For anyone who knows me, finding me at the keyboard isn’t a surprise. Despite my current position in Human Resources, I grew up in IT with a sprinkle of social services thrown in. I spent many a formative year hunkered down in front of my Apple IIc playing Zork. I ran tech support, taught an A+ certification class and started a side business building computers, all of which I was, at the time, completely unqualified to do. So to find me engrossed in my laptop at all hours of the day is not out of the ordinary.
What does surprise some people is the blog. I write a lot, and some of it I share. My blog is LeanHRBlog.com, so if you don’t work in HR or with Lean, there wouldn’t seem to be much to read, right? So people are surprised when they check it out and see posts about poor customer service, grocery self-checkout lines, comic book characters in the workplace, or my stereo issues. I usually tie it all back to HR, but how many times can you write “So what does this have to do with…” before you sound like a tool? So I let my inner geek run free, and just assume that no one reads it or no one cares.
But there is, to me, still value in this tiny display of egoism. Blogging makes me think. It makes me consider my feelings on topics, crystallize them, and commit to them in a way that simple pondering never would. There is power in the written word, including the power to make you commit to opinions you didn’t even know you had. There is also power in knowing that once you hit the publish button, you might be asked to defend your thoughts to strangers. It’s rare we are asked to do these things in the workplace, so the act of blogging can push you to develop yourself and your outlook in new and interesting ways.
There is also the social aspect of blogging, of course. I’ve met some wonderful and smart people through this hobby of mine. I read their work, they read mine (or say they do), and we converse across time and space on a myriad of topics. I’ve learned a lot about my chosen profession, and I think I am better in my job for it. My network is far wider than it would have been, and I have a large group of people upon whom I can call for help.
That’s great, right? But what if you aren’t that excited about your job, have nothing to say, or just aren’t comfortable saying it? No worries. That’s the beauty of starting a blog. See, while I assume no one reads my work, I can promise you no one will read yours. Not for a while, anyway, especially if you don’t promote it. Mike Birbiglia, the wonderful comic, talks about his “Secret Public Journal.” That is, in effect, every blog that is started. Unless you are a captain of industry, a celebrity or guest blogging for someone else, your work won’t be seen for months. That’s a good thing. You’ll have time to find your voice, find your topic, and find out what you believe in. You can play around, learn the tools, and learn yourself. Where else can you get that kind of personal development for free?
The other good news is that bloggers are generally pretty social. If you need help, ask. There are lots of bloggers out there that are happy to help you get started, offer tips, and critique your work. Be prepared for the feedback, though. It may not be pretty. But bloggers generally like to see other good content shared, so we’re all for more voices being heard.
The down side is that you will be putting yourself out there for criticism in a way you’ve likely not experienced before. But sometimes growth requires pushing through the soil. If you aren’t sure you are ready for that level of growth, start small and write anonymously. Sharpen your skills first, and then deal with the public eye later.
My advice to anyone who is thinking of getting started is to pick up your keyboard and get started. There are several free hosting sites that can walk you through setting up your very own blog in a matter of minutes. Fuss with the layout, set up feeds, post a picture of yourself, or do none of those things. Take your pick. But start. Post once a week, once a month, once a day, or whatever works for your schedule. But get started. We need more smart people contributing to the world. Be one of them.