By KATIE BERGGREN
Imagine a world where, during an employment interview, a job applicant is asked to present his or her blog to a potential employer. The applicant’s blog – his or her writing skill and viewpoint of the world as it relates to a job – is an important factor in revealing his or her talent as well as securing employment.
According to Harry Cherkinian, who has been a Mount Mary College adjunct professor for 24 years, a job applicant’s ability to blog already is affecting the hiring process.
“More and more students are being asked to blog as part of a job,” Cherkinian said. He describes situational examples such as a corporate communications staffer who may be asked to ghostwrite a blog for the CEO.
“Blogging will be a job pre-requisite,” Cherkinian said. “It tells employers that the graduate or potential employee is knowledgeable about technologies and the employer has a real-time example of the job applicant’s work.”
In fact, colleges are adding social media majors or programs to their list of courses and degrees. There is a significant increase in businesses hiring social media managers, with publications such as the Los Angeles Times taking note of the phenomenon.
Writers or professional communicators aren’t the only employees who could be expected to blog in the near future, however. Other workers such as sales or project managers, or members of the human resources staff, could use a blog as a company information or training tool.
How do I start blogging?
For some people, the introduction to blogging comes as part of coursework during classes at Mount Mary. Cherkinian and Matt Russell, instructor in the graduate English department at Mount Mary, both use blogs as part of the curriculum in the classes they teach. Cherkinian’s students in the Writing for Publication class write blogs as do Russell’s social media and college composition students.
“Using blogs provides students with invaluable experience in writing for different kinds of audiences and media,” Russell said, who has been teaching at Mount Mary for three years. “The use of social media tools is on the rise and blogs are certainly a part of that movement.”
“I’m surprised by the number of students who don’t blog – it’s free!” Cherkinian said. “Thanks to places like Mount Mary or local libraries that offer computers to use, you don’t even need your own computer.”
Laura Otto, Arches adviser and teacher of a multimedia writing class at Mount Mary, said that one of the best ways to begin blogging is to follow blogs that interest you and start commenting.
“Leave responsive and engaging comments and others will read and link back to your blog,” Otto said. She suggests reading award-winning blogs to understand blog writing. “Observe their techniques to help find your voice.”
Cherkinian practices what he preaches as author of a blog on WordPress called “writervana.” He says the blog is different than the entertainment reviews and columns he pens for newspaper publications such as the Shepherd Express and the Wisconsin Gazette. His blog still covers arts and entertainment news, but “it is more personal and chattier,” Cherkinian said.
Cherkinian emphasizes the advantages of writing for an online format because of the opportunities for larger word count and better pictures. Also, online formats offer a longer shelf life for articles and a greater reach; a writer never knows where his or her work may be linked. For example, Cherkinian’s recent review of Lindsey Buckingham’s show “Seeds We Sow” at the Pabst Theater ended up being linked to the music star’s own website.
“It’s thrilling and it’s instant credibility for my work,” he said, “and it proves the immediacy and accessibility of working on the Web.” For aspiring writers or novelists, a blog could be the precursor to getting published.
Encouragement for beginners
Starting a blog can be intimidating; after all, one is exposing one’s personal opinion to the online world. Followers can be absent and feedback can be nil or negative, even cruel.
“Post consistently, even though you don’t have an audience yet,” said Otto. She emphasizes that it may take up to a year – or even more – for a blog to gain followers.
“I would suggest having a very clear goal and purpose for your blog and knowing your audience quite well,” added Russell.
A writer’s dedication to a blog can eventually transform into great things, ranging from a part-time income or a full-time career for a major corporation.
“Too many blogs focus on responses or comments; write for yourself in your unique voice,” Cherkinian said. “Even if you’re the only person who is reading it, it’s still an accomplishment.”