“Promote Yourself Well, Or Fail”

Here’s an excellent posting from a U of Florida journalism professor, Mindy McAdams. She pushes her students — future journalists — to create a professional online presence via a blog, social media like del.icio.us, and other online tools like an RSS reader. If you don’t, she argues,  you’re at a severe competitive disadvantage in the job market. Please read it. I think she makes good points, and I’m curious to hear what you think.

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19 responses to ““Promote Yourself Well, Or Fail”

  1. I agree with Mindy that our generation needs to open our imaginations and use the mediums available to us in order to promote our work. I didn’t know that employers are now looking for an online presence when interviewing potential candidates, so this information was extremely helpful to me.
    I also took a look at Ron Sylvesters ideas that Mindy provided us with a link to. I agreed with Dan Gillmor’s statement that sometimes journalists are “squeamish” about making their work public. I personally have a hard time writing a piece that are going to be published. I’ve always been very nervous about what other people will think of my work and how they will perceive me as a writer. So I guess I could never imagine making my own blog because first, I wouldn’t know what to say or where to start. Secondly, I would be nervous about reading the comments others have to say. I know I need to get rid of those emotions. I also need to accept that everything I write is not going to be great and could potentially rub some people the wrong way. And who knows, in the long run blogging could probably help me with my little stage fright problem.

  2. Mindy’s post was very eye-opening for me. I didn’t realize that when I go out and look for a job, my potential employers will be googling my name. I agree with Elizabeth that I would have a hard time with making a blog for the sole reason of not knowing what to write about. I wouldn’t want to appear trivial or contriving in a blog that will shape my potential employer’s views of me, nor would I want to appear to be trying to hard to say what I think they would want to hear. For that reason, I would be hesitant to begin a blog. However, I see a definite upside in that a blog would be another medium outside of an interview or cover letter to show potential employers the type of person you are, your views on current issues and your style of writing.

  3. Honestly, I am in a way taken aback by this article. Although I am aware of the increasing influence of the Internet and of blogs, I was completely unaware that it was something that employers are looking for. I think part of my shock is that as a senior in college only two of my required journalism classes have dealt at all with the Internet. The only class that has dealt with blogging is the editing class that I am in now. If there is such importance on the issue of online experience in journalists then why are we not being taught about it in school?

    Personally, I would have no idea where to begin with a blog. The whole idea seems intimidating to me. As Dan Gilmore says it is hard to put your work out there to be commented on by hundreds of people. It is especially hard because blog entries have not gone through the editing process that most papers and articles go through. It is raw writing and it is out there for the world to see. Who wouldn’t be intimidated?

  4. Web publishing is quickly becoming a major segment of journalism, so online experience is a must for new hires in the industry.

    I went on the trip to New York last spring to tour magazines, and MANY of the editors we met talked about the importance of the Internet. Not only when applying for jobs (Google search results, personal Web pages, content of blogs, etc.), but also if/when you get a job. Some of the magazines had staffs dedicated specifically to the Web. But others had writers/editors for print also working on online content. No matter what medium you plan on working with, you need to be prepared to work on online extensions for your stories.

    Blogging is a great way for students to get into the mindset of Web publishing: writing in brief and making content interactive. Plus, it demonstrates that you’re well-rounded enough to hire.

  5. It’s true that I spend a lot of time (too much time?) online, but the thought of having to maintain so many profiles and becoming a “personal branding machine” exhausts me. I can understand where McAdams is coming from. These tools can be meaningful ways to interact online, but they can also be superficial and content just for contents sake. All the journalists twittering at the conventions was so overwhelming that I gave up immediately.

    I have a personal blog and a Twitter account, but no “professional” blog or presence online. I’m on a kick where I like my privacy online, so I try not to have my name attached to things or privacy setting as high as they can go whenever possible. If I do create more profiles or accounts, I want them to be substantive, so I won’t be signing up for everything available.

  6. I have the same trepidation as Elizabeth when it comes to putting my work on display for all to see. However, one of the ways I’ve begun to overcome my nerves is by writing things I know will rouse people. Even if animosity is directed at me, perhaps the conversation it sparks will help people gain a new understanding of the topic raised. That being said, there is a difference between being inflammatory and controversial.

    I think everyone looking for a job (or looking to keep one) in news needs to have a personal blog outside of deadlines. It’s a great starting ground for ideas you can use in your paying job. It also functions as an outlet for ideas that you can’t write about otherwise.

    At first, it was somewhat shocking to discover a blog is a viable item an employer looks at when hiring. However, a blog is an excellent way for an interviewer to find out how the writer handles criticism. This is important, as how a potential employee can have a huge impact on the newsroom dynamic.

  7. It’s interesting that blogging is something that is not only familiar with our generation but also a foreign concept to many not only in our generation but others as well. We grew up with Xanga, Myspace, Facebook and even LiveJournal (anybody have one of those?!) and we blogged on those sites, now we’re asked to blog as professionals, as journalists. I think it’s easy to get lost in the chaos of everything that is the internet and lose sight of the fact that we need to make a name for ourselves and put ourselves and our work out in the open in order to get the best job possible.

    Elizabeth makes a good point in that there is this idea of being vulnerable that I think we all harbor somewhere inside of us and being online and having our own blog makes us open to criticism from outsiders. As we grow as journalists and professionals of a craft that we eventually cultivate, I think we will be able to take judgement and criticism in stride and use it to make us better. In the long run, blogging seems like something that we need to learn and something that is interesting and in many ways innovative.

  8. Okay, mother. I know, I know. I need a blog. I need a Web site with clips. I’m just an old dog, and you know what they say about old dogs.

    Truth be told, I have a blog. I’ve been a blogger since April 2007, says my blog thingy. However, and this is a big however, I have only written one post. And then I never posted it. I have a commitment issue. I can’t find the strength to commit to regular posting like I can’t commit to exercise or giving up chocolate. It’s a curse.

    So, where do I go from here? (I’m not even going to reference the song ’cause no one in the class is old enough to get it.) As I am schlepping through what I hope is my senior year (?), I…well, I…I am setting a goal for myself, literally right now in front of all 14 or so of you, to set a schedule for blog posting and follow through. Cripes. I am sweating profusely just thinking about it. Considering my commitment phobia it’s amazing that I’ve been married for 10 years . To the same guy.

    To make it even more real, here’s my blog address.

    http://iamredwriter.blogspot.com/

    Now, don’t rush right over there. I haven’t gone live yet. Patience. people.

    So. The point that you can take away from this is: if I can do it, we all can do it. We are writers and to make it in this field, no matter what your definition of “making it” is, we must embrace the technology. Sooner rather than later.

    Yeah. Still sweating.

  9. I agree with Elizabeth’s fears about blogging and posting writing on the web. Blogging especially scares me because I, too, am afraid of what people might think of it. Based on what Mindy says and tips I’ve read from others in the writing world, a web presence is important. I guess I’ve just focused my attention on expanding my portfolio in a professional setting rather than online. And isn’t this still the most important method of building a portfolio?

    I am beginning to consider that a website in my name with information about myself and clips of my work might be useful, but is blogging also critical?

  10. This article really opened my eyes to another idea of how to make yourself stand out. It’s a scary thought thinking about how many people are going to be competing for the same job as me, but the thought of promoting myself through a blog gives me hope that I can make myself stand out among the other competitors for the job.

    Last year, I randomly ‘googled’ my name and came up with a frightening sight. Someone had decided to quote me on an online Times Delphic article about tattoos and how I had gotten two at a tattoo parlor in Des Moines. This information was totally false, and it scared me that a potential employer could see this and eliminate me from the list of job candidates. I got it removed, but ever since then, I have become more aware of how I could be perceived negatively. However, blogs could turn this around and make one stand out in a positive way.

    I agree with Elizabeth about the fear and vulnerability that comes with putting your writing out there for the world to see. Even these comments are tough for me- just the mere thought of my own blog terrifies me! But like Elizabeth said, I need to get over these emotions and learn to promote myself well in order to stand out (in a positive way!)

  11. Brigitte M. Haugen

    First of all, I think the word “blog” sounds gross. It sounds like a booger or something large and horrifying that just crawled out of the sewage pond with algae draping and dripping off of it. And “blogging” sounds like a traditional British beating or hazing. I don’t know why, it just does.
    Since their introduction to the net, I’ve been weary of blogs, especially video blogs, because everyone seems to be trying to get their 15-minutes of fame. I’ve accidentally come across many video blogs on YouTube and it just makes my blood boil to see how catty, dramatic, and cruel these people can be. Most sound very uneducated in their plights, and I am fearful of sounding just like them.
    I understand Professor McAdams’ “wake-up call” to us journalists, but for some reason, I am still not completely sold. Even if I were to start a blog, I feel like it could be the end of me, no matter what I wrote about or how good the grammar was. If an employer saw it, I think they would judge me more harshly.
    I would be interested in at least trying to start a blog, seeing as it is now journalism must and seems to have worked for others in the past. Although I am still somewhat afraid of my own writing, I feel I could take a leap of faith.

  12. Heather, you make me laugh. But more than that, you got me thinking. You have a delightful, engaging writing voice. What a great opportunity a blog would be to showcase that personality. That’s a good lesson for us all.

    Molly, you raise a good point: Why isn’t there more emphasis in the curriculum on writing for online? One answer: The industry’s demands are changing at lightning speed. This premium on an online presence didn’t exist even a few years ago when you started school. We scramble to update the curriculum each year — each semester, even. But we will never be “caught up.” Even the industry doesn’t know where it’s headed or what it wants from college grads. Certainly, though, we can and should do better.

    The biggest hurdle to blogging is getting started. Technically, it’s not that difficult. But writing the first post is daunting, even intimidating (see Heather, above). Obviously, we shouldn’t blog just to blog. Mindless content is worse than no content. We need to say something of substance. But as writers, we shouldn’t find that hard, should we? Heck — writing is our passion! If we’re serious about pursuing this as our living, we shouldn’t lack for something to say. Blog about the stuff you’re passionate about! Once you start, others join the conversation, and suddenly you’re off and running.

    Several of you raise legitimate worries about privacy and about what employers will learn about you online. I can guarantee you that employers will, at a minimum, Google you and check you out on Facebook and MySpace. Be careful about your privacy. Google yourself regularly. Be smart about what’s on Facebook. Think of Facebook as living in a glass house. If you blog, be professional about it. (You can always keep a private, password-protected blog “for fun.”)

    Any bonehead can blog — and plenty of them do. But we need writers who can blog responsibly, ethically, accurately and honestly. We need writers who can contribute to and advance the conversation. All the standards of good journalism still apply. Let’s seize the opportunity to inject some integrity and professionalism into the blogosphere. Let’s lead, not follow.

  13. Anybody know the origin of the word “blog”?

  14. Again, sorry about the late post.

    I think several of us have mentioned that blogging seems to put writers in a very vulnerable position, and I would have to completely agree. There is no copy editor, section editor or web editor between your raw work and your readers, and writing without any sort of insulation/safety net is terrifying. I am sure posting something with a grammatical error or having your work perceived as uneducated is a reporter’s worst nightmare.

    I think Tara brought up a good point:

    “I am beginning to consider that a website in my name with information about myself and clips of my work might be useful, but is blogging also critical?”

    I agree with Tara that having an online portfolio would be great, but I am turned off to the idea of a potentially damaging ‘blog’ with my unedited work on it.

    Also, blog comes from the phrase web log. I first heard about it in 2004 because John Kerry had a web log on his campaign site, and now blogs are a standard tool for any campaign.

  15. I kept a blog when I was abroad last semester, and I absolutely loved it. It was an excellent (and totally free!) way for me to keep my friends and family at home up to date on my latest escapades. I tried very hard to keep the posts relevant to anyone who might stumble across them and didn’t let it become a “first I went here and then I went there” kind of blog. In most cases I think I succeeded. I’d love to continue blogging and know I should, but I’m not struck with as much inspiration in Iowa as I was every second in Italy.

    I had a Xanga in high school, and so did all of my friends. We used it as a way to write about what we had done that day and to talk about our plans and jokes. While I love going back to read about what I was doing in high school, in no way would that blog be interesting to anyone who didn’t already know me. I feel like many bloggers are this way; they simply use the space to ramble about their days and various complaints. For me, many of them lack the significant “Why should I care?” factor. This is the challenge I face; I’m not sure how to make an everyday blog something everyone would want to read. Putting my thoughts out to the world doesn’t scare me because I would never post anything I didn’t want people to read. I actually quite like the idea. I know I should continue to blog and probably will do so. I’m just waiting for the right inspiration….

  16. I understand the need to have an online presence, but I don’t think that it should necessarily be a personal blog. I think that there are plenty of opportunities for journalism students and aspiring writers to make an online appearance outside of blogging. I feel sometimes that blogging is considered very self-centered; it’s a way for people to talk about they want to with total control over what others are allowed to say. I would rather be able to put on a resume “I wrote for this online publication” or “I have such and such skills and abilities dealing with online publications” rather than an employer finding my blog and reading thoughts that they may or may not agree with.

  17. Tyler’s right. “Blog” is shorthand for “web log.” In 2004, the term topped the list of Merriam-Webster’s “words of the year.”

  18. Here’s an article from The Nation about US soldiers being blocked from blogging and using social networking sites: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080915/melber

    Is blogging a right or a privilege?

  19. If anyone cares, I’m really getting busy promoting myself. Since my blog is in its infancy and I I don’t think anyone but Maggie has looked at it, I changed the address to be simply my name. Then I got really crazy and went ahead and ordered up the domain name heathershoning.com. Then (yes, there’s more) I figured out how to direct my domain name to my blog until I can get a Web site built to showcase my clips.

    Holy crap. I’m goin’ crazy.

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