If you’re not currently hooked up to an iron lung, you’ve probably heard and followed these two classic pieces of advice:
- Never get involved in a land war in Asia
- Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line
These are fantastic pieces of wisdom to keep in mind if you’re currently interested in not dying. I would also add to the list, “Press X to not die.”
If you’ve already got the whole not dying thing down, and are now looking to do things like impress recruiters, build your resume, and learn new skills, then I have another piece of advice:
You need to start a blog.
Almost six years ago, Kelly Sutton (the guy who started HackCollege), posted an article about his own college blogging experience. The title should be a clear message – Want a Job? Start a Blog. Here’s the main takeaway…
“A well-formed blog is like a resume that’s constantly updating itself” Tweet This
My experience reflects this quote perfectly.
Here are my top 14 reasons why you should start a blog while you’re still in college. I’ll be publishing a huge guide to building a blog
soon as well.
Update: It’s done! Once this article convinces you, buckle up and learn how to build a blog.
Those of you who are decidedly self-serving can go ahead and click away now. Really.
My other 13 reasons for starting a blog are all personal benefits, but there’s a reason this one comes before all of them.
Blogging is about helping other people. Really, if you’re doing it right, life is about helping other people.
Running a blog gives you an amazing opportunity to help others by teaching them what you know – and it’s the highest reward blogging will bestow upon you.
Every time I get an email or a tweet from a student telling me they found one of my articles useful, I’m absolutely elated. Every time a parent emails me, thanking me for some piece of advice, it makes my day and I’m honored to have been able to help.
Even if all the other benefits I’ve listed below didn’t apply, this reason alone would make blogging worth it. Think of the last time you helped a friend with something you’re good at, and now apply that to everyone you could connect with through the internet. The potential is amazing.
Get out there and spread your knowledge. Make the world a better place!
Have you ever worried that no one would take you seriously because you’re a student?
Have you ever thought,
“I’m just a freshman with no job history – who’s going to hire me?”
Lots of college students have the same worries. I did too. The problem with college is that the experience you gain through your classes doesn’t really label you as “credible” until you’ve graduated (and even then, it’s limited).
Well, starting a blog can fix that.
Think about it. What if you picked a topic you wanted to become recognized as an expert in, and then wrote just one article per week about it on your blog?
After just one year, you’d have 52 articles. That’s 52 pieces of content that show, for all the world to see, that you know what the hell you’re talking about.
Coupled with the networking potential I talk about below, this becomes an incredibly effective way for you to become credible and establish yourself as an expert.
I’m sure this is obvious to you, but I’ll say it anyway. Experts get hired.
The key to meeting interesting people and building great relationships is finding others who share your interests, values, skills, and dreams.
By running your own blog, you’re broadcasting all of those things to the world. Guess what? Lots of other people are doing the same thing.
Once you have a blog, you can reach out to other people who share your interests and build a relationship with them. Of course, you can do this without a blog – but having one gives you a body of work that shows off your interests.
I’ve both helped and been helped by lots of the people I’ve met through running this blog. Some have helped me with coding problems. Others have happily critiqued my work. There are couches in multiple cities all over the country open to me, should I want to travel.
My friends can also count on me to lend my knowledge, critique their work, or let them crash at my place should they be crazy enough to come to Iowa.
It’s a beautiful thing.
It’s not a well-guarded secret that the human brain is pretty lousy at retaining the information it learns.
If you input some facts into a computer and save them, it always remembers them. If you use a digital camera to take a picture, that picture will stay stored on the camera’s memory.
Yet, the human brain – the most powerful and complex computer in the universe – tends to forget a lot of what is put into it.
Want to hack your brain to remember more? Teach others.
You may have seen the oft-cited Learning Pyramid before, which is used to show the retention rates of various activities:
Now, I don’t really buy into those claims of specific percentages (cognitive science just isn’t that simple or exact).
But it stands to reason that if you have to spend time contemplating how to communicate information to others in a way that helps them remember it well, you’re going to remember it REALLY well.
I can attest to this phenomenon myself; in the cases where I’ve sat down to write a big tutorial on something, I tend to remember how to do that thing really well afterward.
So, if you’d like to learn better, teach others. Blogging is a great way to do that.
If you’ve had a chance to check out the College Info Geek podcast, you might have noticed something about it:
It’s not just me talking. In every other episode, I interview another person.
Through my podcast, I’ve been able to have conversations with some pretty amazing people. Leo Widrich is the co-founder of the wildly successful startup Buffer, and Dan Schawbel is a bestselling author and incredibly well-known personal branding expert. I was able to interview both of them.
I’ve got a long list of other amazing people I’d like to talk to, and I get the sneaking suspicion that they’ll be willing to give me an hour of their time as well.
Here’s the thing: Once you start a blog, you become a publisher.
For well-known people, that means talking to you gives them the potential to reach a lot of other people through your publication. They’re not just spending time talking to a regular Joe.
It also means they can cite their interview with you as a press mention. If you take a look at my press page, you’ll see that I do this as well.
Any interview opportunity, small or large, is another piece of press that builds credibility for the person being interviewed.
For these reasons, well-known people are especially receptive to interview requests when they have a book or big product coming out.
So, drill this into your brain…
Start a blog, and well-known people will be willing to talk to you. You may even have the opportunity to forge a relationship with them afterwards.
If you’re an avid reader like I am, you can probably point out great writing when you see it.
But can you write great content yourself?
Take a minute and watch this video, where This American Life host Ira Glass talks about closing the gap between your taste and your ability:
I’ve watched this video dozens of times, and I show it to everyone who tells me they think their work isn’t good enough.
Lean in close and let me tell you a secret…
You know this flowing, expertly-crafted prose you’re reading? These beautiful words, forged by what could only be described as a wise and nimble mind?
Yeah, I wasn’t always able to write like this. When I started out, my writing wasn’t that great.
I knew what great writing looked like, but I couldn’t replicate it. Same with design. I knew what a good blog design looked like, but for the longest time I couldn’t make mine live up to my expectations.
However, over time, my skills increased by virtue of the huge amount of work I did. After writing 250+ articles, both on this blog and others, I can definitely see improvement.
Given that most college students can’t write well to save their lives (I took a business communication class as a sophomore alongside mostly seniors, and almost all of their papers made me facepalm), you’d be hard-pressed to find a better opportunity to get a leg up on the competition.
When you’re running a blog, you’re not just writing. Remember, the entire platform is yours to control – content, layout, design… everything.
Because you’re not just the writer, becoming a dedicated blogger means one of two things. Either you learn a few new tricks in order to improve your blog, or you end up paying other people to improve it for you.
I opted for the first route.
Here’s a list of some things I’ve taught myself or improved my skills in over the years – all from trying to improve my blog:
- WordPress (not just using it – I can build themes and know the Codex like the back my hand now)
- Website speed optimization
- Adobe Audition
- Adobe Premier Pro
- Video lighting techniques
This probably doesn’t cover everything. The point is this:
Starting a blog is easy and doesn’t take much technical skill at all. However, if you’re dedicated, you may eventually want to improve things.
Once you start trying to improve things – your blog’s design, speed, SEO, etc – and start adding new features, you’ll be forced to learn new things.
Naturally, these skills don’t just apply to your blog. They’re yours, and now they’re boosting your resume.
In my opinion there are two types of people in this world. (there are also 10, but if you don’t understand that, I’ll leave you to ponder…)
There are Solution Finders, and then there’s everyone else.
To explain what a Solution Finder is, let me describe to you the people who are the exact opposite.
I know several people who, when faced with a question or something they want to know, will automatically ask someone else for the answer.
A good lot of these people don’t stop at just asking for the answer – often they want someone else to hold their hand.
I have a friend who asks me a lot of professional questions. More often than not, I’ve already written a blog post that answers his question in detail, and on those occasions I’ll direct him to that post.
Want to know what his response usually is?
“But Toooooom, you’re standing right here and can just tell it to me!!!”
You’d probably think that only an incredibly entitled dweeb would demand personal help from a friend who already created a resource they could just look at.
It’s like your bum uncle who finds out you’re good with computers and constantly asks you to fix his for free because, “we’re family, right?”
Sadly, you’d be wrong in that assumption. A lot of people are like that.
Starting to get the picture? Solution Finders don’t make this faux pas. When a Solution Finder is faced with a challenge, they know where to look for solutions and get right to it.
Solution Finders are masters of online search. They keep mental lists of information resources and methods for finding things. Their entire mentality is based on getting things done.
When I started college and got a job doing tech support, I was forced to become a Solution Finder of the highest order. It was my job.
However, you don’t have to get a job removing viruses from computers with a Chinese operating system to become a Solution Finder. Starting a blog will force you to do the same thing, if you’re dedicated to providing the best information to your readers.
This is related to the section on establishing yourself as an expert, but it’s a little more focused.
Running a blog is a resume builder. Your pre-existing notion of the typical blogger may be of a teenage girl blathering about her last date on her Xanga profile (shit, I’m old…)
…but make no mistake, running a good blog takes a lot of work. Like I mentioned above, writing isn’t your only activity. You’re controlling your entire platform, and if you want it to be successful, you’ll be doing a whole host of different things.
Take a look at my resume if you’d like an example. I list my blog as my main job (which it is).
Under my blog’s job listing, I describe some of my accomplishments and the duties I perform.
When I started out, I had it listed as an activity instead of a job. This is where you can list yours when you’re starting, and make no mistake – it looks good, especially if it relates to your major.
Unless you keep your blog locked down (why would you do that), it’s visible to the entire world and has the potential to be visited by a lot of people.
This isn’t the time to become a “professional” drone and turn your voice into a boring PR siren for your resume.
Your blog gives you the chance to express yourself. So show off (within reason) who you are.
Show off what makes you interesting.
As you can tell from this blog, I’m a total geek. I play DDR and even make my own step charts. I watch anime and cover my room in video game posters.
In my opinion, showing off who I am actually makes my blog more interesting.
You can do the same thing with your own blog. Now, obviously you want to keep things as professional as your intended industry requires them to be – but you can still express yourself to a lot of people.
When you type your name into Google, what do you get?
If you don’t share a name with a semi-famous author like I do (count yourself lucky), then you might find your Facebook profile, Twitter account, or a mention in a school newspaper or something.
If you’ve created your own personal website, you might find that at the top – which is exactly what you want.
Or maybe you won’t find anything relating to you specifically.
In any case, starting a blog gives you the chance to improve your personal search engine results.
Every time you publish a piece of content with your name on it, that’s one more page on the internet that mentions you. If your blog links to your personal website or social accounts, those rankings could improve as well.
Bottom line – Google results matter in your job search, and having a blog can improve them.
When you publish a new blog post, you naturally want other people to read it.
Unfortunately, there’s an iron law in blogging:
“If you build it, they WON’T come.”
That’s just the fact of the matter. There are millions of blogs on the internet, so simply publishing a post isn’t going to attract attention all on its own.
So, in order to get eyeballs running across your prose like Wal-Mart shoppers on Black Friday, you’re going to need to learn some marketing skills.
Most bloggers will automatically share their posts on Twitter and Facebook, but there are other ways to market your content. Googling “How to get more traffic” will get you countless blog posts offering tons of different strategies.
Whether you succeed in driving lots of traffic to your blog or not, the experience of marketing your content is going to net you some new skills. You’re going to find out what does and doesn’t work.
In today’s world, marketing skills are useful no matter what your profession is. Gaining them by running a blog (with all its other benefits) should be a no-brainer.
I’ve talked about a lot of different professional benefits to running a blog in this post:
- Establishing yourself as an expert
- Building your resume
- Making connections and building a network
- Improving your SEO
- Becoming a better writer
… and so on, and so on.
Remember the giant MegaZord on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers?
All of these benefits combine together just like the Zords combine to make the MegaZord.
Here’s the big picture. If I could manufacture a giant neon sign and plant it on a huge billboard in the middle of every college campus on Earth, I would:
THE SKILLS YOU GAIN FROM BLOGGING MAKE RECRUITERS LOVE YOU.
Remember it. Burn it onto your brain.
You can spend as much or as little time on a blog as you like. Obviously, making it successful will take time and hard work – but there’s no set 8-hour workday to commit to like with an internship.
It’s something you can start doing no matter how little time you have. So do it.
I put this reason last because it isn’t likely, and I don’t want you to go out and start a blog with the main intent of getting rich off of it. It’s not likely, and making money off a blog is fucking hard.
That said, it is possible.
In fact, this particular college student isn’t even looking for a post-graduation job… because College Info Geek is my job.
I make a full-time income from running College Info Geek. Surprised? Join the club.
I would have never thought I’d make any sort of income from blogging. I started this site solely to share my study strategies with other students, and to build my resume.
When I would read high-profile, money-generating blogs like ProBlogger and Income Diary back in the day, I assumed those guys were gods of the Pantheon, achieving a feat nigh impossible by mere mortals.
But after almost three years of consistent effort, I’ve finally reached the point where I’m making enough money to live off of.
In fact, I paid off all of my student debt from this blog.
I’ll be writing an article soon explaining exactly how I did it, but for now, suffice it to say that making money from a blog is possible.
Is it really difficult? Yes. Is the time investment a terrible decision in the short term? Yes. Making money right away is pretty much impossible.
That’s why my first and foremost reason for running a blog is helping others. That’s where your heart should be.
But making some nice pocket money on the side after a while can be a nice benefit, and it’s not impossible.
Hopefully you take this post as overwhelming evidence that you should start a blog.
If you’re ready to build one, go read my guide on building a blog now. It’ll take you straight from the initial planning stage, through setting up all the tech, and all the way to marketing your content.
That will give you the foundation for starting. Good luck!
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