How to blog your way to your first (or next) job

Nikki ParkinsonLife 39 Comments

At the risk of sounding like someone’s grandma, I’m going to lay an … “in my day … ” on you.

The reason?

I was asked to speak to second year journalism students at Brisbane’s Queensland University of Technology this week about how to best use a blog to kick-start your career.

Which, when I thought about it, was TOTES HILAR for a number of reasons.

1. Most of the people in the lecture theatre were young enough to be my children.

2. A fair percentage of them took notes on their Apple Mac Air notebook computers. This is the Apple computer we had at home (to share among five) when I was at uni.

The Apple 2c ... yes we thought we were the shiz

The Apple 2c … yes we thought we were the shiz

3. They were enrolled in a subject called Online Journalism.

In my day ... we studied print, radio, TV … straight up. None of this “on the line” malarkey.

If someone had told me 25 years ago I’d be an independent publisher, writing about whatever I like, whenever I liked. And that it would be read by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, I would have told them to stop drinking so much goon* … I was unlikely ever to become a Packer or a Murdoch because I was more interested in my next Country Road purchase.

But strangely that what’s happened. While I’m no Packer or Murdoch, I have become an independent publisher. I write what I like, when I like and it’s read by an ever-increasing audience.

And that dear Stylers, is the power of blogging.

So, how does that apply to today’s journalism students?

To put it simply, students have the power to be their own marketing managers. Their personal blog can be the “brand” they want to put out to the potential job market. It can give them an edge on another student, even when applying for internships.

In my day … potential employers only had my type-written CV, some clippings of published work and an interview to go by. Today, employers can – and are – Googling you long before they’ve invited you into their offices to ask about where you see yourself in five years.

And in that Googling, what are employers going to find out about you? Will they be impressed by your “voice”, your passion for fashion photography, cooking, your love of a good rant or will the just find a random Tweet about your disdain for a telco company.

And if you’re long past student age or inclination, then this is worth thinking about too. You don’t really know who’s reading your blog, Tweets or Facebook updates. Opportunities – freelance writing gigs, sponsorships, book deals – present themselves every time you make an electronic communication.

… and that would never have happened in my day.

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I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from current students and recent graduates:

My blog was more of a support system rather than the driving tool (to getting a job). People visited my blog to see my writing and my online portfolio. www.shitika.wordpress.com

Always be true to yourself, let your blog reflect your personality. Don’t create an online persona because at the end of the day, who you are in reality is who is going to get you the job. www.katesinmelbourne.com

It (my blog)already has helped a lot with getting internships at an American company and now at channel V. www.poptrashaddicts.blogspot.com

Create a blog about something that interests you to give you some experience in writing for a medium that is not solely news based. www.freshoptimism.blogspot.com

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple of technology related blog posts I wrote get picked up by the Australian tech news publication Delimiter. www.matthewhatton.id.au

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Are you a current student or recent graduate? Has your blog helped you get a foot in the door for your future career? Are you long graduated? Has your blog opened up new career paths you couldn’t have thought up no matter how much goon* you had consumed in your uni years?

*goon is an affectionate name we attached to wine that came in a large, shiny, silver bag. The bag was encased by cardboard, which we removed before entering the uni bar, stashing the goon bag in our handbag. The contents of said shiny silver goon bag were then mixed with ginger ale bought at the bar for less than a $1 to create a cocktail only a poor uni student could drink, let alone love.
 

Comments 39

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  1. Things have changed so much over the last decade haven’t they! When I started my Masters in Journalism (almost a decade ago) there was NO lectures on online journalism, we all wanted to be in print, or on TV reading the weather…..

    carry on almost 10 years and I am now FINISHING my masters degree and my thesis is all about fashion blogging! In fact, half the word count of my final paper IS my blog!! Hopefully this will be something that I can actually make a living off in years to come….who wouldda thunk it?!

    PS. Go Carly!!! Loving that someone else in the blogosphere is using their love of blogging to get them a degree too x

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      1. PS – I’ve got a call back (face to face) interview next week following on from a phone interview – would love your advice on how to look professional in the subtropics

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  2. I have the same thoughts about communication and media studies Nikki. I graduated my PR and Journalism degree just a few years ago (2007) and even then I remember doing one class that was writing a website and blog posts on PR. Even then online was new and strange, nothing we took seriously. Facebook was still new and twitter wasn’t around.

    It’s strange how quickly technology changes and improves and ultimately changes the way we live, work, what we study and what defines us.

    Working in the marketing/pr field at the moment these kind of discussions always get me motivated to be a better practitioner and continue to follow my dream.

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  3. Its a sign of the times… I’ve recently applied for a job (and I’m way past being a school-leaver!) and I included my blog address as a reference to one of the questions. Hadn’t really thought about it until I read your post, just seemed natural to direct them to the blog to give them more insight into what I do and how I do it.

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  4. I am a student, but it hasn’t launched anything for me for uni. I have a full time day job, which is a great job, but my blog has launched my dream job of becoming a writer. It started with submitting some blog posts to the Victorian state government website DiVine and then I became a paid writer for them. ABC have asked me to write for them, and other bloggers and websites. Mia Freedmand published me. nd last year I won a Yooralla Media Award for best online commentary for my freelance writing. And I am a TV presenter. All because of my blog.

    My blog is also the subject of my Masters thesis – blogging and chronic illness.

    Blogging is the best way to promote yourself, I think.

    Great post Nikki 🙂

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      Totally agree, Carly, not only have you been able to promote yourself with your blog but you’ve been able to create awareness of young people living with disabilities. A credit to you and your writing!

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  5. Great post Nikki! Wish I was back at school – I loved school.

    My blog started as a way of showcasing who I am and what I love.
    It has given me the confidence to start my own business in Virtual Assistance and my clients are people who knew me through my blog!
    Also got my first freelance writing job a few months ago (which I will reveal soon!)
    Love the opportunities it has brought to me and will continue to work towards many more, anything is possible!

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  6. Great post, Nikki. The world of blogging has opened up so many opportunities for people.
    As you know, writing a blog has helped me start my own little biz! And thanks to my personal blog, it’s growing rather quickly.
    And that computer? Oh, the memories… 🙂

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  7. Gees, I feel OLD!! I remember actually hand writing some of my uni assignments – when extracurricular activities got in the way of going home to use the apple computer!

    And that goon technique happened over the border in nsw too 🙂 I saw someone with a cask of Stanley wine near us in a park recently and stopped my husband to say look! There’s Stan! We haven’t seen our old friend Stan in years!

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  8. Great post! I think that it is great that you are invited to lecture students on blogging and self-driven marketing.

    I remember too growing up with a Apple IIc. I even took it to uni with me in first year… and was unique in that I had a computer in my room on campus with a printer. Now I think it would be more the exception for someone not to have a computer and internet connection.

    In the last 20 years the world has changed dramatically … and blogs are just part of this new change. It is nice to stop for a few moments and reflect on how things have changed … and more importantly where they might be going.

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      So true, Bronwyn. Changes are happening so quickly. And in my first year of Uni, I lived on campus. Was amazed when a US exchange student arrived with an Apple Macintosh – and printer – for her room!

  9. So very true Nikki! I wish blogs had been around back when I was at uni, as I’m sure I would have spent a lot more time working on my writing. Today’s uni students have so many more options and ways to put themselves “out there”. Oh, how much has changed in 10 years!

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  10. Wine and ginger ale – wow. I thought I knew it all when it comes to rank, cheap drinks. Apparently I don’t!

    Great post, as usual Nikki. I love how varied your posts are, you know a lot of different things and bring them all together beautifully in this here blog of yours.

    The other week I had a MASS fight with Dave about money so I went online and applied for two jobs at 1am. Feeling bold, I just wrote a snappy one-page resume and included my blog URL. They both called me, am in negotiations. Even after I wrote about crapping my pants!

    Heh. XOX

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      I have many hidden talents, don’t I, Eden? Cheap “cocktails” being one of them. LOL.
      And, go you .. love that your resume included your blog URL. Go the negotiations. Hope you have me as a reference 😉

  11. As a techie, I’ve come at this from the opposite side. I run a website (well, actually a few now) as a way of giving back to the community from which I learned so much as a student – it seems only right to write up what I have learned, so that others can benefit from the results.

    That resulted in being asked to write a book on the subject, and the website is a natural place to mention the book, so it all comes full-circle. It’s not an artificially created setup, these are all just ways of expressing my passion for the subject, and so they naturally feed on each other.

    Doing the book has lead to other things, like a facebook account, using wordpress a bit, and considering twitter too, but fundamentally, I feel that it’s all about credibility. I’ve got my existing websites because I care about sharing the knowledge, not about publicising myself. The book makes me less money than the website, but that is a good way of sharing more information in more detail than the web allows for, and I’m sure that it’s also good to have on my CV

    Steve Parker
    http://steve-parker.org/sh/sh.shtml

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      Love your story. And you make an important point that I probably didn’t get across in my post clearly. It’s not about blatantly using a blog or web space to get a job – or a new opportunity – it’s about writing and sharing information that showcases your knowledge and your skills. You don’t know who’s reading it and how that will ultimately play out with your career.

  12. You know how I feel about all this! I do teach Online Journalism, and I do teach all my students in every subject that a blog is the best thing they can do for their journalism careers. Employers expect a student to have been published somewhere by the time they’ve graduated, and a blog can be an excellent body of work in which to show off your talent. You really don’t know who is reading, and where that can lead you. Blog on!

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  13. Look at you, lecturing students! Well done, what an honour!

    I know what you mean about your blog being an extension of you and your personality. I’ve been job hunting the last few months and its made me a little more cautious, knowing that potential employees would stumble across it (not that I am actually even controversial but you know what I mean). And now I have some unexpected pocket money to play with thanks to my Sealy Australia win, one of the first things I am orchestrating is much longed for proper blog makeover so I feel more like I belong in the blogging realm and with the hope if I look the part it could lead to bigger and better opportunities.

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  14. When I was studying journalism I was still using a typewriter to do my news stories. It seems like a lifetime ago now.

    Anyway, writing a blog has helped me re-enter the workforce after a very long career break when I had my children. Recently, I signed a nice contract to provide ongoing editorial support for a large corporate firm. Having an online presence has certainly allowed me to keep my hand in the game.

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      Haha, my first job as a journo had me filing stories typed on copy paper! Took more than a year for computer system to arrive.

      And great work on your new job – love hearing these blogging stories.

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