orgtheory.net

blogging will not ruin your career

A few years ago, a friendly senior scholar sat me down and warned me: “Fabio, you really have to stop this blogging thing. It’s not good for you.” This was a pretty serious conversation. He meant it as kind advice from a more seasoned friend and colleague. I smiled, mumbled, and said, “Um, ok, thank you.” Then, I proceeded to blog as usual.

I figured that blogging wasn’t bad as long as (a) you did not let it displace your actual job and (b) your blog posts were professionally written and not shrill in tone. I only seriously blogged once my book on Black Studies was published and had a solid list of articles under my belt. Also, I made sure that the bulk of my blogging was about sociology, org studies, and professional issues (e.g., the Grad Skool Rulz). I have never regretted my choice to continue writing in this format. People still like reading it and I get lots of positive feedback.

As I look down the orgtheory crew list, I see that I’m not alone. Other orgtheory crew members are doing quite well despite their association with this blog. Omar, most famously, is now an editor of ASR, our flagship journal. Brayden is doing well at the leading b-school in the US. Kieran not only blogs here on occasion, but also his personal blog and at Crooked Timber. He’s doing quite well at Duke and his data visualizations are often picked up my major news media. Katherine has written an award winning book and Elizabeth is graduate chair at Albany. Sean directs the MA program at Sciences Po in France and Teppo has just become chair of his department at Oxford.

This is obviously a selection effect. I think it’s silly to think that these folks weren’t already top notch when they participated in this blog. It speaks well, though, of Teppo and Brayden, who founded this blog and reached out to so many people who have excelled in the profession.

The lesson I have for early career readers is this: When there is something new, something that doesn’t fit the mold, you shouldn’t run away from it. Don’t be scared to reach out and develop your voice. Surround yourself with good people. As long as you write from a position of integrity and respect for the reader, it will be ok.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

August 6, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in blogs, fabio

14 Responses

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  1. As a pretty senior member of the field, I think it is clear that professional academic blogging can help your career by raising your visibility, as long as blogging does not substitute for peer-reviewed work. As others have said, writing is writing and self-promotion has its place as part of career building.

    What can hurt your career is spending too much time online following links and reading other people’s blogs or the things posted on social media.

    Liked by 3 people

    olderwoman

    August 6, 2015 at 2:28 pm

  2. So we should have more soc bloggers but fewer soc readers? I think Myspace tried this already.

    Like

    cwalken

    August 7, 2015 at 4:04 am

  3. Cwalken:who said that? We can read and write!

    Like

    fabiorojas

    August 7, 2015 at 1:16 pm

  4. It can also enhance your reputation in other ways. I recently learned that olderwoman gives great investment advice!

    Like

    Bill

    August 7, 2015 at 3:45 pm

  5. @Fabio: It’s the implication of Olderwoman’s comment. It can be good to blog, but bad to read them. If everyone took that advice we’d all end up writing more for no one. Kind of like academic publishing in general.

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    cwalken

    August 7, 2015 at 3:57 pm

  6. I agree with cwalken about the implication, but I think there is a balance. There is too much on the Internet and it really is too easy to start clicking links and getting addicted to reading stuff. I think many of us have that problem, and I’ve seen bloggers close their blogs saying that writing the blog didn’t take too much time, but being on line and interacting all the time did. Only the people who have good habits about limiting their online time to well-compartmentalized blocks avoid this problem. So I agree this does imply that if people regulate their online time well, there will be more competition for readership and not everybody’s blog will have much of an audience. That said, I agree with others who have previously written about how the act of writing up their tentative ideas and putting them out for commentary has a positive payoff in writing works for publication. And a few people have good enough academic blogs that their audiences, even if small, enhance their academic reputations.

    As for investment advice, I think Bill is pulling our legs! I do give good professional development advice, though.

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    olderwoman

    August 7, 2015 at 4:55 pm

  7. Both Fabio and Olderwoman give the same old advice, “as long as it doesn’t take away from your real work.” So you either think blogging isn’t work, or that bloggers should just work more hours. This is wrong. Blogging is work. It displaces other work. If you do it right that’s a good decision, like any other aspect of our work. It should increase the impact and quality of your peer reviewed work, which is a good trade for quantity of peer reviewed articles few people read. Senior people who understand this should be committing to doing evaluations and hires that value the whole sociologist, and changing our hamstrung publishing culture.

    Liked by 4 people

    Philip N. Cohen

    August 13, 2015 at 7:15 pm

  8. Phil: A little push back. People usually have informal time budgets. For example, “I will work on that article for three hours today.” In that same budget, there is usually time for entertainment or open time. All that we mean is that blogging should not displace the time spent on teaching or research. It should always come second, unless, miraculously, it is your job to blog! No one means that blogging doesn’t require effort.

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    fabiorojas

    August 13, 2015 at 7:42 pm

  9. Your job being to blog is not a miracle, it’s a decision, and one we would chose to support institutionally, for the reasons I said – it can improve quality and impact of research (and teaching, of course). If you have a good idea to write a blog (or other public outreach non-peer-.reviewed type platform) about, I am suggesting it’s ok for that to come out of your research time budget. And your elders should respect and reward that (if it’s good, like anything else).

    Like

    Philip N. Cohen

    August 13, 2015 at 8:34 pm

  10. Actually, it is a miracle to have a blogging job as social media usually pays nil. If you know institutions that would pay an R1 salary for just blogging, please tell us!

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    fabiorojas

    August 13, 2015 at 8:36 pm

  11. A good analogy might be to grant writing, I think. Some (many?) institutions/departments weigh grant-writing directly in academic advancement as it brings money to an institution. But too much emphasis on writing grants and too little on publishing their results becomes a death spiral. Unless you are playing the senior role of writing grants that other people publish from.

    It is reasonable to view blogging and other non peer-reviewed writing as public outreach and popularization of science. There is actual value to your institution as well as your individual career from having a public presence. Different institutions weigh that value differently, but a science popularizer isn’t the same career as a scientist. Some top scientists also write popular work. But of course there is a finite number of hours in the day and one assumes that popular writing takes away from their work producing new science and new peer reviewed publications about science. That does not mean it should not be done. It has long been recognized that popularization of science is an important function.

    So now we have three different kinds of writing by scientists/scholars, all legitimate and respectable, all normal parts of professional careers, and in a somewhat zero-sum relation to each other in the sense that there are a finite number of hours in the day. Academic institutions vary in how they weight these three, but most give priority to the peer-reviewed publications in the tenure process, with grant-getting also factoring into many fields. Public/popular writing in the traditional career is mostly a post-tenure occupation, and there are few academic institutions that will award tenure for public/poplar writing.

    My emphasis was on how Internet-addiction can be a time sink, which remains true. My main point was the positive value of blogging if it is the right type of blogging.

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    olderwoman

    August 14, 2015 at 12:14 pm

  12. The view of blogging as popularizing is too narrow (and dated). For a lot of my posts most readers are other social scientists – and they are also the source for many posts. Open discussion improves our science. That’s why I keep saying blogging increases the quality and impact of the work. What Olderwoman is describing is like an Op Ed. That’s one narrow model.

    Like

    Philip N. Cohen

    August 14, 2015 at 12:27 pm

  13. I do think the future of academia is leading more in the direction that Philip Cohen suggests. Just to give you another take: I remember having this same conversation with senior scholars who were looking out for my interests by discouraging me from feminist work, arguing that it would ghettoize me in the discipline. That may have been true, but the discipline also moved to meet me in the ensuing years, and I have never regretted my choice to ignore the well-meaning advice.

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    joyamisra

    August 14, 2015 at 2:18 pm

  14. I’m not disagreeing with Phil or Joya about the value of academic blogging. And I didn’t compare it to an op ed. But it is still not peer reviewed. I was providing ways of thinking about it as part of a tenure or merit raise package.

    Like

    olderwoman

    August 14, 2015 at 4:56 pm


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