Thursday, December 8, 2016

On telling kids about Santa Claus:

I've always hated outwardly lying to anyone. I feel like 1) I'm not good at it, 2) it's not a healthy habit to get into, and 3) when you are caught in white to major lies, you have to rebuild trust. I'm not saying I've never lied, merely that it's a trait I try not to foster and one I find awful in other humans who practice lying regularly.

For this reason, I never told the boys their gifts were from Santa Claus, and I never said he was real or fake. My response would go something like this, "There are a lot of people who believe in Santa Claus, and there are a lot of people who don't. I would love to believe that Santa Claus was real, but I don't know." Replace Santa Claus with ghosts, deities, aliens, etc, and you pretty much have my answer on these types of questions.

There is a very good reason I answered like this. All children will interact with other adults that don't know their level of belief in these things. If I said, "No, Santa Claus is totally real," then I would render all the adults in their lives to be liars or they would doubt my truthfulness. I don't want to do that to any child, least of all my own. It's beautiful when children believe in lovely things like Santa Claus, but if they ask you for truth, be careful with them. You don't have to lie to make them feel better.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pssst . . We can still see your real names!

Charlotte Proudman, a barrister in human rights law and feminist legal activist (Pittman, 2015), is facing backlash over her public shaming of a man who complimented her looks in response to a connection request on LinkedIn.  She posted screen shots of his compliments on her looks to Twitter and invited public comment.  This brought to mind a post I wrote on September 19, 2014, Pssst . . . We can see your real names on LinkedIn comments! regarding some of the unprofessional and shocking comments posted by professionals on LinkedIn articles.  LinkedIn is not anonymous and everything we comment, write, message, or post is attached to our name.

Personally, I would not have reacted as she reacted. At the very least, I would have redacted his personal information from the screen shots of his message.  But that doesn't mean she is wrong. She was very brave and willing to accept the consequences of her actions. My post, while not as brave, hopefully helps further the discussion.

What happened with Miss Proudman has nothing to do with women being unable or unwilling to accept a compliment on their physical appearance. This is about the forum and the venue for such compliments. LinkedIn is not is a dating site. Dating sites allow women and men to be anonymous until they choose to share personal information with potential suitors. LinkedIn is a professional networking site where you post your real name, your real work history, and your real contact information for professional contacts to either contact you regarding work opportunities, professional events, and to learn about what people in your chosen field are doing or working on.

Many responses to Miss Proudman's public shaming of her admirer can be boiled down to this: "what he said wasn't that bad." Some people expected his message to be worse or more sexual or more inappropriate.  The problem with his singular message is that it is a drop in the bucket in the things women deal with online and in day-to-day life.   Speaking from my experience, it can feel uncomfortable and even alarming fielding messages regarding your attractiveness, smile, eyes, or marital status on this site. Since 2006, I've received similar and "worse" messages from men. It has never felt flattering or welcome. Luckily, the messages were sent by individuals I could remove, ignore, and who lived far away from me.

However, blocking and removing connections doesn't help anyone.

Miss Proudman chose to call him out . . . and thus this conversation can be had. If that is the value of what she did, I think it's worth it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pssst . . . We can see your real names on LinkedIn comments!

Blurred lines between social media and journalism
Articles regarding online bullying (of all age groups) are commonplace; stories about restaurant receipts posted to Twitter (showing tips and lack thereof, religious judgments, or kind benefactors gifting hundreds) seem to happen every week; and iCloudInstagram / Facebook / smart phone hacking stories share equal billing with declarations of military action and Ebola outbreaks. Underlying this daily saturation of similar stories is social media. Social media provides a never-ending supply of shocking, touching, and thought-provoking fodder. But as these stories spread, it also provides a venue to torment unwilling and unsuspecting victims instantaneously and anonymously. (Conversely, it also makes praising heroes that much easier.)
Simply, if the right person reads, retweets or shares a seemingly innocuous receipt, a regional story can spread like wildfire on traditional and online publications.
We have also seen the public shaming that happens when someone's anonymous tweet or private Facebook post loses that veil of privacy. Sooner or later, the Twitter identities are exposed, the IP addresses are tracked, and names are revealed.

LinkedIn is not anonymous

LinkedIn is meant to represent your true identity. By using the site, we agree that the information we provide is truthful and that we are not using a false identity. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ have similar terms, but there is no long-lasting ramification for creating user handles or pseudonyms. When LinkedIn is used by many as an online résumé, it would be hard to explain using a pseudonym.
In this context, I cannot believe some of the comments posted on LinkedIn. I will let them speak for themselves:
On a LinkedIn post about recruiting mistakes to avoid:
Stop bashing clients and candidates. Making fun of candidates is really not acceptable especially outside of your core group. I hear it all the time recruiters are employees too... somebody hired you and there is a company out there that didn't hire you either. You are not God for candidates to come begging at your feet.
On a LinkedIn post about the NFL and domestic violence
No Robert, what 'we' need is for young black kids (yes KIDS) to stop pumping out fatherless babies that go on to a life of crime or wefare[sic] or both. 3 of every 4 black babies is born out of wedlock. This is a huge burden to the rest of society on many different levels.
On a Linked post about the biggest mistakes seen by a recruiter
This article sucks. It's generic and not insightful at all. Thanks for letting us know we shouldn't have typos in our resumes.
Wow, LinkedIn is so boring lately. I cant believe i even read this article. Where is the new information? This is worse than 101, this stuff is implied!

So why are the comments so negative and unprofessional?

I don't have an answer to this question. Nor can I explain the rude, racist, and disrespectful sample commentary I've listed above. Perhaps we have become so inured by social media and our perceived online anonymity that we feel we can say whatever we want with no repercussions -- despite the constant stream of articles that prove otherwise. The most perplexing thing of all is how anyone can post such things knowing it will be advertised to their entire list of contacts AND every reader to the LinkedIn Pulse post.

We can see your real names on LinkedIn!

LinkedIn is not like most social media platforms. We connect our real names, our education, our professional history, and our contacts together to build a community. If you wouldn't put one these comments on your résumé, it doesn't belong on this site. This network can be used to find new teaming partners, new jobs, and to ask for advice. Be mindful of what prospective contacts or employers will see.
Additionally, many posters are representing an organization. Your supervisors, managers, and human resources teams are on LinkedIn. If you don't think they would approve of your comment, then don't post it.

What should you say?

The Pulse posts are an amazing library of life lessons earned by our community members. I've read posts I didn't like or that I felt needed more information. In those cases, I chose to keep my comments to myself or requested clarification. Use your comment to open a dialogue with your community. You could end up making a connection.
Simply put, we should conduct ourselves as professionals and like our comments can and will be there to represent us long after we've signed off.
Let me know what you think. I do welcome any and all comments.

Monday, August 4, 2014

LinkedIn Recommendations: Not just for job seekers! Part I

In my last post, I shared how My Career Grew with LinkedIn. In this next post, learn when to request recommendations from colleagues and employers to use on LinkedIn – and more.

Many of you have been in this position: you've made it past your first interview, and you've wowed your prospective employer (or hope you did). Then you get a phone call: you’re informed that they’ll be checking your employment history and references. After respectfully asking what the next steps are (and jumping up and down in excitement), you start calling your former employers and personal references to give them a heads up that someone from Amazing Company will call them.
This is the worst possible time to ask for a recommendation. For many, it will turn out fine, but if you haven’t interacted with your previous employers in a while, or that former coworker has moved on to another company, or perhaps your reference didn't know you as well as you think they did, you may be sabotaging your chances at securing that perfect new job at Amazing Company.

You’re also missing out on valuable opportunities to create a dynamic network of former and current employers and colleagues who respect your work and value your contributions to the team.

So when is the right time to ask for a Recommendation?

Recommendations should be requested long before you've decided to look for new positions. Below are some of the best times to ask for a recommendation.

Following Project Completion. A good recommendation and reference happens after direct interaction. In the A/E/C, marketing, and graphic design industries, I interact with multiple project managers, principals, and team members on a daily basis. It’s easy to finish a project and move on to the next one without capturing the value I contributed to the team. So whenever I finish a project and get complimented on my efforts, I take action depending on the source. When these compliments occur in a meeting or on the phone, I ask if they would tell my boss how I’m doing. When the praise is via email, I give the individual a call and ask if I can forward the message to my boss. Recommendations received following direct contact normally contain more information regarding your work ethic, how easy or enjoyable you are to work with, and detailed comments on your specific contributions to the team.

For you, a project may be an event you helped coordinate, an annual report you compiled, or perhaps the grand opening of a new storefront. Whatever the case may be, those are still the best opportunities to gain valuable insight into how your team members view your quality of work.

After Employee Reviews. Annual reviews are another ideal and often missed opportunity to secure recommendations for LinkedIn. Most annual/performance reviews have sections for direct narrative regarding your performance, contributions to the company, and improvements over the year. Whether your direct supervisor, a small group, or your company employs 360 reviews to evaluate your performance, you can garner one or more recommendations for your LinkedIn profile.

After a Promotion. When being promoted, you are likely to work with a new group of people and/or report to a new manager. This is the perfect opportunity to ask your former manager and former team members for a recommendation. They may be willing to expand on your abilities since they no longer manage you or you will no longer influence their career path.

After a Bonus. Much like an employee review and a promotion, a bonus is usually preceded by a justification for the bonus and praise for your work. This is the perfect opportunity to parlay your financial boon into a great recommendation.

When Leaving a Company. This is probably the most common time when people ask their colleagues for recommendations. While it is the most common, it is also the trickiest. There are a few cardinal rules you should follow when asking for a recommendation or reference when leaving a company:
  • Leave on good terms: Give your current employer notice that you are leaving (two weeks is the standard); make sure all your unfinished work has been delegated; offer to train your replacement; give instructions on tasks for which you were primarily responsible; and leave your contact information and offer to answer questions (within reason). Your former employer may have loved you, but if you left the company in a bad position or deleted all your files when you left, they may be disinclined to leave you a good recommendation – LinkedIn or otherwise.
  • Follow the rules: You should avoid putting your former colleagues or managers in a position where they are circumventing HR procedures for references.
  • Make it Timely: If you haven’t asked for a recommendation before, ask for a recommendation during your two-week notice or soon after you’ve left the company. If you wait too long, they may not be willing to give you a recommendation or may not remember enough about your work to be able to recommend you.
LinkedIn is the perfect place to store recommendations, but you should be asking for them frequently – whether they make it to LinkedIn or not. For my next post, I’ll share how I ask for a recommendation for LinkedIn after each of the scenarios listed above and the language I’ve used.

Originally posted on

Vanessa Hahn is the Marketing & Communications Manager for GHD's Innovation Program.

Monday, May 12, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls, Child Brides, and Reflection

On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram took credit for the kidnapping of over 200 school-age girls from the town of Chibok, Nigeria. Women who have escaped Boko Haram’s troops in the past claim that women are sold as wives for leaders, for resources, as servants, and to serve as sex slaves. Boko Haram has threatened to sell the girls kidnapped from Chibok as child brides

Social Media

Since that day in April, I have been following the updates. Disappointingly, more girls have been kidnapped and an entire community was ransacked and people murdered by the same group. I have also watched the social media storm that these events have caused. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls and the resurgence of #RealMenDontBuyGirls have been used by individuals and celebrities around the world to bring attention to the plight of these kidnapped girls. It’s inspiring and has kept this topic on the forefront of the global community – and rightfully so.

In no small part to the constant media attention given to Boko Haram’s actions, Nigeria, prone to an insular mindset in terms of governance, has finally relented and accepted the assistance of foreign military aid. Boko Haram is also showing signs of a willingness to negotiate. I cannot comment on their sincerity, but for the hundreds of mothers and fathers waiting for word about their daughters, some hope is better than none at all.

It was Mother’s Day in the United States on May 11th. I thought about those mothers this weekend and my own child bride story. April and May also marked the birthdays of the two human beings that happily lifted me to that exalted state of motherhood. I officially have two teenage sons – three when including my beloved oldest stepson. The same ages as most of the girls that were kidnapped.

I was a child bride

I can remember the road to this point in my life and in my parenthood, and I can remember each year feeling shock at the milestones that seem to pile up. Was it not just last year that they both reached the “double digits.” I can still remember the impact of the realization that my oldest son turned 10 in 2010, when he looked at me in shock and declared, “Oh my god, mom! You were born in the nineteen hundreds!” It was the first time I felt old.

On the 2nd of May, my eldest turned 14, and very soon, he will be starting high school. I will be the mother of a high school student. It was this milestone that was painful because it reminded me of everything I never got to experience.

I know other parents go through these same growing pains. I am not unique in this regard. They go through the hormones, lessons in hygiene, pimples, and the lectures about responsibility and encouraging their fledging adults to think about the future. What is singularly unique in my experience is that my sons are at the ages when my life completely changed. I started dating my ex husband when I was 13 years old, and I started living with him at 14 as his wife - and called by his last name in our church. Those who have been relayed this part of my biography are usually incredulous, disgusted, scandalized, empathetic, or some mixture of all those emotions.

Living in the United States, it was not legal to be his wife, so we kept it a secret. We had an apartment, and I continued to go to high school until I got pregnant. I wanted to do the things the other girls in school were doing, but I couldn't. I had to answer to a husband who was older than I was and be a wife.

I do not regret a thing that led to the creation of my sons. It’s not practical or healthy to make myself a victim. But I know that what happened to me was and is wrong. There are various religious, personal, and painful reasons why I became his wife, but I won’t go too deeply into those details. The bottom line is that I was not prepared to be a wife at 14 any more than my sons are prepared to be husbands or fathers. Those girls in Nigeria --and everywhere there are child brides and child trafficking-- are not prepared for the adult world of marriage, motherhood, and sex.

While my experience was not violent and I was not sold, there are girls all around the world that are pressured, sold, or forced into marriage (or prostitution) before they are old enough to make the decision for themselves. It has to stop. Children are not commodities. Boko Haram can be blamed for the acts of kidnapping, murder, and the destruction of hundreds of lives, but they could not sell these girls if there was not a market. According to, approximately 14 million girls are married before the age of 18 around the world. It should not happen.

I hope that shining a spotlight on that dark world will help these girls. If more are saved before they are sold into marriage or sexual slavery because of world intervention, then it will have been worth it. Even those that mock the social media efforts are keeping the cause alive.

Please visit for more information on the active efforts to stop child brides and what you can do to help. We can’t all go in with guns blazing to stop a kidnapping, but we can make our voices heard and support legislation to stop child bride marriages and penalize those who are currently in them.