5 Things My Blog Taught Me
Written by Ally Willis // Edited by Chelsea DuDeVoire
After graduating from college two years ago, I started a blog to write my way through the trials and triumphs of the transition-heavy year of post-grad life, and invited others to contribute their stories as well. Fast forward two years, and today, the blog has grown to include pieces from more than 70 writers for readers around the world.
I didn’t expect to use this blog as a career-building opportunity - it was simply an idea that I thought others might enjoy contributing to and engaging with. In addition to the blog's success in reaching a substantial audience, though, I have acquired a number of personal and professional skills along the way.
1. Planning ahead is a must.
An editorial calendar is an incredibly helpful blogging tool, especially when coordinating posts from other writers. By using Google Sheets, I’ve created an easily accessible online template to allow myself to plan ahead for both the year and each month, keeping post topics, writers, and the social media calendar planned, organized and in one place.
Part of any job - editorial-related or not - involves planning: planning your to-do's for the day ahead, planning your week, planning for ways to reach your company's long-term goals. Maintaining the blog has allowed me to practice these much-needed planning skills in a tangible way.
2. Attention to detail is crucial.
I make the final edits to all posts that go live on That First Year, so attention to detail is a crucial skill in order to consistently retain a professional editorial image. I can’t simply skim over a piece and call it “editing.” I once read that our brains can “read” a word simply by identifying the first and last letter of it, even if the letters in-between are out of order (whcih is why you can raed tihs smoewaht esaily.) Unfortunately, missing subtle spelling errors is way too easy to do.
That First Year has given me a hyper-awareness of copywriting and editing. Remaining vigilantly attentive to details - whether through an email sent to a superior, a pitch to a potential client or a newsletter sent to the entire company - is a necessary skill for any task within any job.
3. Sometimes, you have to say no.
My name is Ally, and I'm a people pleaser. I want to say yes to every idea from everyone I work with so much that thought of saying no makes me want to hide in a wet cave on an oceanside cliff a la Shutter Island. Alas, saying no is a necessary part of life (and I’d probably get pretty lonely and bored in a cave.)
Sometimes I have to remind myself that if I want to continue running That First Year with integrity, there will be times when I must say no. Maybe a post pitch doesn’t line up with the blog’s values, or I don’t have any room on an editorial calendar for additional pieces. Whatever the case, it is legitimately impossible to please everyone, all the time. As an entry-level employee, I've struggled with this, believing that my newcomer status requires me to always say “yes." However, through running my blog, I continue to learn the importance of boundaries.
4. There's an art to managing people.
Because That First Year works with multiple contributors each month, I've learned through experience how to properly manage people. Through trial and error, I've learned to maintain solid working relationships with others based on mutual trust, and how to offer constructive yet encouraging feedback for the writers I oversee. My hope is that being honest with my writers about myself and about their work will create a collaborative working relationship built on mutual trust and respect.
Even as entry-level employees in the workplace, it's important to remember that we are still managing relationships with our bosses and co-workers each time we enter the office. Additionally, by building healthy working relationships outside of our traditional jobs, we continue to sharpen important relational skills that are useful both inside and outside our 9-to-5's.
5. Selling. Is. Hard.
In December, my blog launched a shop called The Creative Exchange, which features artwork created exclusively for That First Year by peers, readers and contributors. Unfortunately, I didn’t anticipate just how difficult the sales side of this process would be, and now have mad respect for people who sell things for a living. You the real MVPs.
To make a sale, you not only have to offer something of value, but you must also show people why it will be of value to them. For me, this means improving the lifestyle shots of the art we sell, and creating a strategy to reach potential art supporters that goes beyond saying, “HEY, BUY THIS.” (Spoiler: I’ve tried something along those lines. It didn't work.)
Selling is still a learning process for me, but I know that learning how to do it successfully will be a skill that I can bring to any job. The art of persuasion is important in so many instances - from selling an actual product, to pitching to potential clients and simply suggesting ideas to your boss and co-workers.
If you don’t have one already, I highly encourage you to start a blog, even if it's just for yourself. My particular journey has not only given me an upper hand in the job-hunting process (as I've had almost every interviewer specifically ask about my blog,) but it has armed me with a set of skills to serve me well in a variety of workplace settings and experiences.
Happy blogging, Babes!
Ally Willis is a public relations graduate who buys way too many concert tickets and flights, and then writes about them. She puts all-things-British on a pedestal, and runs That First Year, a collaborative blog about post-grad life.