As a writer and a power user of WordPress.com, landing a job with Automattic and supporting the WordPress.com blogging software was a dream come true. In addition to helping users learn how to publish their content on their own personal sites, I also got to spend my days writing. At the end of my 3.5-year tenure I had written more than 635,000 words on Automattic’s internal blogs.
As a customer support agent, I wrote internal documents on how to lean into customer frustration, reminded ourselves to under-promise and over-deliver, and recommended we say “Thank You” more than we say “I’m sorry.” As a team lead I wrote about how I approached performance reviews with my team, shared leadback survey methods and results, and wrote about how to advocate for team members through goal setting.
I wrote and wrote and wrote. All of it within our internal, private blogs.
One day, in a conversation about career development, our head of support said something to the effect of, “One of the best things anyone can do for their career is blog about what you do. All this great stuff Happiness Engineers are sharing internally — why not blog those tips publicly?”
Why not indeed.
Shortly after that, I began writing about career topics more openly on my blog, like explorations of What is a Career? and What can I contribute?
It was when I joined the Support Driven community about a year and a half into my time at Automattic where it really hit home how valuable it is to share our inside knowledge outside. As I read through the Support Driven Slack channels, I was dumbfounded: here was whole world of support professionals outside of the company I worked within — support agents, team leads, department directors — who were talking with each other and asking questions about many of the same things we talked about and wondered about within Automattic: how do you schedule weekends? How do you support a teammate who’s interacting with an abusive customer? How do you help team members control time-consuming tangents in live chat?
Here were others who might have answers! And I might have answers for them. We’re in an industry where there aren’t a lot of books about what we do. I could be helpful here.
So I started blogging more about work-related topics. And blogging led to speaking, and to helping out with conferences, and to getting to know others in the industry who have helped me along my path. I even started a spin-off career blog.
I’m not great at the career blogging stuff. I don’t lay posts out like instructional articles with headings and bullet lists like I probably should for them to be most useful. My posts are more a messy “omg here’s this thing I just realized and maybe it will help you, too” format, or they’re rough-cut because I’m limited for time. Imperfect and published is better than perfect and unpublished.
BUT. My blog has been a friend to me throughout my post-40-start-a-brand-new-career life. And here are headings and bullet lists that share why.
Writing is a form of learning
- The best way to learn something is to try to teach it to someone else.
- And what is writing about work but trying to teach a thing you know to someone else?
Maybe I can help
- In an emerging industry, where there are limited how-to or best-practices books and blogs, support professionals are hungry for resources
- I’ve written, spoken, or have the knowledge to write about some of the topics I see support pros asking about in the Support Driven Slack
Blogging expands my scope of influence
- Before Automattic, my scope of influence was limited to my blog followers (and I love you for following, thank you!)
- Within Automattic, blogging internally helped me expand beyond just my role and into parts of the whole organization
- Beyond Automattic, blogging externally helps me expand into the whole industry
This last one, about expanding my scope of influence, makes me feel squirmy because it seems nakedly ambitious. And maybe it is, and maybe I shouldn’t feel bad about that.
When I couple 1) the Automattic head of support’s advice to share our knowledge with people outside the company to help move the whole industry forward with 2) Buffer’s career framework for how individuals at Buffer advance without becoming managers, where influencing the whole industry is the highest level of impact one can attain, it makes sense to want to help and have as broad an impact as possible.
So in answer to the Support Driven Writing Challenge prompt, Do you blog about work or career related topics?, the answer is yes. It’s scary, and every time I publish, I fear ridicule, and that someone knows better, and that I’ve got it all wrong. But writing and sharing help me grow, and they hopefully help others in their terriciting growth as well.
One thought on “Forging a career path… through blogging”
Great post, Andrea. Keep sharing your thoughts. Of course there will always be people who ‘know better’ – maybe they do but maybe they don’t. Your take is just that – your take and therefore valuable and if it helps and inspires others, it’s good that you share. Your ambitions are admirable and your post has encouraged me to post about my own career experiences not necessarily as an expert but as someone who has experiences that could help others. All the best with your blog.
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