There’s a lot of good information out there for job hunters and people who want to advance in their careers. But there’s also a lot of crap.
I don’t mind either kind if it comes from an honest place. By honest I mean the career source providing the information is doing it because they want to inform you and not because a company pays them money to promote a certain product or service.
Recently, I’ve noticed a growing number of so-called career experts who are actually paid spokespeople. These experts are touting the companies that pay them in blogs, and as sources in news stories for major publications, but not readily disclosing who’s bankrolling them. I’m telling you this because it’s always a good idea to think about what might be motivating the advice you hear.
This isn’t just a career advice problem. Recently it came to light that the Corn Refiners Association was paying mommy bloggers to promote high fructose corn syrup. It’s unclear how many of those mommies disclosed this, but it sheds light on a growing problem with blogs out there.
Even the Federal Trade Commission was prompted to provide new guidelines for bloggers and endorsements because of the unsavory trend:
“…the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”
I have no problem if a source discloses their affiliations. That way a reader can figure out for themselves how seriously they want to take someone’s advice.
A particular situation I’ve seen first hand several times has to do with an online university and career experts, who I have chosen not to name here.
In an email from a public relations agency, I was offered an interview with these career experts, and a free video of the interview would be given to me for my blog. It sounded like an interesting offer, but I immediately wondered why they’d be so generous. In sample comments from the expert the PR firm sent me with the offer, there were recommendations to attend an online university in order to stick out in the job market:
“Once you’ve chosen your field of specialization, you can become an expert by getting a second or advanced degree. Schools like X University…”
X University, it turns out, is the school paying for the video. And, it turns out, paying the career expert.
The expert, the PR firm told me after I asked, is a consultant for the online university.
So, the video interview is essentially a commercial.
Look, we all have to pay our bills. I include ads on my site all the time. But the bottom line is we need more blog transparency so people aren’t duped into taking advice that may be tainted.
And all of you should scrutinize everything you read online, even this blog; and even be a bit dubious of the Twitter tweets and Facebook recommendations you read. You owe it to yourself.