Atheist Activism and Job Hunting
Let’s face it, if you put something online you should be okay with your mother, your boss and any potential lovers coming across it. This also includes hiring managers and recruiters. They will search Google and Facebook for information about potential employees. For those of us that are activists for causes that might not be considered mainstream, problems can crop up. I am an atheist activist. I have protested against violations of church and state. I advocate for marriage equality and the rights of sex workers. I also happen to work in the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits are often started or run by religious people.
When you Google my name in quotes, a couple of things are instantly obvious: 1. I am a black woman and 2. I am an atheist. Both of these can be used against me in the hiring process. I have an anecdote regarding that later on.
In one fell swoop, my life is laid out before anyone that happens upon my page. Most of these things could bias someone against me for hiring purposes. We’ve all seen the surveys rating trust of atheists at about the same level as rapists. Also the ones where people don’t feel comfortable voting for atheists. The PDF report that I linked to found that people are more likely to hire someone for a job that requires higher levels of trust if the applicants appear religious. Atheists, though, would be more likely, according to the study, to be hired for jobs that require a lower level of trust. Not cool.
The second link when you Google my name leads to the blog where I am a contributor and it describes me as, “an ex-Jehovah’s Witness with a focus on Black atheism, humanism, and sex-positive dialogue”.
The third link is to an article I was featured in “4 Hardworking Atheists You Will Love“.
Underneath these links there are several pictures of me: black and female.
Google goes on and on like that for pages. I’ve never had a hard time getting interviews and have never been between jobs for very long until recently. My husband and I want a change. He might be up for a job with a salary increase in North Carolina in April so I’ve started applying there. Also, in case that doesn’t happen, I’ve been applying other places, (warm places) like in Las Vegas, California, Arizona, etc. For the first time I can remember, I haven’t gotten any call backs. Of course, I have considered that I haven’t been a good fit for these positions or I’m not what they are looking for; but I have several years of nonprofit experience and I have a masters degree so I know at the very least I look good on paper.
My husband feels I have damned myself with my online presence. He believes I will have a very difficult time finding work outside of the atheist community and he might be right. This concerns me. Ideally, I would love a full-time paid job working to promote humanism or church/state separation. Unfortunately, those jobs are a dime a dozen and highly coveted. I’m a newbie in the atheist community and the people applying for and getting these jobs probably have a more established track record.
I started my current job about 3 months after I began my atheist activism. When I initially applied, I was told by a mutual friend of mine and the person in charge of hiring, that my Facebook page (which was semi-private at the time) showed “atheist” as my religion and she wouldn’t be granting me an interview because of this. (Keep in mind this is hearsay). I tend to believe it’s true because although the organization is not religious in nature, it was founded and is run by a pastor. I ran across a telling poll as I was doing a bit of research for this blog:
Happily most people wouldn’t care, but a solid 1/3 of the respondents stated that they would not hire a vocal atheist!
Fortunately, although I was initially refused an interview, I was highly qualified for the job and was eventually hired by this small nonprofit organization run by a black pastor. The difference between now and a year and a half ago is that my online presence regarding atheism has expanded significantly. I have been the Assistant Vice President of Outreach for the National Atheist Party, I was the State Director of Florida for American Atheists, I co-founded Secular Woman and currently work as the Director of Development & Marketing for Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB). I have written many blogs about my atheism and the atheist community. I’m speaking at several upcoming secular events including the keynote at a freethought conference in September. I am a very open atheist. I assume my current employers haven’t bothered to Google me.
As much as I want to be involved in the atheist community, especially helping to draw out closeted atheists, I need to work to help support our household. I know that in a few years, I’ll help FBB’s fund development get to the point where everyone will be paid full time wages and there will be a brick and mortar building and we can all focus completely on the mission to promote humanism, but until then, most of us have second jobs.
I see a lot of people, after working for one atheist organization go on to another one or they start blogging or picking up speaking gigs or write books to supplement their income. All of that is great, but that’s no guarantee. I blog, but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have the finesse that *real* writers have and I’ll never make a substantia
l income from it. I do it because I enjoy it. I am writing a book, but it’s about being disowned and I don’t have aspirations to write any other books. I’ll speak when invited but I’m not the most charismatic person so that’s not an income I can count on either.
So I wonder, with so much of my life online and with the stigma still there for atheists.. am I hurting my chances for future employment? I am trained in the nonprofit arena and many nonprofits are Christian based. Do I have to choose between my activism and my paid work? Should I include my board positions and paid work within the atheist community on my resume?
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