Ryan Smith’s Blog Sucks (but it’s getting better)

Ryan Smith - an alternative method for my job searchDisclaimer: I found Ryan Smith’s blog via a Google Alert. I checked out his first (and only post, at the time) and right away thought “Man, I gotta share this with my readers!” This is the first of three posts, today is the introduction, tomorrow is what I don’t like about his blog, and Thursday is what I recommend for his blog strategy. We’ve exchanged a number of e-mails, he is okay with me writing about this, and he has already incorporated some ideas. He’s a self-confessed newbie and I really respect that he jumped in head first. I just think it could have been done differently.

Note: if you know of any opportunities in Michigan for a dependable guy with a degree in Marketing/Management, please let him know (the best way is to go to his blog, find the “My Resume” box on the left, click on Web, and then click on the Contact tab. Or just click here).

Meet Ryan Smith. He’s about my age (Gen X). He lives in Michigan and has had his degree since 1999. He is looking for work and decided to start a blog:

Ryan Smith - Job Seeker

Ryan’s first blog post was kind of a “hey world! I’m here! Come see me and know that I’m in a job search!” I liked the tenacity. But everything I saw and read was contrary to what my You Get It award winners are doing! In fact, over the last 15 months I’ve seen a few of these types of blogs. There has only been one example that I actually liked, all of the rest I found to be the wrong solution (with potentially bad long-term results):

I came across Clint James through a buddy. I LOVED his job search blog as he was chronicling his experience in a very thoughtful, mature way. Clint was not blogging as a “me against the employers,” rather I could read his ability to think critically and apply lessons and principles to the task at hand. I have not found another job seeker blog like this. Here’s the bonus: he has continued to blog about his job … and in a way that would make me proud, if I were his boss. I wish this was the best example out there, but I’m sad to say it’s the ONLY example out there) (of what I’d recommend).

Ryan’s style is much more common, especially amongst the GenY crowd. And I wanted to see if he would be open to constructive criticism. Not only was he open, he was cool about me blogging about it. Good for you Ryan… and please take all of this in the same spirit that I offer it.

To get started, here are the questions that I posed to him in our first e-mail:

  • Do you foresee any issues with employers that might have a problem with your transparency during this search? Do you have some kind of guideline or unwritten policy that you use to ensure you don’t mention anything confidential, or something like that?
  • Have you looked at Emurse? This is something that you could/should do, and then either put a widget on your blog or at least link back to it – the formatting is much better than your introductory post.
  • Are you doing any blog marketing? Leaving comments on other people’s blogs, leaving your blog addy?
  • Aside from asking for Digg votes, are you doing any other promotional stuff (stumbleupon, etc.)?
  • Have you looked at other templates?
  • Tell me about your total online presence strategy – LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace, etc.

More tomorrow.

What do you think? Is Ryan on the right track (remember, when we communicated he only had one post up)? See anything right off the bat that you would change or recommend? I’d love to have this be a group project with other people chiming in 🙂

16 thoughts on “Ryan Smith’s Blog Sucks (but it’s getting better)”

  1. Kudos to Ryan for being willing to subject himself to this, and to you for helping. Here are a few of my initial observations:

    1. For one thing, the formatting makes it unreadable!. Have to get some double-spacing in there, or newspaper-style first-line indentation or something.

    2. That’s a terrible template — not at all consistent with the image I’m sure you want to project of a contemporary (i.e., web-savvy) marketing expert. Check out free Blogger templates and Gecko and Fly Blogspot templates and find something more distinctive and up-to-date.

    3. NEVER admit to desperation. I won’t requote it here, because I’m betting you’re going to go back and change it after you get all this feedback. But re-read the first post with that in mind and reconsider the wording.

    4. “I AM…” posts are, well… a turn-off. I could hardly make it through Sunday’s post. Stories… tell stories! Illustrate that you get upset with yourself when you’re running late. I think that’s really, really critical to a successful blog. For example, I could write 100 posts on the importance of updating your LinkedIn profile, and collectively they wouldn’t have as much impact as the story about the $5,000 profile update.

    My $0.03 worth… I’m looking forward to Jason’s additional comments.

  2. I think the fact that he’s allowing you to do this says a lot about his ability to take criticism and improve upon his existing skills. A common complaint from managers is that Gen Y’ers aren’t good at taking criticism, so employers should love Ryan!

  3. First off, I completely agree that Ryan’s willingness to participate in this says a lot. I wish you the best of luck with your search.

    I’m one of the few that uses Blogger as my blogging platform, like Ryan is here. Scott is right, there’s a ton of slicker looking templates out there that would give the site a better look. One of the things Jason hated about my early template was it’s poor use of width. That forces more of the content “below the fold” and reduces the amount of information that is available to the reader at first glance. This is a common problem with Blogger templates (as it is with Ryan’s now), but if you know a thing or two about CSS, it isn’t too tough to alter that.

    Ryan, when you get a template you like, I’d be happy to help you alter it if you are interested to make better use of the page width (contact me through my blog link below).

    The other Blogger limitation I became quickly frustrated with is the small number of characters you can put into your profile. I got around that by posting a more elaborate “Who I am” page:

    http://blog.nerdguru.net/2006/09/who-i-am.html

    and linked to it both in the blog header and in the truncated profile that Blogger forces on you. I found that let me tell a more complete story (with pictures) and it’s still the second most clicked page on my site.

    Pete Johnson
    HP.com Chief Architect
    Personal Blog: http://nerdguru.net

  4. 1. Blogs should be scannable (sp?). Break up your writing 5 times as often as you are doing now. Add bold in key places.

    2. Your blog has to do two things: 1) get people interested in your story, 2) provide important information for any hiring managers or recruiters. Alternate between telling your story about your job search and explaining your situation/selling yourself. Make sure that there are obvious links to the key posts that explain you and your blog.

    3. Make the blog about having people help you find a job rather than about you trying to find a job. Blogs are better when they aren’t just about the author. Also, I think that’s a more effective strategy toward employment.

    4. Stand out somehow. Don’t cross boundaries, but be interesting to people following your story and be compelling and impressive to those who might hire you.

    5. You need to incorporate more references to my blog in your site. ; ) Just kidding, good luck!

  5. I told Jason that I wouldn’t be checking in until tomorrow evening (I have a day long interview tomorrow and want to stay focused on that, rather than immediately fixing my blog)…but here I am anyway.
    I appreciate the input and will work on improving my blog when I have the time after tomorrow, they look very helpful.

    All of my posts have been asking for help, I’d never been a blogger prior to my “Introduction” post. I also had 3 interviews last week, so I didn’t have a ton of time to devote to the blog. I chose the template that I currently have because it seemed to be among the more professional looking of the cookie cutter ones they offer when you sign up. I chose Blogger since it incorporates so easily with my Google account.
    I do know basic HTML…not so much on the CSS. The template was slightly modified to allow for the Diggs.

    I’m always open to criticism and suggestions, I know my blog is far from amazing at this point. I’ve admitted in it that I’ve been struggling to come up with material to get readers interested. There are people out there that have been blogging for years and, as you guys have shown, can share some very helpful insight. It is much appreciated, and I am very much looking forward to reading Jason’s thoughts, and the comments, in the upcoming couple days. I’d also like a group project. I will be in touch with those that have offered help, just give me until Thursday.

    Seriously, why would I ever pass up the opportunity for the exposure that he offered to me by doing this?

    I’ve already been working on some of the online presence strategies that were included in Jason’s questions. That took up quite a bit of the time that I did have to work on the blog last week.
    Anyhoo, I’m off to work on interview prep some more. Thank you for the suggestions so far, please keep them rolling in.

  6. I was not expecting this type of post. As a newbie it will take time to build your personal brand online and reflect it in your blog.

    Best of luck and enjoy the mention in Jason’s blog!

  7. @Dan< – I like to keep you guessing 😉 Actually, if you say “this type of post” to mean “Jason is bashing on some poor dude,” rest assured that Ryan and I had lengthy e-mails discussing it and he is cool with it (of course, he didn’t know what the title to today’s post was going to be). But this this is much deeper than just trying to point out something that is poorly done,… I’m doing this 3 day series because I see this too much, I really think that it hurts someone’s personal brand and possibly career future, and will be offering up what I would consider to be a better strategy.

    And, I’m really overwhelmed with the excellent input and advice received already… seriously, how many people can say they had THE Chief Architect of HP.com to help redesign your blog (even if it’s just a few things)??

  8. Pete, that looks great. I will switch the layout when I get a moment.

    Anyway…I am looking for thoughts and opinions on the following situation:

    I am having second thoughts about accepting this job offer…

    It’s 60 hours per week, straight commission, no benefits, 6 day work week (5 10.5 hour days, Saturdays 10:30-6)
    Their spiel sounds really good with tons of money to be made getting customers to enroll in a 5 year guaranteed price, no increases, for natural gas. $25 per person that enrolls. The guy I shadowed today had 6 people sign up in about 3.5 hours…in 98 degree heat.
    The alleged goal is 10 enrollees per day. There are only 2 locations in the state, so their sales area is huge. If you could average 13 new enrollees per day, it’d be $100K+.

    Right now I really have nothing to lose by giving it a try, unemployment dried up in June. A 60 hour, 6-day work week may be a little much though. How am I supposed to get any personal things taken care of with Sunday as my only day off?

    We would be paid every Friday though. The #3 manager I talked to claims that we’ll be able to retire in 10 years and that after 3-4 months in the field we should be able to become managers if we want to be because the market is booming. All 3 of the managers in this current location are moving by early next year because they are opening locations in new states.

    It’s also a 1099 company, so taxes would be our own responsibility.

    There really was no interview process to speak of. A group of about 25 of us came in one day for a presentation and then I had about a 3 minute interview (admittedly, mine was shorter than most other people’s) where I was offered a 2nd interview. Interview #2 consisted of 11 of us coming back, and 2-3 of us were assigned to follow training managers around (supposed to be for about an hour and a half, ended up being 3+), seeing what they did and if we’d like to do it.
    Despite the sweltering heat, it looked fairly easy. Another major drawback would be that on occasion you have to go into a very rough neighborhood, and we could be prosecuted if we misrepresent ourselves as associated with the utility company. After following the guy around we came back to the office and had another very brief, individual sit down with the managers where they asked if I’d be interested. All 3 managers seem like nice guys, although they are also all stereotypical salesman personalities.

    As an added bonus, on my way in to the interview a mourning dove came zipping in on my truck and exploded when it hit my cargo rack…all I saw was an explosion of feathers in my rear view.
    Then, as I’m backing out once my suddenly 9:30 hour day was done (it was supposed to last 11:30-6:30…didn’t get out until 9:30ish) my former minor grinding on my front axle became major, and suddenly my brakes are soft.
    I went back into the office and talked with one of the managers, he came out and took a look at my truck, upon quick visual neither of us sees what’s wrong. I got it about halfway home before pulling into a mall and calling my dad for help, since at that point I was very close to his house.
    All in all…left home at 9:45am…returned home shortly before midnight. I was supposed to be back for training and heading out into “the field” at 9am today. Shortly after I got home I called the office and talked to a different manager about what had happened, he said it’d be alright if I just came in tomorrow.

    My gut tells me that something smells fishy in Denmark.
    How about you?

  9. @Scott – Excellent – thank you!

    @Rebecca – I agree – when I did this with the resume experiment I had very clear instructions to not mention who it was… btw, I didn’t know that was a common complaint (I thought the common GenY complaint was that they don’t stick around :p)

    @Pete – Wow, your willingness to chip in really impressed me. I’ve known you to be a pretty cool guy before now but his is above and beyond.

    @Chuck – excellent (and candid) points, thank you!

    @Carl – thanks for the link 🙂

    @Ryan – ya, I’d say, something smells fishy in Denmark (no offense Karin :p). There are too many things in your comment that are bright red flags. This is going to require another post.

  10. Great idea to share a work-in-progress discussion of a real blog, and I realize I am late to the party here!

    There’s a fine balance in blogging between personal and informal on the one hand, and being excessively “me-centered” on the other. One of the most effective ways to build your own personal brand is to demonstrate your expertise, rather than talk about it: keep making useful contributions to the Great Online Conversation in a way that provokes a “who said that?” response. Best to plan this in advance: have a clear summary at your side of your own key ideas (at the SBC we call them “pips”).

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