's very likely that opportunity would not have been a good fit for me. If hiring a mom is a problem, I'm not right for your organization. If my publicly sharing my personal reflections and faith is troubling, then we'd likely not be a good match. If my love of zombies and robots and taking selfies on the beach with my husband are turn offs, then it's probably best for both of us to just move along.

While I like to think I post a good mix of professional and personal content on my social media accounts, what's true is that everything I post is a reflection of me, the whole human being. Social media allows me to find my tribe and build a solid, supportive network, but for me, it's not a closed network of like-mindedness. I welcome the differences in life views and experiences, because reading about you helps me learn more about myself.

And learning from others is (almost) always a good thing.

So blog and tweet and post and I'll be reading along, nodding in violent agreement or crying in empathy or laughing because it's funny because it's true. But don't hide, because it's nice to get to know you better, even if we're not kindred spirits. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there because of the potential lost opportunities; there is so much more amazingness to be gained.

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