A benefit of blogging that you may have not considered is that it can sharpen both your scientific and “soft” skills. Similar to how you plan and execute experiments in the lab, or how you prepare to write a grant or science paper, in preparing to write a blog post, you explore new topics and different ideas on how to solve a problem. One main problem with blogging is finding a way to connect with your readers. How can you make the story relevant to them? Know your audience! Writing a blog gives you focus. It forces you to organize your ideas in a logical way, as you would with your research project. Like in an experiment, you may go back to your story to find ways of improving your writing, with the purpose of having a clear message.
Blogging also gives you the chance to reach out and connect with people in your community and around the world that in other ways would have been impossible. It makes your world smaller. It can serve as an opportunity to network with people with similar interests, or even create unexpected collaborations. More importantly, when you blog, you have the chance to inspire and help others, to make a difference in someone else’s life.
The social cliché about scientists is that we are isolated creatures, with no social skills whatsoever. If we want the public to trust us and change the way they think about us, we need to write for them. The cyberspace needs real scientists spreading the news about relevant scientific discoveries. It is our responsibility to make sure that the public has the right information about scientific findings so that they can make the right choices. The amount of people blogging about science with no scientific training at all—pseudo-scientists—is growing every day. The problem is that the public will take whatever these pseudo-scientists say as the absolute truth. We need to change that.
Blogging can be beneficial in your job search as well, especially if you are considering a career outside academia. When you blog, you further develop your communication, time management, and organizational skills. Think about the following: In the lab, you are constantly dealing with multiple projects, training people, deadlines for your grants, papers, and preparing that last minute report or presentation that your PI asked you to work on at the end of your day. If you successfully include blogging to your to-do list, you definitely show great communication, time management, and organizational skills. These are highly valuable “soft” skills in careers that are mostly driven by tight deadlines and multiple parallel projects, like project management and medical writing. Also, if you are interested in a science communication job, writing a blog will give you the opportunity to improve your writing, editing, and proofreading skills.
Working with a team of bloggers—like the awesome Rutgers iJOBS blog team— prepares you to be a strong leader and a team member. These are essential skills in the industry job market. Leadership skills and working as part of a team show that you have the potential to adapt to the industry work culture. No one is going to hire someone that does not know how to relate to others, how to respect different opinions or how to step up when the occasion arises. Many times in my job search, I have seen the terms multidisciplinary team in a job description. If you are part of a blog team, the chances are that you will be collaborating with peers from different disciplines.
Even more importantly, when you write, you open yourself to the world, to new learning opportunities and to making new connections. Overall you are making a difference. Like everything we do, blogging is an activity that gets better the more you try.
I hope that I may have inspired you to write in some way. If you start blogging, chances are you might discover that you are good at it, and if you enjoy it you might even discover a new career path. Remember you have a voice that is waiting to be heard.