Words by Mike Ryder.
It started in September 2007. I had just quit an engineering degree to start a BA in English with Creative Writing at Brunel.
At the time, I wanted to be a writer. I already had experience writing a few (unpublished) novels, and had done a fair bit writing for various newsletters and websites. And yet still I knew I had to do something more to make myself stand out.
It was about half way through my first year that I decided to put my technical skills to use and build my own website, www.mjryder.net. At first, I used it as a diary to chart my life as a student, and to publish the articles I also wrote for Le Nurb. Over time it then grew into an online portfolio, supported by a blog, which has changed in theme as my career has progressed.
Building a career
Since graduating in 2010, I have worked in various fields including online content writing, ghostwriting and digital marketing. All of these jobs have come off the back of my website and blog. With each new job, I have updated and expanded my website to showcase my skills and demonstrate to employers just what I am capable of.
After a few years in employment, I was able to save up the money to start a part-time MA, also at Brunel. This allowed me to expand my portfolio, and gave me a good excuse to start blogging about my academic interests. A few years later and I was able to get funding for a PhD at Lancaster University. As a result I again evolved my website to match my career goals, and I am now proactively using it to engage with fellow academics and show people the sorts of things I’m interested in.
Looking ahead, I expect my website will take on an increasingly academic theme as my PhD progresses. However I am very keen to keep it active, as it’s a useful way for people to find me online, and means I can build my academic ‘brand’ as I start to search for jobs.
Hopefully my story goes to show some of the advantages of being a digitally-minded student, and the need to constantly adapt and enhance your profile as your career changes and you gain new skills.
In my own case, my website has helped me gain more than one job, and it’s even earnt me money through sponsored posts. Nowadays however I’m less interested in getting cheap hits to my site, and more interested in how I can use my website to network with colleagues and members of the public. As such my digital presence (including my professional Facebook page) have been adjusted to reflect this.
If you’re thinking about taking the plunge online, here are some of my hard-earned tips:
- Be careful what you post. No matter what you post online, it can be found. This doesn’t mean it will be found, but you need to consider the future impact of any blog you publish both for yourself, and for whomever you happen to write about.
- Blogging takes work. Creating a successful blog takes a lot of work – especially if you’re doing it on your own. For this reason, most blogs die only a few short weeks after their creation. Before you start I recommend creating a content plan to assess your audience, theme, tone, content and style. Also consider how often you will publish. Too often and you risk burnout; too little and people won’t come back.
- There’s more to blogging than just writing. Blogs need readers, and in the early days you will need to work hard to publicise your blog and attract readers in the first place. As part of your content plan you should ask yourself: Why should anyone read your blog? What’s its purpose? What would attract you to read your blog?
Of course, blogging is not for everyone, and I’m certainly not suggesting everyone makes their own website. In most cases, a well-presented LinkedIn profile is more than sufficient to get you started. However you should definitely consider locking down all of your social media accounts lest an employer turn up something you don’t want them to.
If you have any questions, do feel free to post them below and I will do my best to respond. Alternatively, you can contact me via Facebook.