The Blog as the New Resume

The best part about coming late to a conversation in the blogosphere is that by the time you get there, your main points have already been made, often better than you could have. While putting a post together last night, I came across a recent post from Joshua Porter entitled “The Blog is the New Resume“. Joshua was referencing a great post by Adam Darowski with the same title. Adam has an extensive followup to his post that collects a lot of the past and present discussion around this subject.

I got pretty excited when I saw this discussion, as it’s something I’ve been talking about in conversations and workshops for some time. It’s really gratifying to stumble upon stuff like this, all laid out for you. It also makes blogging that much easier :) . I haven’t dug through everything out there, but here are a few points I have found myself making to friends, colleagues, and workshop participants.

Practice makes perfect

Use your blog as a place to practice your writing. Blogs aren’t scrutinized for grammar as closely as resumes are, and the analogy doesn’t transfer that closely anyway. For students, especially those who aren’t in fields that rely heavily on informal (or even formal) writing, this is a golden opportunity to hone those communication skills.

Blogging can also be a way to practice selling yourself. When you get a chance to talk to a potential employer, or someone who might know one (see below), talking effectively about yourself and your work is crucial. If you’ve been writing about what you do for any period of time, those conversations will flow much easier.

What cover letter?

Perhaps the analogy would work better if we thought about blogging as a resume and cover letter rolled into one. Your blog is a way to provide employers with a view of you that is more personal than can be fit into a resume (or even a cover letter). Many organizations don’t even ask for a cover letter – especially those that go through a lot of resumes during their recruiting process. This means that there is no more personal (or even professional) information on you out there. A blog is a relatively easy way to put such information out there in a controlled manner.

A blog may not be a foot in the door (unless perhaps it’s a well crafted url on a resume), but it can certainly be a step ahead in the review process. This becomes especially true as employers compare resumes and try to determine who to call for followups and interviews. They may not google every name, but they might follow a url before spending more time on a potential candidate or trying to decide between one resume and another.

Networking, but different

A common thread in job hunting discussions is that it’s all about who you know. This can be a daunting concept for many people, especially since the idea of networking is by it’s very nature vague. Blogging can provide a way to “get out there” and meet others interested in your field. Your readers (as well as the authors of the blogs you comment on and link to) may not all be potential employers, but they might know some when it comes time for a job search.

What’s more, when you do get the opportunity to network, a url can be a lot less awkward to pass off to a new acquaintance than a resume. This is true wether it’s an email attachment vs a url, or a url written on a napkin or printed on a business card instead of a sheet of paper.

Are you experienced?

At a recent workshop, I mentioned this idea of the blog as the new resume to a room full of graduate students. What I suggested was that they think about this as a way to achieve some level of professional continuity. A blog is something that you can take with you – a record of your travels, in a way. It provides you with a means to “publish” without Publishing. So even if you are going a few years between contributing to academic journals and papers, you can be using this as an outlet for all the stuff that doesn’t fit on paper. Your Vitae may be short, but your blog can show that you’ve not been idle. Use it to hone your skills (see above) and whittle down your points over time as you work toward crafting and summarizing that body of research.

Blogging lets future employers gain insight into your work. Your blog can supplement the experience you do have, and even allow you to present some credibility in the absence of experience. Your lack of experience won’t matter as much if you can prove you know what you are talking about.

The Google resume

Years after graduating from college, a friend of mine used to get emails from organizations like PBS, looking to quote a website he had made as part of a course project. Amused, he would inform them that he wasn’t really an expert on the subject as it was just part of a project to practice building a website. The university had never taken the site down, and it had lived on in search engine results.

Amusing as that example is, it leads us to a larger question. Do you know what’s on your Google resume? Will you in years to come? Often you don’t even have to be participating to end up online. Many email lists are public. Maybe you’ve been “tagged” in a photo on someone else’s Facebook or MySpace account. Is the paper from your second year in college that shows up in Google’s search results going to be an accurate representation of you or your skills? Probably not.

Blogging is a relatively easy way to take control of all of that. It lets you craft and focus an online persona that, if nothing else, can drown out all the miscellaneous cruft that may be floating out there, pointing to you.

The resume is not obselete

Finally, I don’t think anyone is really talking about blogs supplanting the resume, or the resume becoming obsolete. This is still going to be a necessary tool in getting a job. Your resume provides a brief overview of your employment and educational history, in a familiar and structured format. You wouldn’t want employers to have to dig through your blog for this information.

Rather, think of the blog as a powerful supplement to the resume. It can even help you craft your resume, by providing a reference point for interests, professional activities, and educational experience. If you are in the habit of blogging, it’s a lot easier to keep track of that information.

We used to be encouraged to refresh, update, and even rewrite our resume every six months. This was a self evaluation exercise, to be done even if you were happy with your job and didn’t plan on moving. If nothing else, it would help you build a framework in setting goals for yourself. But it’s a hard thing to do. Blogging is a much easier process.