Blogs galore: An interview with serial blogger Helen Curry

The series of interviews that I’ve been running on careers blogging seems to have been well received. In this interview we speak to Helen Curry who may just be running more blogs than is good for her.

 

AiCD:  Introduce yourself

Hi, I’m Helen Curry, the “Information Officer with Responsibility for Online Resources” at The Careers Group, University of London. It’s a great job that allows me to do all kinds of things including updating Facebook all day, planning websites, making videos, researching careers news, training staff and helping students. Officially, I am a librarian by training. And in my spare time I like a bit of freestyle crochet. Quite geeky overall, and proud.

 

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AiCD: Tell us about the blogs you write/contribute to.

Careers 2.0 http://helencurry.wordpress.com is my blog about using web 2.0 – Facebook, bloggng, podcasting etc – for careers advice and information. Using social media is a constant learning curve, and I find it useful to reflect on and discuss approaches I have tried.

 

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Off the Shelves – The Careers Group library blog http://thecareersgrouplibrary.wordpress.com is my main blog at work. As the majority of my audience will not be users of our library, I like to write posts of general interest, highlighting online resources as well as recommended books.

 

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Reach – Supporting graduates facing barriers to employment http://thecareersgroupreach.wordpress.com is another work blog, a group blog, that I have contributed to. This blog is directed very much at London students, offering a broad coverage of diversity-related current awareness and opportunities.

 

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Crochet Creature http://www.crochetcreature.co.uk is my off-duty blog. I wanted to write about my latest crochet creations, share some patterns, get into the lovely community of knit-bloggers, and maximise the geekery by installing and customising my own WordPress site. Of course I have to find the time to crochet first, then find the time to photograph and write… Which I think leads onto the next question nicely.

 

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AiCD: Didn’t’ Oscar Wilde say something like to write one blog is misfortune, to write two looks like carelessness? What made you set up all your b
logs?

 

I wouldn’t recommend writing for more than one blog. You are setting yourself up for guilt and dissatisfaction. A great blog takes work and commitment. There aren’t enough hours in the day.

 

Of course sometimes it makes sense, you want to write about a very different topic, to a different audience, you want to learn something new, you want a separate after-work blog… The most important thing is not to set up a new blog for each and every one of these reasons. Like I did.

 

AiCD:  What technology do you use on the blogs?

WordPress.com and WordPress 3.0 

  

AiCD: Is your authorial personae different on all of the different blogs?

Yes, although possibly getting closer.

 

Where I feel I am representing my organisation and I am much more careful about the opinions I state and make clear which are my personal opinions. Sometimes I stick to a purely informational viewpoint. I take less risks on work blogs.

 

Over time I have felt that being too dry and corporate is not what blogging is about, it does not engage people, so I occasionally experiment with putting a bit more of me in it, a bit of life, although I have to make sure I am covering all interests there not just my own.

 

AiCD:  How often do you update?

What I’d like to do, and what I actually do is very different… It does tend to vary according to bursts of enthusiasm – I think this is typical of a lot of bloggers.

 

Careers 2.0 – I’d like to write fortnightly, as ideas come up, but it has now been a couple of months since my last post… I write less on here when I have Open University coursework. Or a social life.

 

Off the Shelves – I think the minimum I can get away with is once a week, otherwise audience figures tumble. For growth, I’ll do 2-3 posts per week.

 

Reach – I only contribute occassionally, the rest of the team have now made a schedule.

 

Crochet Creature – umm, sporadically, at best. But I really mean to do more.

 

AiCD: Who do you think reads them?

The work blogs are partly read by students and users of The Careers Group websites and pages on Facebook, where the feeds are displayed. But I also think a lot of traffic comes from Google and non-university audiences, so I try to write so that anyone can get something from it.

 

Careers 2.0 is read more by careers service staff. And people searching for lego people apparently.

 

And no one reads the crochet blog…

 

AiCD: What is it about you that makes you think people should pay attention to what you blog about?

When it comes to the careers service blogs, I put a lot of effort into finding
and bringing together resources, researching what people want to know, and finding approaches that will engage.

 

For my personal blogs, I see things differently, I’m not claiming special authority. I’m usually blogging about some puzzle I have in mind which I want to think through, or something that has really inspired me which I want to share. I blog to connect with people and develop new ideas. It is a community thing. Librarians do this very well, they are tremendously supportive. 

 

AiCD: What have been the best things about blogging so far?

Comments, real comments, from real people.

Learning what to post and how often to see the audience and usage grow.

Feeling useful.

The rush of inspiration and jotting down great ideas to share.

Generating and growing more ideas as I write and read.

 

AiCD: What are the downsides?

The Guilt. When you haven’t posted for a while. Deciding if and when it might be time to let a blog go (I have killed 3 blogs too).

 

AiCD: Do you think blogging will ever replace conventional careers advice/education?  

No, conventional careers advice will always have a place. You only have to look at peoples’ varied learning styles to know that some people will always want face-to-face guidance tailored to them, immediacy, personal coaching and motivation, rather than the slow investment and laborious process of searching, scanning and piecing together information from blogs. Self-assessment of ability is also notoriously difficult, so that third-party, professional viewpoint adds a lot of value – if people realise that they need it of course…

 

But I do believe blogging is a valuable tool for careers education. Writing a blog is a great exercise in reflection, comparable to a career discussion, and perfect for a job-hunter. It can raise your profile, perfect for networking. And you can learn a lot by putting yourself out there and sharing ideas. Reading blogs can give you a better insight into what it is like to do a job, to get an insider view with real character, I’d rather have a well-written, in-depth blog than a superficial case study from a careers website or book. I probably lean more towards blogs and talking to friends for my own career development, but I would never propose that as right for everyone!

 

AiCD: What careers blogs do you read?

Currently:

 

AiCD: Thanks for listing this blog twice! Do you read any non-careers blogs.

Yes,

And more actually, but I think that will do…

 

 

AiCD: Any final words?

Thanks for doing these interviews – you’ve introduced me to a number of interesting blogs!

 

 

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