Twentysomething: Blogging is the new graduate school

By Ryan Healy — like most people our age, my friends don’t really read blogs. So I created a My Space page to market my blog. At first, this worked out great. Our friends could see bulletins every time a new post went up and people got a better sense of what the blog was all about.

On top of this, every night before bed I left an AIM away message stating, “click here” and people would be sent to the site. I also updated my Facebook profile every time a new post went up. All of these things worked great for the first few weeks. My friends went to the site, and someone new would ask about it nearly every day.

Despite all of this, we realized that it is not easy to convert the average twentysomething to the wonderful world of the blogosphere. Even my friends and acquaintances that appreciate what I’m doing and compliment my site do not frequent my blog or any other blog on a regular basis. And when they do visit the site they almost never leave a comment.

It’s ironic, though, because blogging is a way to deal with the biggest problem at the beginning of one’s career: No expertise. If you offer intelligent opinions or advice on a credible blog, then you are an expert. This is why more young people should blog. If you have a focused blog, then you can jump from job to job and learn many skills, but the constant will be that you are an expert in whatever area you choose to research and write about.

A great example of someone establishing themselves as an expert through a blog is Ramit Sethi of Iwillteachyoutoberich.com. He started writing about personal finance a few years ago and now he gives speeches on the topic, has a book coming out and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal. Sure it takes a little hard work, but the end result can certainly justify the means.

If you are interested in a subject but really don’t know much about it, creating a blog is a great way to learn. If you are really clueless at first, then start your blog as a clearing house for everything related to your niche. Scan the web for articles, create Google alerts for key words and contact a few experts. Eventually you will absorb so much about the topic that you can write intelligent posts as often as you would like. Get Rich Slowly is an example of a blog that started as mostly links and summaries of other peoples’ posts. Quickly, though, author JD Roth became expert enough to write his own commentary in addition to linking.

One of the hardest parts about starting a blog is that nearly every subject worth writing about has been covered to death. The solution to this is to put your own spin on it. If you are a young person the easiest thing to do is highlight the fact that you are young and write about it from a young person’s point of view. For example, if you are interested in marketing, research how the “experts” try to reach young people and then write about what works and what doesn’t. People are bound to listen; everyone is trying to figure us out.

Creating a blog will not only turn you into a subject matter expert, but it shows drive and motivation when trying to get your next job. Highlight the blog on your resume, discuss how you balanced blogging with working and brag about your site statistics and mentions around the web. Maybe blogging is the new graduate school.

Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.

Posted in How to blog, No image, Promoting yourself
15 comments on “Twentysomething: Blogging is the new graduate school
  1. laurence haughton says:

    Being “seen” as an expert and actually having any real or valuable expertise are two very different things. There are many examples of both in blogs, on air, in meetings, in the “B” schools and among published pundits. (I don’t know which camp Ramit Sethi is in.)

    But you are 100% right when you conclude that writing (a blog or most any other kind of writing) can help develop a reputation as an expert.

    ********

    Laurence,

    This is very true, there is a difference between being perceived an expert and actually being one. However, perception is reality for the observer.  From what I have read, I think it’s safe to say that Ramit Sethi is an expert in his chosen field. 

    -Ryan

  2. Erika Sievert says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I am a 24-year old professional working in the hedge fund industry. However, I am also an avid photographer who would love to turn my hobby into something more. I have created a blog called Boston*Uncommon (http://boston-uncommon.blogspot.com) where I post a photograph a day of Boston from my perspective. I’ve gotten great feedback from friends and acquaintances so far, but I have also noticed that people do not yet frequent my blog routinely.

    I agree that blogging is a great way to build expertise and share your visions with the world. We are fortunate in this day and age to have the internet as a tool to share our ideas; however, as with any new form of communication, saturation takes time. By continuing to blog and by promoting ourselves to others, I think that we can shift the paradigm as a generation. Sooner or later, if we keep at it, more twentysomethings will start to pay attention and appreciate the advantages of the blogosphere.

    – Erika Sievert

    ********

    Hi Erika,

    Congrats on the blog.  I think the paradigm will shift when young people start to realize that blogging can be about much more than telling the world what they had for breakfast, or what is currently playing on their ipod.  If you want to chat about trying to draw some more attention to your blog, feel free to email me.

    -Ryan

  3. Michael Holley Smith says:

    Ryan,
    You’re getting close: better yet, turn your blog into your resume with a bioblog. Go all out and show them more than your stats–but you–the thinking and ticking and expansive self that makes you want to blog in the first place, which is to say, that makes you want to share-communicate-ponder issues outside your own self.

  4. Mike Ambrose says:

    Ryan, you get it! As a Boomer (turning 50 in two weeks), I find that fellow Boomers react just the same as your generation to this blogging thing. I’m trying to get just my friends interested – hopefully your post will help!!

  5. David Harper says:

    Nice Ryan. Laurence may be right, but your original post is more to the point. An expert doesn’t arrive suddenly into expertise, he/she becomes into it by doing, teaching, writing, practicing. A blog is a nice way to get going on the path to expertise (mastery) because you can start thinking aloud on your passion ("How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" W.H. Auden).

    What’s an expert? It’s just a person who decides to improve in a thing daily with passion and discipline. Blogging can be practice. If at the start you let other people judge whether you are expert, you may get distracted. If you care about something and are willing to commit to improvement, expertise is up to you and only you. And you won’t get to worried about the “perception of expertise” versus “being expert” – my favorite experts don’t worry at all about this, they have found what they love and they are busy doing it, their expertise is obvious. One of my favorite experts is Justin at http://www.cartoonsmart.com/. He is young (I am pretty sure) and i never checked his credentials, but he is so busy sharing that the expertise is just assumed.

  6. Roger Anderson says:

    Ryan,
    You are getting there. I agree with Laurence in that it can be dangerous to start spouting off too early. If you are declared a wanna-be or a fraud ti can follow you for some time.

    Let me a two things if I may.
    1) When you teach a class you often learn more than those you teach. After a few years that can stop or become a diminishing return if you do not continue to invest in updating your material.
    2) Harvey MacKay – “founder and chairman of MackayMitchell Envelope Company, New York Times best-selling author, celebrated public speaker and nationally …” (Quote from his website) Once wrote in his daily column something to the effect that “anyone who has read more than 5 [current] books ion a subject is probably an expert.” I would not extend that to 5 blogs or 5 dummies guides but I think it is a good start.

    You are doing a fine job and I like your posts. This opportunity to blog here is a terrific chance to show your stuff. You run the risk, with higher visibility, of more attacks on your opinions but you seem to up to the challenge. I look forward to more of your posts.

  7. Karl says:

    I am 25 years old, excited to be a part of the up-and-coming generation of tomorrow’s business and political leaders, and excited to be a part of the birth of the Information Age. I believe that our generation has some very intriguing, high-quality ideas for how to use technological tools to create better businesses and a better society.

    However, I plead caution when it comes to the overzealousness of bloggers and overnight “experts”. Expertise is something that is earned through many years of careful discipline, humility, patience, and diligence. It is quite a trivial task to be able to write like an expert when compared to the mountainous achievement of actual expertise in any venture worth pursuing. I encourage twentysomethings to respectfully question the authority of the status quo in order to carve their own path through their young lives, but the value of experience cannot be overlooked.

    Regardless, your insights are interesting enough to keep me reading, and keep me thinking. You are certainly on the path to experthood in the realm of blogging!

  8. MCW says:

    IMO the biggest obstacle for a blogreader is “so many blogs, so little time.” (Obviously, Penelope’s blog is one that has made my reading list — I try to drop by every few weeks.)

    Conversely the biggest obstacle for a blog writer is being entertaining enough, and/or informative enough, to capture an ongoing audience.

    Launching a blog and cajoling one’s friends and business associates to read it, is becoming the modern version of asking people to look at your vacation photos.

    Blogging is great in that it’s low barrier-to-entry and meritocratic. Any schmo can start a blog and, with effort, break into the tier of the top visited blogs.

    But 99% of bloggers won’t achieve that. There are only so many hours in a day that people will give to reading blogs. It’s the Attention Economy. Time is more scarce than money. Even if blogs capture eyeballs from magazines, newspapers, other activities — in the end there are only so many hours in the day.

    That said — as you/Ryan pointed out — having a blog is one way to signal your professional commitment. Simply having made the effort to create and maintain a blog might make you stand out to a potential employer, even if you have no readers.

    But the whole “read my blog” thing can get a little trying.

    There’s one email list I’m on, for a certain professional group, where 50%+ of all the list members have professional blogs. In the list discussion they regularly slip in plugs for their blogs. Nevertheless — there’s no sign of ongoing readers on any of their blogs.

    It gives me a negative vibe, actually. There’s something that starts feeling unpleasantly narcissistic about repeated subtle begging for people to pay attention to you and your blog.

    Attention whoring isn’t attractive in children, and it’s not attractive in adults or bloggers either.

  9. Working Girl says:

    You’re right, blogging is an excellent way to learn a subject as well as an absorbing mental exercise.

    It’s also a fabulous way to display who you are. People whom you want to impress or influence or sell to can get a peek into your mind—how you think, how you express yourself. A blog has more credibility and power to impress than, say, a resume because of its immediancy. You can’t “fake it” day after day (or, if you can, then you’re really good!).

    The blog is you.

  10. Ana says:

    Thank you for this post. Your blogg is helping me more to realize what I want to do and how to succed than any book would.

  11. The Office Newb says:

    This is one of the first posts I read when I first discovered this blog. While not extremely controversial or thought-provoking, the sentiment that blogging offers a venue for continuing education has stuck with me as I begin my own blog (theofficenewb.wordpress.com).

    I absolutely agree that blogging about a subject that interests you will make you more informed about that topic than you could ever expect to be. Thinking up topics for posts means immersing and challenging yourself on a daily basis.

    In some ways, I think blogging is superior to bricks-and-mortar lectures since the onus is on you to take a stand and form an opinion instead of listening to and absorbing the opinions of others.

  12. Brett Johnson says:

    Hi Ryan,
    Thanks for the post — good food for thought. I will say though, entering ‘the game’ now I believe is still an advantageous time to do so – broadly speaking, most topics are covered and blogged about, but as far as a thoughtful, intelligent blog on any given topic, I think we are far from there been enough of those out there- yet.

  13. jessica mullen says:

    i love this post, ryan. i am actually in graduate school @utaustin right now, researching lifestreaming and how it is the new higher-ed/resume/path to making your dreams come true.

    i’m looking at a focused lifestream model, which i see as ‘goalstreaming’. basically, using data-tracking and frequent documentation to keep working towards a goal even when in small amounts – €“making small efforts or updates count too (like tweets or single photographs).

    these are way too many buzzwords but my point is the same as yours. i’m still reconciling the value of blogging vs lifestreaming. consistent blogging might be a better way of collecting a readership, but the self-help / thinking out loud value of lifestreaming is significant. i think the key lies in presentation of a lifestream – €“how do you minimize the crap and call out the thoughtful content?

    now that i think about it, it seems lifestreaming might have a more immediate effect on behavior. for example, writing a blog post a day about weightloss efforts might be less motivating (or have less effect on changing behavior) than sending a steady stream of meal photos, thoughts, and exercise progress.

    if you can’t already tell, i have a major critique of my semester’s work in about 6 hours… i did a project called “the financial goalstream” where i created a lifestream to achieve the goal of “understanding and simplifying my personal finances.” (case study pdf here!) thanks for helping me think about it in a new light.

  14. Jas says:

    hey penelope, i am 18 and i just discovered your blog yesterday and i have to say am loving it, i have a serious interest in writing and i blog occassionally for the college website, not a very prestigious college, i want to start a blog of my own, but the problem is i don’t write serious stuff, i like to write about human relationships and behavior in a lighter vein and about everyday things that intrigue me, do u think writing such a blog would help me built an ‘expertise’ and be worth the time and effort?

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      The thing you’ll get from blogging that’s worth your time and effort is that you will get to know yourself. You’ll know how you think and you’ll start learning how to convey that to other people.

      Also, having to write something every day, or every other day makes you more conscious about how you’re thinking, what you’re noticing, what you like, etc. And it’s an important time in your life to learn as much about yourself as quickly as you can.

      Blogging is great for that.

      Penelope

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