Interviewing for Google & ESPN, a Dinky Little Blog Emerged

This post is dedicated to any college students who may read this. If you know one who's driven to work in tech, I hope you'll share it with them if you find it at all valuable. (And thanks for reading.)

Some might say blogging is an art form. Others might say it's a science. But most might say it’s verbal vomit and tremendous noise adding to the most noise ever created by humanity. (Fact: According to Google's Eric Schmidt, the same amount of information created from the dawn of mankind up until 2003 is now being replicated every 48 hours. So. Freaking. Insane.)

So if tweets can be dubbed the farts of the internet, then as the bigger medium, blogging is...well, you get the picture.

But that does NOT have to be the case. This post was inspired by my interview process back in 2008 with Google, after which I worked there as a digital media strategist. At the time, I was surprised at how much time my interviewers spent asking me about this dinky sports blog I wrote in college, which I ran for fun without ever breaking 100 readers in a day. But, years in digital marketing later, I totally get it.

A blog is documented, semi-permanent proof that you are both passionate and can execute against that. Anyone hiring, especially those hiring young employees, that googles your name (and they most certainly do) and finds your blog will learn three distinct things quickly:

  1. You’re motivated. Keeping up a blog, even casually, is a very big commitment.
  2. You’re passionate. Writing a blog doesn’t automatically make you an expert per se, but it does show your willingness to pursue a specific topic or skill.
  3. You’re “digitally savvy” or a "digital native." I can’t tell you how many employers check for this, or even use this phrase in the job description. (Just five weeks ago, I took a director job at NextView Ventures which was described, in part, as needing to be a digital native.)

Jay, cut the crap - you’re writing a blog right now. Why should I listen to you? You’re totally biased!

Look, I won’t claim to have decades of professional experience (cuz, like...I don't). Nor will I try to regale you with tales from my career and “the way it used to be.” But I will offer two very quick, very true pieces of evidence to support what I’m saying: Regularly writing a blog can give you a distinct advantage in your career.

AT THE MOTHERSHIP OF SPORTS

First, when I interviewed for an internship with ESPN in 2007, I found myself discussing a generic sports blog with everyone I met (allstarblog.com - it’s still live but has been gathering digital dust for years now). I spent probably 30 minutes across several interviews easily and passionately and confidently discussing something I loved, something which allowed me to highlight my love for working hard, writing, sports, and my personal style and differentiating factors.

The blog more or less opened up a great conversation with each person that met with me that day, as well as a memorable conversation I later had with an ESPN SVP named Chris LaPlaca. This senior decision maker wanted to hear about my blog over everything else on the resume, which by the time I reached him, he just assumed would all be buttoned up.

That stupid little blog led directly to my internship and, I’m convinced, future doors opening.

AT THE MOTHERSHIP OF TECH

Second, when I applied to Google online (literally - I sent my resume through their online site without a single reference), one of my eventual colleagues who interviewed me admitted that my blog had jumped out. She didn't know or even care that I got barely 20 views a day if I was lucky.

Google looks for smart, creative, well-rounded people who show a deep interest in many things. (I was SUPER lucky to even be considered among them.) Because the company moves so fast, they need flexible people who can succeed in an ever-changing the role. The blog, my eventual colleague and erstwhile interview said, stood out but because I’d shown a willingness to pour myself into something as a testing ground for my personal passions.

A TOAST - TO YOU

Here's to you pursuing a personal passion, even if (and especially if) you don't know what you want to be when you grow up. Cuz I sure as hell don't. 

Using a simple blog, be it Tumblr or Blogger or Wordpress or Squarespace, I hope you start writing about the industry or skill set you hope to pursue. Do you HAVE TO blog? No, absolutely not. But if you’re thinking about it, then do it. It can be a source of instant conversation with employers and help your true self shine through in plenty of authentic ways.

Interviews are a horse and pony show. References are your hand-selected advocates. But your blog? That’s fully you -- and that's a beautiful thing.

Posted on April 7, 2014 and filed under writing.