Is your blog an asset to your career search or a liability? That depends what’s on it — and where you want to be hired.
By Alex Braun
Any time you declare an opinion, you’re taking a calculated risk. On one hand, you might earn someone’s respect and establish yourself as a thoughtful, intelligent person. On the other hand, your comments might be dismissed, misinterpreted or even used against you.
The more technology turns our smallest musings into public record, the more you’ll hear the same refrain: “Be careful what you type!” It’s a well-intentioned sentiment, and there’s a lot of truth to it. But excessive restraint makes it harder for us to brand our personalities — and what seems like the safe choice can actually lead to missed opportunities.
I know this from experience, because I once thought long and hard about whether to include posts from my personal blog on my professional portfolio. My first instinct? No way. A lot of my writing there had some risque comedy elements — biting sarcasm, not-infrequent profanity and some subject matter that certainly could have scared off some employers. In fact, that’s why I didn’t even list my full name in the byline.
… Excessive restraint makes it harder for us to brand our personalities — and what seems like the safe choice can actually lead to missed opportunities.
But then, when I was asked to provide writing samples for a few job applications that required strong verbal skills, I realized something. As many potential landmines as those posts contained, they also felt like my best storytelling. The comments and traffic on my blog proved I could build a loyal following with an audience many of my potential employers wanted to connect with. And when I really thought about it, the bosses I wanted to work for might appreciate a risk-taker.
I decided to link two of my favorite personal blog posts on my professional websites, with a disclaimer that they contained some content that might be inappropriate for, say, a corporate blog. Within a few days, I had a phone interview with Internships.com — and the marketing director told me she thought my post about a fourth-grade self-esteem exercise was hysterical. Not that I would always have the same linguistic license on the company website, of course — but, when considered with my more professional samples, it proved I could write in a wide range of tones. That, and I probably wasn’t going to be a drag around the office.
I had already taken the biggest risk of my life in quitting my Louisiana magazine job during a recession to move to California. Now, a week before I had to pack my life into a U-Haul, another risk had paid off.
I’m not saying this approach always works for everyone as well as it does for writers. But at the very least, I think that taking some time to blog about current issues in your career field is more likely to help than hinder your job-seeking efforts, as long as you avoid statements that degrade other people (racism, sexism) or cast doubt on your ability to be a good employee (complaining about previous bosses, emotional rambling, drug/binge drinking references).
If you blog and blog well, this is your reward: Employers will remember you as a thinking, breathing human being as opposed to a name in a stack of papers.