Professional Development

The new resume: Eric Cai, Statistics Graduate on blogging as a career accelerator

October 05, 2014

This article is part of a series exploring professional paths for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that make use of or leverage academic training but are not limited to traditional faculty positions (#alt-ac).

After countless years of post-secondary education, you know lots of stuff. Better yet, you love your discipline and your research in it. So why not share that passion and expertise with the world and kick-start your career in the process? Eric did. 

After graduating from SFU with a major in chemistry and a minor in math, Eric Cai went to the University of Toronto and completed a Master's degree in Statistics in 2012. After graduating he landed a job in his field but still wasn't quite satisfied.   

“I enjoyed my job in industrial statistics a lot, but I missed studying chemistry, and there were many concepts about statistics and math that I wanted to learn on a deeper level.  I wanted to...continue my education on my own and push my career to the next level.”

After reading a lot of career advice online and reflecting on his own experience as a Career Peer Educator at SFU, Eric created a blog focused on sharing his knowledge and passion for statistics and chemistry - and The Chemical Statistician was born.

 “I attended a seminar by Lauren Friese – the founder of Talent Egg (a web site that connects employers with new and recent university graduates) – and she spoke passionately about using a blog to establish an online brand and go after my dream career in this challenging economy.  That was quite inspirational, and it motivated me to start something that reflected my passion through my own, unique voice.”

Despite a lot of thought and mental preparation, Eric was still surprised by how time-consuming blogging was.

“When I started, it would take me all weekend to write one post – and I got barely any viewership in return.  For the first 3 months, my blog attracted very little traffic, but I stuck to my core philosophy of writing not for attention, but to build quality and substance.”

By sharing his posts via Twitter (@chemstateric),  LinkedIn and various online industry groups, his analytics started to rise.

“Today, I get 200 views a day. I had no expectations; I was surprised at how positive the response was.” Since then, he has expanded his blog to write professional advice columns and start a YouTube Channel of video tutorials. 

“Now people know me online before they meet me in person—they will approach me at conferences and tell me that they enjoy my posts.”

Eric’s social media strategy also helped him to advance his career.  “I recently started a new job as a Biostatistical Analysit at the BC Cancer Agency.  During my interview, my future boss had very positive impressions about my blog, YouTube videos, and Twitter feed.  Those outlets allowed me to directly display my technical and communication skills, above and beyond what I could show in a résumé or a cover letter- it definitely gave me an edge over other candidates.”

 Thanks to the work he put into sharing his knowledge and passion via social media, he developed and demonstrated a wide variety of communication and networking skills in a much more dynamic and engaging way than a piece of paper.

For those beginner bloggers hoping to build a strong following of their own, Eric offers these 6 tips:

  1. Read, read, read: Find out what other blogs are writing about, including how they deal with comments, to help you define your style and audience
  2. Establish your philosophy: Why are you writing this?  What are you writing?  (What are you NOT writing?)  How are you going to present it? Establishing a consistent voice and theme will help you to define your audience and build your readers' trust.
  3. Be regular: When people like a blog they will stop by regularly and check it out.  However, if you are not consistent in updating, then they will be less likely to continue reading.  State clearly on your blog's “About” page how often you hope to update your blog.
  4. Promote it: Share your posts in LinkedIn groups and syndicate it with blog aggregators.
  5. Interact: Respond to your commenters but remember to stay positive when you do. Employers  will look you up online and may see anything that you publish.
  6. Just Write! Don’t waste too much time thinking about what you are going to write about, just pick a topic and go for it!

- Jackie Amsden, APEX Certificate Professional Development Coordinator

If you are interested in exploring these concepts further and applying them to your situation, check out the APEX Certificate Program, a professional development program designed to help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows plan and pursue their career paths.  


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