When Izzy and I were recording our latest podcast on the subject of Blogging (you can listen next Thursday 11th March) we touched on the idea of professionalism and presenting our professional face to the world. Whereas I agree that my website probably does present something vaguely ‘professional’, which is as much to do with the way it is structured as anything else, having set pages for presenting specific information etc., I do think that Facebook, Instagram and in particular blogs, give scope to show some individuality and offer up a more personal picture. So, is offering a reader a more personal insight into my life unprofessional?
I guess a good place to start thinking about this is to ask what do we actually mean by professionalism? I read one definition that said it is about constantly achieving high standards in both work and behaviour, although it wasn’t very clear who defines or sets those standards. I assume it would be the organisation one works for but as I work for myself I can set my own high standards, or not, as the case may be!
I feel that I do constantly strive to achieve the highest standards possible wherever I can and I always try to work to the best of my ability but that shouldn’t exclude being true to myself and offering something more personal. I also believe that if as an artist I only showed my work and didn’t offer up something of the person behind the art it wouldn’t give people a very rounded view.
Let’s put our cards on the table here and admit that as ‘professionals’ our social media sites, and that includes blogs, are not there purely to entertain. We are constantly striving to reach new audiences who we hope will one day become customers either buying our work or buying what we teach. And I believe that by presenting a rounded picture of myself, as someone who gets things wrong sometimes, who has personal struggles as well as successes, I am engaging my audience. They are getting to ‘know’ me.
But this has to be genuine and true to ourselves and I need to want to make that connection... it can't just be for 'professional' purposes. It needs authenticity. There is no point presenting a phoney, heavily curated image, because if nothing else it will be impossible to maintain. So being true to myself means what you see is what you get. I try not to overstep the mark and I would never deliberately set out to offend or upset anyone, any more than I would in my personal life. That said, I don’t share every last little personal detail either, as some things are private but I do believe in being open and honest about who I am and what I believe, and that sometimes means having strong opinions or letting you see some snippets of my personal life… like what I’m having for supper tonight (A Moroccan traybake with chickpeas and tomatoes washed down with a cheeky wee Chianti… since you ask!)
And when I go out to work, even though those days feel like a distant memory, I try to dress smartly and put on a bit of lippy (apologies to anyone attending my on-line classes at the moment as my lockdown hair really is completely out of control!) although I have been known to kick off my shoes and crawl under the table... or sometimes even don a wig made from cakes! Unprofessional? Maybe… but this is me folks!