Are Gen Y committing the cardinal sin of believing our own hype? I’m afraid we might be. Blogging may be a great way to get noticed in our respective fields, but let’s not allow our mastery of fancy technology to lull us into thinking we’re achieving something we’re not.
In a radio interview a few years back*, career advisor Penelope Trunk said something that made me think, “No, no, no, NO!”. She said:
The people who are blogging about their careers are the top performers, because it is so hard to blog. It’s so hard to be constantly thinking about your profession and to be gathering new ideas and putting out new ideas and having conversations about it, that only the best people, only the best employees are blogging and following blogs…
There are lots of things that make someone a top performer – hard work, talent, experience. But blogging? I really don’t think so. It may be a common denominator among successful or highly motivated employees, but I bet it’s also common among employees who are bored, or disillusioned, or really, really ticked off too.
Penelope does a great job of giving a voice to a sub-culture and I really admire the time and effort she puts into helping young bloggers find their voices. But in this particular case, I think she’s in danger of mis-managing expectations. I think it’s dangerous to believe that just because someone blogs, they’re a top performer or the best kind of employee. And it’s especially dangerous for younger bloggers to believe this, as it plays into all the worst kind of stereotyping of Generation Y-ers.
There’s no doubt that it’s hard to be constantly thinking about your profession, and formulating ‘new’ ideas. But who’s to say we’re coming up with anything really new? An idea or concept might be new to me, but that doesn’t mean it’s new to everyone else in my field too. I’d be embarrassed if anyone thought I was under the illusion that I was contributing to my field in anything other than a general way. (And by general I mean that if someone learns from my mistakes, then all the better).
The main issue here is that we’re in danger of confusing style with substance. Blogging is just a tool we can choose to employ for any number of purposes. Personally, I blog to learn, not because I’m any kind of ‘expert’. Blogging is simply one way to consolidate all the information I come into contact with everyday. It doesn’t in itself make me any different to another professional translator who might choose to use a different set of tools to track their development.
Blogging with an authoritative voice is an accepted means of writing for the web, but let’s not fall into the trap of believing our own hype. That’s just setting ourselves up to look dumb when it turns out that we’re only learning what a lot of other people have already worked out for themselves – and in a much less painful and self-absorbed way. I’d heartily advocate using blogging as a means of developing professionally, but I’d also recommend being clear on how sure you are of your ideas, and at what stage you’re at in the opinion-formulating process. Anything else and we’re just giving blogging a bad name.