This summer I posted about Sun Microsystems, their encouragement of employee blogging, and about their blogging policy; Sun is clearly a forward-thinker in this regard and I think they’re policy is sound and should be imitated. I posted about them both before and after a hail of news stories from all directions about bloggers who had been fired for what they had written on their blogs. In an attempt to stymie all this interest in the downsides of keeping a blog, Sun employee Tim Bray has written ten reasons why blogging is good for your career.
1. You have to get noticed to get promoted.
I will certainly not disagree with this statement; however, I fail to see how it has any relationship to blogging. If you are depending on your employer discovering you and your ideas through random Google searches, that promotion might be a long time coming.
2. You have to get noticed to get hired.
I agree here too. Again, the relationship between blogging and getting a job is somewhat tenuous. If you’re like me and put your blog on your CV, you’re forging that relationship as best you can. I think owning webspace and using it for learning and communicating purposes is a good thing and something you should highlight if you do it, but again, if you’re depending on your blog to get someone to offer you a job, I hope you have a fat trust fund to sit on.
3. It really impresses people when you say “Oh, I’ve written about that, just google for XXX and I’m on the top page” or “Oh, just google my name.”
It does? I would suggest that bragging about your Google rank instead of engaging a person in conversation is the opposite of impressive. If someone starts in on a topic you’ve written about on your blog, that means you’re entering into territory you’ve considered and have ideas about; rather than directing people to google you, which is such a smarmy-ass thing to do, why not just relate your ideas? If they’re good ideas, and you can discuss them with intelligence and thoughtfulness, that would be far more impressive than merely brushing someone off and sending them to Google.
Personally, I never ask anyone to google me, or even to read my blog. Not that I discourage it, but my workplace and professional communication doesn’t hinge it. People are busy. I don’t expect anyone to keep up with my long rants and random digressions. My blog is no secret, but relying on an audience is never a great idea. In terms of the workplace, no one should need to read your blog to know what you think. Be more proactive than that. Open up your mouth.
4. No matter how great you are, your career depends on communicating. The way to get better at anything, including communication, is by practicing. Blogging is good pracice.
What blogging is not: talking, giving a presentation, or sitting in on a meeting and offering opinions. Blogging is, at its best, writing. If you write long dissertations on your subjects of interest, that is certainly good practice at both constructing an argument or an idea and at writing. So on that score I agree. Writing well is an incredibly important skill. But is blogging practice in professional or even personal communication? Not so much.
Bloggers are better-informed than non-bloggers. Knowing more is a career advantage.
I honestly fail to see why bloggers would be better informed. Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you read anything substantial (and Michael Gorman obviously believes it means that we don’t!). Having a blog doesn’t mean you have an RSS reader, or a subscription to the New York Times. Some bloggers are link hounds, constantly scouring the net for things to post about, and some people just like to write about issues (including the status of their houseplants, the length of their toenails, or the policies of the ALA). While these two elements are common among bloggers, they are often not found in the same blog. But that doesn’t mean that non-bloggers do neither of these things. Some of the best-informed people I know are non-bloggers. Just because they don’t keep a blog doesn’t mean they don’t read the paper, or follow their profession, communicate ideas in the workplace, or live an unexamined life.
Being “better informed” is a misleading description; better informed about what? Bloggers are often creatures of the internet, but they may not be on top of all the right issues in terms of the workplace. There is nothing inherent in the process of keeping a weblog that would make a person more or less informed than their peers.
6. Knowing more means you’re more likely to hear about interesting jobs coming open.
What I think is most interesting about this list of 10 reasons is how it constructs the idea of knowledge and its relationship to the internet. Obviously I’m a big fan of the net and all things associated with it, but come on. Just because you know how to post to your blog doesn’t mean that your mind is at one with Matrix. Why would a blogger be any more likely to scan the job post boards or the careers section of the paper? I know the girl who posts the jobs to the job board at the library school where I just graduated; she doesn’t have a blog, but she’s way more in the know about interesting jobs than I am.
7. Networking is good for your career. Blogging is a good way to meet people.
Networking is a great thing. But just posting links or even posting ideas to the internet on your own personal blog is not a good way to meet people. Interacting with others by reading their blogs and leaving comments, sending email about their ideas, striking up conversations over IM, joining a listserv and participating in conversations, getting involved in a wider community; those are good ways to meet people online, and none of them are dependent on you having a blog of your own. Communicating is not just setting up a soap box.
8. If you’re an engineer, blogging puts you in intimate contact with a worse-is-better 80/20 success story. Understanding this mode of technology adoption can only help you.
I’m not an engineer, and I’m not sure what this “worse-is-better” idea is about. But I agree that understanding web applications and trying them out is only a good idea.
9. If you’re in marketing, you’ll need to understand how its rules are changing as a result of the current whirlwind, which nobody does, but bloggers are at least somewhat less baffled.
I’m not sure that this follows at all either. I don’t know anything about marketing, but I read an article in the paper a couple of weeks ago about how product placement in films and tv shows is becoming more important than commercials. This morning I drank an entire pot of President’s Choiceâ„¢ English Breakfast tea. Does that count?
10. It’s a lot harder to fire someone who has a public voice, because it will be noticed.
Everyone has a public voice. People still get fired every day. I’m not sure a blog is any kind of protection against getting fired, but it might help you get embroiled in a very public law suit if you try to use your public voice to discredit your employer.
I actually do think blogging can good for your career, but not for these reasons.
Ten Reasons why Blogging Might be Good for You (and possibly for your Career):
1. Keeping a blog means you generally end up learning a little HTML, a little CSS, a little web design, and a little about web interactivity (i.e. comments, RSS, etc.). These are good things to know, and might come in handy.
2. Writing is a good skill. Blogs are generally text, and any bit of practice writing is a good thing for you professionally as well as personally.
3. Keeping a blog might make you more likely to read blogs or keep up with what’s new via the internet. This may or may not prompt you to think about things you would not have thought about otherwise. Even a slight chance of prompting new thinking is a good thing.
4. Blogging can help you sort out your ideas, build on them, and come up with new ones. This is also true of keeping a paper journal. However, if anyone happens to have read your blog and given you some feedback, your ideas might have been honed and changed in the process.
5. You can put a well-designed, well-constructed blog on your resume.
6. Your supervisor, potential employer, instructor, or other important person might one day come across your blog, read a few posts, and think that you are an interesting/intelligent person who deserves more attention/money. Or they think you need to work on your spelling. Or that you should break up with your girlfriend.
7. Having a blog and using your real name means that you will have a least one real result on Google when someone searches for your name. It may never be the first option, particularly if your name is John Smith or something similarly common.
8. Blogging software is just content management software; understanding ways to manage information may come in handy professionally. Or not.
9. You’ll always have an archive of ideas at your fingertips. That is, if you consistently blog about your ideas.
10. Your exes can follow your life from a distance without calling you in a drunken stupor to find out what you’re up to.