This is a guest blog post by Michael White of Musings of a PR Student.
Students should be worried about their job prospects. I am. Competition is rife and the top advertised jobs receive hundreds of applications. Our work experiences are not just being challenged by a surge of candidates, but our very degrees are being questioned. Surely only post-graduate degrees now hold credibility?
I began blogging in 2005 (my promoted blog was founded in 2009) and have never looked back. As I reached maturity it became clear that blogging was no longer for the weird recluse yearning for a better life; instead, it’s a practical application for furthering a career.
Yet, despite my personal successes, I am still finding it difficult to convince fellow students to blog.
Here are eight reasons why students should join the blogosphere.
1.Your blog is your portfolio
When I submit my resume to potential employers, I always keep my blog’s address at the top of the first page as a contact detail. It is my online portfolio, which I can give as an example to organizations before I’m even at the interview stages. It is not only a way for me to stand out from the crowd, but it speaks a thousand words more than my two-page resume will allow.
University courses vary but you will certainly find a blogging format to suit you well. A blog can be used to do all of the following:
- Post images of your latest photography, graphic designs, animations, architecture plans, 3D models, etc.
- Post videos to present the brilliance of your last feature film project. Friends of mine have posted client work showing advertisements and band music videos.
- Post written content which delves into industry matters and theoretical musings, or demonstrates practical experiences.
Your blog doesn’t just have to act as a portfolio of content; it can also present links to your social networking profiles. Control your online presence and stand out from the crowd.
2. Blog to control your SEO
What will the first thing your potential employer does when they receive your resume? Either bin it or type your name into Google. When I worked for Microsoft last year as an intern, members of the team took great pleasure in finding information on candidates outside of their resume. Fortunately for you, your blog will be the top result because, through you blog, you can control your SEO.
WordPress is arguably the best blogging software available, especially for those of us who enjoy self-hosting. A variety of plugins are available for WordPress blogs to enhance your SEO:
- All in One SEO: This plugin is ideal for amateurs and professionals alike. Simply activate it on your WordPress setup to optimize your site for search engines.
- Google XML Sitemaps: Create an XML-compliant sitemap for your blog to help search engines. I highly recommend that once you have activated this plugin that you post your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.
- W3 Total Cache: Yes, this is a caching plugin designed to speed up your blog. It is still entirely relevant to SEO, though. Speed matters in terms of page rankings.
The art of improving your SEO is a subject for another blog post. The above plugins will prepare you though. Make sure when your potential employer is searching that they click on the link you want them to see.
3. Network with industry professionals
A couple of months ago I published a review on my blog for a book called Social Media Analytics. Within a few hours of posting it, the author, Marshall Sponder, got in touch thanking me for my kind words. An industry professional made first contact with a student! Yes, I did him a favor, but that was partly in a bid to gain his attention. It worked.
In terms of networking, a blog cannot be used alone. Twitter is still one of the best online networking resources available. Couple your Twitter profile with your blog and you could be playing more seriously. You can gain the attention of industry professionals by:
- writing reviews of their books
- writing a reactionary blog post to something they have written
- offering to guest post for their blog (like I’m doing here!)
- simply mentioning them in a post with a link.
There are countless methods. Use your own creativity to think of something different.
4. Blogging shows your determination
Make no mistake, blogging is tough. To be successful requires quality content, frequent posts, and networking clout. My blog won a college advisor award in 2010, today I look over the list to find a year later barely half of the blogs are still active. You don’t want your employer to be gazing upon a graveyard of a portfolio.
My current blog has been active for four years now. In that time, I have written 310 posts, which approximately total to 160,000 words. This easily out shadows a measly 10,000 word dissertation. Such a task can only be driven by passion. Only a few blogs reach such a high publicity level that you could consider yourself a minor online celebrity—mine has yet to do so.
In essence blogging is about sitting in your room, with a large mug of tea, which is being drunk by a very determined individual (some say he is mad). Blogging will be worth your time. Plan blog posts ahead. Remember, you are preparing yourself for a marathon and not a sprint.
5. Build a reputation before you hit the workplace
Your professional reputation no longer starts once you have found yourself your first job. It starts based upon the information on the internet people discover. Build your reputation upon the strong foundations of your blog.
My uncle could be regarded as old-school. He has a top job in a worldwide recognized media agency, a result of working his way up the ladder. If you type his name into Google, you will find a dozen news stories written about him by reputable magazines. Never has he needed to build his reputation online first; his reputation leaked online due to his “real world” efforts.
The year 2012 is different. Competition is high among students and so you should be building your reputation at all times, even before you study at University. Here are a number of ways in which a blog can help build your reputation:
- Focus on your blog’s branding. What do the images and colors say about you?
- Feature references from industry professionals. Let their endorsements give you credibility.
- Show off your knowledge of the industry by providing insights and advice.
Reputation is everything.
6. Blogging expands and tests your knowledge
Blogging can be an excellent way to expand your knowledge by testing new ideas out publicaly. On a few occasions visitor’s comments have provided me with fresh angles in order to tackle information. Ultimately the result not only expands your knowledge but allows you to effectively tackle debates and tune your mind to thoughts in your chosen industry.
Don’t forget about comments. Whilst the main content serves as an important resource, comments can provide practical feedback (or nonsensical drivel) to take into consideration.
7. Access traditional media opportunities
In the recent post written by the inspirational Chris Brogan he explains how we should view ourselves as media channels. This is exactly what blogs are; frame them as your media channel. If you do then other, more traditional media channels could become available to you.
Over the last year I was fortunate to become a “rent-a-mouth” for a number of BBC radio stations (including their flagship BBC Radio Five Live). It was an opportunity driven by the content they viewed on my blog. Blogging is by no means a perfect media channel as its audience depends upon your activities. Journalists who work for radio stations and newspapers can give you the credibility of opinion, more exposure, and perhaps even endorsement for work you have produced.
This is a priceless reason to blog. Don’t ignore it. Get noticed.
8. Earn money
How could we not include money on this list as a reason? In my experience it is possible to make money from blogging but don’t think it is easy to earn a living from it.
In the past I have accepted sponsored posts from organizations, but only if they are willing to pay me. Eventually I stopped because posts were lacking detail and shamelessly back-linked to their content. The posts were not useful, informative or entertaining—they were useless. Bloggers need to protect their real estate.
There are number of ways to earn money from blogging. If you chose a path then it may buy a few pints as a student. Don’t expect the income to cover your rent. In my opinion earning money is never a goal, only a side effect from doing something you enjoy.
I hope I have inspired a new generation of students to begin blogging. At the same time I may have just harmed by own job prospects … how selfless of me!
Are you a student who is currently blogging? What have I missed in this post? Add to the debate by leaving your comments below.
Michael White is a British public relations student who studies at the University of Gloucestershire. He was a CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) representative in 2009 and completed an internship with Microsoft last year. He regularly updates his blog Musings of a PR Student.