Career Advice: Write

Fewer conference presentations, less social media, more writing.

July 25, 2018

Where do we go to read your thoughts about technology and the future of higher education?

If you write about digital learning, please let us know where to find your stuff. If you have not written about digital learning, then I’d like to try to persuade you to join the conversation.

When anyone asks for career advice for navigating a nonfaculty learning career, I always say the same thing.

I tell them to write.

Writing is one of those few things in the career of an alternative academic that one can control.

Building a career in higher ed is really hard. Individually, none of us can determine where the opportunities are likely to be. We all need to balance our work and family obligations. Very few of us are geographically mobile enough to move to where the next big job opportunity presents itself.

But all of us can write.

The good thing about writing to contribute to the digital learning conversation is that almost nobody makes a living doing it. We all need to pay our mortgages doing something else. This gives us all a certain amount of freedom.

As long as you have something to say -- and I know that you have lots of expertise and experience related to higher education and technology and learning -- then you should write.

We don’t have to worry if we are not great writers. We don’t even have to worry if anyone is interested in our writing.

We just have to write.

My recommendation is to redirect some of your professional energy toward writing.

All that time you spend submitting proposals and preparing talks for professional conferences? Do less of that. Write more instead.

The reason is that writing is more scalable than talking. How many people will hear your talk at a conference? When you write, your thoughts can be shared through networks that are impossible to predict.

Here is some other advice that many people will hate. Tweet less. Write longer things more.

Let me take that a step further. Stop doing so much social media. The opportunity costs are too high. Every minute that you spend on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest or whatever could have been spent writing.

Where should you put all this writing on digital learning?

I’m not sure. Or at least I’m not sure that it matters.

Go ahead and submit your writing to Inside Higher Ed, EdSurge and the Chronicle -- and wherever. I hear the Huffington Post takes stuff. How about Educause? Or Evolllution. LinkedIn seems like a good place to write. Where else?

Or better yet, create your own space. Control your own digital destiny. Create your own WordPress site. Advocate for your institution to work with Reclaim Hosting so that you can control your own digital destiny.

Writing is hard. Painful even. But nothing beats writing for clarifying one’s own thinking.

Writing is also the way that our digital learning conversation progresses. We need more voices making longer and more nuanced arguments about the future of higher education. We need more perspectives. More ideas that will challenge our thinking.

You are an expert on your world. You know more than you think you know about learning, technology and the business of higher education. You have perspectives and information that nobody else has. Your ideas deserve to be read, discussed and debated.

Prioritizing writing will not make anything else in your nonfaculty academic career any easier. Writing may open up some opportunities, but maybe not. The more years I spend in higher ed, the more I’m convinced that we undervalue the role of luck and chance in career progression.

So don’t write for career reasons. Maybe writing will help, but maybe not.

Write because you have something to say.

Write because you are curious.

Write because writing is the best way to share your knowledge and build your expertise.

Where can we find your writing?


Inside Higher Ed's Inside Digital Learning

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