04/01/2017

The Rewards and Challenges of Writing a Career Services Blog

By Chris Magnuson

The idea to create a blog for Western Technical College’s Career Services Department came from a NACE publication entitled, “The Career Counselor’s Guide to Blogging.” The article was written as an instructional tool for students; however, there are worthy tips for career services advisors such as myself on how to start a blog. The interest in creating the blog came from my passion for writing and using the blog as a promotional tool for Career Services at Western Technical College (La Crosse, Wisconsin).

Starting at the Beginning

One of the first things to consider before starting a blog is the platform for hosting the message. After research, I decided to use WordPress.com because of its popularity among other bloggers. I then spent some time learning typical procedures and protocols for blogging. As with any new website or tool, there are instructions, training videos, resources, and links to use when learning. I discovered I needed to register the blog (username and password), create a web address, select a hosting plan (WordPress plans are free, personal, premium, or business), set up a profile with personal information, and choose the site’s title. While there are free options for many of these choices, the customized or personalized ones have monthly subscription fees.

A high priority when starting a blog is creating a web address that is meaningful and memorable for one’s readers. According to WordPress, the web address must be words or a phrase with no spaces, followed by “wordpress.com,” and it must be original. I explored using words such as: career, pathway, job seeking, and work search. Oftentimes, these phrases were already in use by other blog sites. At the end of this exploration process, the blog address developed into careers4ublog.wordpress.com.

It is also important to take time to consider the title of the blog. Readers are more likely to read a blog if its title describes what it is about, is witty or clever, or conveys something personally meaningful to them. To come up with our title, I did some thinking about the purpose for the blog. Western Technical College’s Career Services department consists of three staff persons who deliver the services needed to help students be successful with their chosen career path and with their job search. Technical colleges are currently being challenged to create and develop career pathways. Career Services at Western has two goals: helping students find their path and teaching them to find jobs effectively. Both goals involve students finding a path. The Career Services team chose “Find Your Path” as the title for the blog.

The next steps in creating a blog include using the platform's dashboard options to customize the look of the blog, uploading media, and editing posts as they are written. A layout and visual theme must be chosen from over 200 available from WordPress, although customizing is possible later. The theme has to do with the appearance of the blog and, while some themes cost more than others, several are actually free.

Writing the Blog

Because I have years of experience helping people with their job search, I never have much trouble coming up with relevant topics for the blog. Finding the time to write, however, can be a challenge, and there are weeks where I cannot find enough time to write. My goal has been to post weekly and to set aside an hour per week to write. If that isn’t enough time, I can post on alternate weeks. When time is very limited, I use a brief post with a link to a related article to get my message across quickly. Frequency of blog posts can vary; readers will be interested in the content if it is relevant to them, whether the posts are daily, weekly, or less frequent.

The Marketing Challenge

Marketing a blog is a challenge that must be overcome to make the effort of producing it worthwhile. How do we get more students to follow the blog? Some techniques the Western Career Services team uses to promote the blog include: adding an awareness piece on the back of our promotional bookmark, posting a link on our LinkedIn page for alumni, pointing to the link on our website when doing classroom presentations, and promising our students they will be “effective job seekers by the time they graduate,” if they follow our blog and use the tips in the articles.

Tagging posts with key words and phrases makes it easier for people to find them when searching for information on a specific topic. Each post should have several tags chosen for it. For example, if a post is written on interviewing techniques, some appropriate tags include: interview, interviewing, job search, and interviewing tips.

Blogging Rewards

There are numerous rewards for developing and producing a blog, both for a Career Services department and the students it serves.

  • The blog is a means of influencing students and communicating information directly to them.
  • The blog provides job seeking information as a service to students and alumni; many do not realize the complexities of conducting an effective job search.
  • It is a good method of communicating quickly with students and alumni, both in large numbers and in targeted groups.
  • It is another form of marketing Career Services while conserving financial resources.
  • When well done, a blog showcases the expertise of the staff in the Career Services department.

 

Blog + Best Practices = Continuous Improvement

Writing a blog can also be reflective, causing one to review and consider best practices in the profession and in one’s office, while making change where change is needed – the basis for continuous improvement of services delivered. Take a look at our blog at: https://careers4ublog.wordpress.com/

 


References

Grubb, K., Kelly, S., and Wolleben, M. (2016). The Career Counselor’s Guide to Blogging. Bethlehem, PA: National Association of Colleges and Employers. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/knowledge/social-media/career-counselors-guide.aspx

 

Get Going Fast: A Checklist. (n.d.). WordPress.com. Retrieved from http://learn.wordpress.com/quick-start-guide

 


 

Chris MagnusonChris M. Magnuson, MS, GCDF, is a Career Services Advisor for Western Technical College in La Crosse, WI. She has over 30 years of experience working with those who need help with their work search and/or choosing a career path. She earned her Master of Science in Counseling Education from Winona State University in May of 2008. Her Bachelor of Science is in Human Services with a minor in Business. Chris can be reached via magnusonc@westerntc.edu.

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3 Comments

Marie Carter Brooks on Thursday 04/13/2017 at 03:35PM wrote:

Hi Chris! I work at a community college in Duluth, MN and found your article very helpful. We are interested in starting a Career Services blog but wonder if enough students will utilize the content to equal our investment of time. Do you have any analytics on how many students are accessing your information and what marketing efforts were successful?

Melanie Adams on Friday 04/14/2017 at 04:13PM wrote:

Hi Chris, very helpful article. This inspired my university Career Center to consider writing a type of blog for our office. Thanks!

Chris Magnuson on Monday 04/17/2017 at 09:26AM wrote:

Hi Marie,
Good to hear from you!

When you use Wordpress there is a "Stats" link that you can hit to see how many views and visitor's you have had to your blog once you create one. I will admit that we are just starting to really use this to help us improve traffic. I will also admit that there were months when I didn't post at all. But that is the joy of it...if you are too busy, then nothing gets posted and it is not the end of the world.

We have been at it here at Western since November of 2014 and I took a look at our STATS just now and we have had posted anywhere from 1 to 5 posts in any given month - 3 to 111 Views, and 3 to 45 Visitor's during any given month. Not entirely sure if I understand the difference between Visitor's and Views, but I can also tell in another area of STATS where the traffic is coming from. Now that my article printed, I can see that for this month several visitor's/views came from the NCDA website. Other months I can see that views/visitors came from LinkedIn, from other Search Engines, and from Word Press itself. I was able to see that we had 20 visitors in one month from our westerntc.edu career services web page....that is the only way I can guess that those visitors are most likely students. So far we have marketed our blog only on our book mark and in classrooms when we go in to teach about resumes/cover letters or our career assessment Typefocus.

Only you and your staff can decide if this is worth your time. We look at it as another way to reach out to our students and help them learn what they need to learn about doing an effective job search. Is it easy? Not really, I now am to the point where I feel like I have written about every aspect of the job search...so what do I write about next. Well, we both know that there are endless possibilities when it comes to writing about job seeking....it is a huge topic. So I just keep plugging along. NCDA editor tells me that I can submit another article in a year or so talking about our progress with this and I do hope to do that. I hope I can incorporate even more that I am telling you when it comes to the statistics. There are likely more that are wondering the same thing you are. If I didn't enjoy writing so much, this might never have happened. Do you have someone on your staff who loves to write? That might be the decision maker right there. I think I mentioned in my article that I try to spend an hour or less per week....and as I mentioned, some weeks I don't even think about our blog. And it is still in the works....it's OK! :)

Hope this helps.

Chris Magnuson, MS, GCDF
Career Services Advisor
magnusonc@westerntc.edu
Blog: Careers4ublog@wordpress.com
608-785-9257

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