Eons ago, way back when I was working retail in my days of college classes and trying to pay for said classes, I worked in retail. It's not an easy gig, but most stores give a pretty awesome discount that takes away some of the pain of being on your feet all day. I had no problem taking advantage of the discount. I like clothes. They wanted me to buy clothes. I "needed" these clothes for work - you know, advertising the product and all that.
Fast forward a few years and I'm older, perhaps a bit wiser and now working full time in office jobs, most of which don't come with perks like employee discounts on the product, unless you work for a company that sells consumer products or services.
One such job was with a business that provided services that came at a price. Employees weren't offered discounts, but there was a convenience factor to using our employer's services. I was there for over two years and after the first year I started to think about possibly taking advantage of their services. But I couldn't do it. Every time I thought about doing it, I would literally feel sick to my stomach. Clearly, my comfort level with handing over the required personal information was non-existent.
In the end, I realized that I would never be comfortable using or purchasing an employer's services or products unless the context was similar to retail. Perhaps it's because I'm part of the generation where workers are becoming more transient, but all I could imagine was what would happen if the relationship ended? What if I got laid off? What if I decided I didn't want to work there anymore? Then I have a permanent souvenir of my failed employment. If that doesn't make sense, here's an example of what I mean:
Imagine yourself to be an employee of a hotel - a really nice, swanky hotel. Like most hotels, they have facilities for weddings and other events. You, as a long-time employee, are given a generous discount if you choose to utilize their services. So, when you get engaged, you march right over to your colleagues' office in event planning, show off the engagement ring and book the date. Everything goes perfectly. Then the hotel goes through a re-org and your boss saves his/her own job by sacrificing yours. You feel betrayed, lost and you wonder how you will ever look at the 300 billion wedding pictures again without wanting to scream (or cry).
Okay, so it's extreme. And if you work in the hospitality industry you can probably tell I never have because maybe hospitality employees can't get a discount on events. But you get the idea, right?
I'm very protective of my personal privacy, though I really love to connect to co-workers on a personal level. I just don't want the organization I work for to be intertwined in or know about my personal life in anything more than a superficial way. I realized that this was where my comfort level is and my personal policy is that I don't buy/use my employers' products/services. What about the information that's out there on Internet? How much do you say about work if you're on Facebook? Twitter? Blogging?
When I started blogging it was really easy for me to decide how to deal with my professional life online.
I don't mention who I work for, what industry I work in, the type of job I do (other than in very general terms) or any specific work-related information. For example, my Facebook profile is locked down, completely private and no one but my friends (and whoever hacks into their accounts) can see what I post. When a friend of mine mentioned the name of my employer once, I deleted the comment. I'm not comfortable putting any of that out there. I don't want my personal web presence to be scrutinized by my employer and found less than desirable.
There are stories all the time now about people who can't get job, lose jobs or get reprimanded for little tidbits that their employer picks up about them on the web. What that says to me is that they weren't being very discriminating in how they use the Internet, but that's a whole different post.
What about you? Do you keep your personal web activities separate and distinct from professional ones? Or is the line blurred? Do you have a line at all?