Learning to Stand Out

blogging entrepreneurship jobhunt self development social media

A while back, I wrote some articles for the blog, Farm to Table, including a mini-interview article at a farmers' market, an overview of a local farm and agricultural center, and a restaurant review. These were all pretty decent articles, and got me thinking in a more initiative-taking manner. Because the blogger, Zachary Adam Cohen, was open to any post ideas I might come up with, it gave me a lot of freedom to look for angles and stories I would be interested in, within the range of sustainable foodism of course. As a result, I was always looking for story ideas and suddenly found myself willing to put my ideas out there (I can thank Zach for helping me get the confidence to take this and my other blog, Quick Fit, more seriously). Suddenly, what I wrote wasn't determined by an assignment handed down by some professor. It was based on my interests and my reading of my audience's interests. I was making my own work (though I wasn't being paid for it).

The second thing that happened was not getting hired at OneVoice, where I had been interviewing for what looked like a dream job for about a month and a half. The final reason, so often the case with people my age, was lack of experience. So I took a look at my skill set and realized that there are very few things I have any real experience with, and most of them required a lot of red tape before I could be paid for them. I know nutrition, and I know exercise really well. I write very well. But these things are difficult to sell to most people. Even fitness and nutrition jobs require silly certification processes that cost money I don't have. I kind of got fed up with asking other people to give me something to do, and I got tired of putting off the things I wanted to do. I want to write and share my knowledge of fitness and nutrition, so I'm going to.

There was another thing. At OneVoice, there had been some suggestion to me helping out in a social media campaign, and social media had come up again at another job I was looking into. There was something here.

Again, Zach inspired me. After a series of talks with him, I started to get a sense of the possibilities of social media. Here was a field anyone could get into. Sure, all bloggers have dreams about stumbling upon the success seen in Julie & Julia, or making it big as a health and fitness blogger like Mark Sisson and spending all your time at the beach. This is not likely, though having a plan and a handle on the landscape helps. There is a difference, however, between what Zach does (and inspired me to learn) and what these blogs do. Social media, the rising tide of socially connecting technologies like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, StumbleUpon etc. are quickly becoming the most significant and fastest changing mediums of information exchange, playing increasing roles in news coverage, advertisement, public and customer relations, branding, socializing, and a whole raft of other things, many yet to be discovered. It was clear from the articles I was reading that this was the future of a lot of fields. If I could get experience here, then I would be well placed to get into any job I wanted.

So I started maintaining my blog more dutifully. I started a second blog to have the opportunity to write about and share my interests. I did some research on how Twitter works and became cultivating a network of followers by following topics that interest me and adding my own two cents to those conversations. Slowly, I'm gaining more followers. Most of my readers come from Facebook at the moment and I'm leveraging that medium as best I can, using it to strengthen my existing social connections and to find an audience for my ideas. The response has been overwhelming, and positive.

I've always wanted to be a writer. And now I'm writing a lot, and being read. That is one small part of my dream come true. I'm really enjoying this journey, inspired by my Farm to Table posts and the possibilities of social media. I realized that somewhere along the line, I started thinking like an entrepreneur. I keep noticing opportunities in everything. I was at a Paleo nutrition seminar the other day and noticed they didn't have a social media strategy set up, no Facebook, no Twitter, but that these things would be invaluable for following and encouraging their new converts trying to make dietary changes. My cousin's restaurant would benefit and I pitched a proposal to him. I've actually been offered a restaurant franchise (long story), and a friend and I are thinking of going into business together. The connections I've made with people have suddenly opened a huge number of doors, and the concept of starting a business, getting investors, and developing a working enterprise doesn't seem as intimidating as it used to, and certainly more attractive than doing what someone else wants me to. I've been able to refer friends to potential employers and have established contacts all over the place.

This all from a guy who didn't understand Twitter's appeal or its use, didn't get the concept of sharing content rather than day-to-day trivia on Facebook, was intimidated by the concept of having his ideas on the Internet, and was terrified of taking intellectual risks. Writers are not often the most outgoing people. But the new generation of writers will be among the most outgoing people, because they will be writing in a world where every article is part of an ongoing and dynamic conversation happening in real time.

Basically, I got fed up with what I saw as begging for a job and decided to start developing the skills to make my own. I saw a good opportunity and I pursued it. And above all, I just stuck to my guns, doing what I love, which is writing. As I've always believed, if you follow your dreams, they will take you places you'd never expect and you will find yourself forging new paths.

I would love to hear your thoughts on social media, because I know a lot of people have misgivings about it. Post thoughts and questions to the comments.