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Friday, July 30, 2021

Column: Blogging to a career

“What’s the best thing a student can do to get the job of their dreams?”

I heard journalist Ellen Ratner answering this question last summer in Washington, D.C., and her response surprised me.

“Start a blog.”

Really? I had expected her to say that you have to get perfect grades, craft an impressive resume or have an uncle who happens to be an executive at a Fortune 500 company.

For students today, the entire Internet is available for professional development, in the form of job search engines and countless tips on resumes and interviewing. But there’s a tool that few students know about: blogging for career development.

The Web makes it easy for anyone to contribute to the ever-expanding blogosphere. Your technology-challenged mom or 80-year-old grandmother can start publishing in minutes with websites like Blogspot and WordPress. There are blogs on almost any topic imaginable (celebrities’ pets, haikus about beer, cheese, etc.) and people who read them.

Of course, it’s not as simple as having just any blog. Ratner recommends that students find a niche within their field of interest.

“Figure out a specific focus and be an expert in it,” she said.

Whatever it is that you’re passionate about, be it fashion, politics, or sustainability, pick a narrow topic and talk about it from a student perspective (e.g. fashion trends for a college budget, budget cuts to UCs or environmentally conscious eating for students). Claim something as your own and be the source for it.

Using a blog to get jobs, make connections and showcase your skills is a new and underused strategy. The main benefit of a student blog is creating exposure by self-publishing. Essentially, you’re building a form of your resume online.

Blogging can also potentially benefit your actual resume. It’s hard to show your passion about something if you haven’t had a related internship. But your blog can demonstrate your enthusiasm and dedication for a particular subject or industry.

For visual media majors and writers, a blog as an online portfolio is especially valuable. Nicki Sun, who graduated last year with a degree in communication, uses her blog to showcase her work to attract future opportunities. An aspiring entertainment reporter/host, Sun says that her blog helped her land her current job at a music TV channel.

One way to generate content for your own blog is to keep an eye on industry news and developments. If you’re passionate about the field, chances are you already keep up with the industry news – you just have to provide the commentary.

My friend Chris Tung, a techie and “a huge comic book nerd,” has a blog about writing his own comic books and interning at Marvel. The blog helped him get a writing gig for a tech blog, testing out new gadgets and reviewing them. He’s gotten to do some really cool things, like attend industry conventions in New York. Not to mention, he now has an impressive portfolio of published articles.

You can also interview industry professionals for content. Many people are willing to help out students. Identify people who are doing interesting things at companies that you admire. Either by LinkedIn or e-mail, send a polite request for a brief interview. This is a valuable networking tool and blogging can be an infinite source of new contacts.

Another benefit of blogging is that it’s a great way to get your name out there. Ken Barnes, a career adviser at the Internship & Career Center, recommends starting a blog early in your academic career so that by the time you graduate, you can already have a foot in the door with an established blog. But it’s not too late for you, seniors – I just started mine two weeks ago.

Maximize the potential of your blog and send links to friends and family. Find related blogs you enjoy and link to them. You might get linked back, attracting more clicks and readers.

Stefanie Lau, who graduated in 2005, currently works at Google and writes an informative blog called “Awesome and Unemployed.” She also advises that students pick an interesting topic and just start writing about it.

“See what comes out of it … Just make sure it’s beneficial for people in some way,” she said.

Lau also suggested using tools like Google Analytics to track traffic to websites.

“Traffic can tell you if the content is resonating with people or not, and you can adjust your future posts accordingly.”

Lastly, remember to proofread and have someone else edit your posts before publication. Great content can be easily be masked by unprofessional writing. It also wouldn’t hurt to enlist the help of a friend who’s got an eye for design to help you with the layout or create a logo for your new, awesome, professional blog.

Start your blog and check out mine at careertalkwithjen.wordpress.com.

JENNIFER KIM hopes that her mom isn’t the only person reading her blog. Send links of your blogs to jsnkim@ucdavis.edu.

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