is my inactive blog giving employers a bad impression?

A reader writes:

Be warned, this may be a silly question, but I’m genuinely unsure of how to go about addressing it.

My background is in health communications– writing and editing printed materials and/or social media content related to public health. I decided to start a public health blog as a way to showcase my previous publications and keep a “library” of current writing samples to refer employers to, since in my industry, they usually ask for writing samples to accompany a resume and cover letter.

At first, I was totally on top of it, posting regular updates, generating a decent following, engaging with other users, writing about current health-related topics in the news, etc. That lasted about 3 months, and I’m ashamed to say that for the past 10 months, it’s been inactive. (To make things more awkward, my last entry was meant to be the first of 2 parts, so at the end of my last entry I made mention of what the next post would address.) Granted, I’ve had a lot going on this year — my husband and I bought our first house, which needed substantial work, which we were mostly doing on our own with very little outside/contracted help. Then my grandfather got ill, and I went to spend a couple months with him. My extended family lives overseas, in a part of the world where internet access is spotty at best, and nonexistent in parts of the country. I’ve also been volunteering with a public health-related nonprofit, first as a member of the board of directors, and then as chair(WO)man of the board. While my personal blog was growing cobwebs, I was managing our Twitter presence for the nonprofit, in addition to doing other chairman-y stuff.

Throughout this time I have been applying to jobs in my industry, with little success, and I have to wonder if it’s because of how I’ve abandoned my blog (I realize it could be because of my resume and cover letters, but for the purposes of my question I want to focus on my blog as the culprit).

Things are finally starting to calm down for me, my grandfather is doing a bit better (so no trips to remote areas planned for the foreseeable future), and I feel like I have the time and attention to devote to the blog that I did pre-house craziness. So my question is: do I just pick up with my next post and finish off the second part of my last topic, like it’s no big deal that my blog was inactive for 10 months? Or do I address it in a “by the way here’s what I’ve had going on for the past 10 months” type of entry, and follow that with the second part of my topic?

My worry in addressing it is that, to an employer looking to scan my writing samples, it would sound unprofessional and like I’m making excuses. On the other hand if I don’t address it, an employer may notice the large time lapse in the dates between my last 2 entries, which wouldn’t look good. I’m eager for your thoughts both as an employment guru and as a successful blogger.

Your blog is almost certainly not the culprit.

And I say that because the Internet is filled with abandoned or neglected blogs. They are normal. They are not shameful. They are still an illustration of how you write and think, and the fact that it’s been 10 months since you wrote something there does not mark you as a Terribly Irresponsible Person Who Cannot Finish What She Started. It marks you as someone who had some things to write about and then got called away by other priorities. In other words, you are perfectly normal and not a shameful layabout.

An employer who spots your not-recently-updated blog isn’t going to be dismayed or disgusted. The likeliest thing they will think is, “Oh, great, an archive of her work — this is helpful.”

That said, there are things you can do now to polish up the overall impression the site creates. For instance, you could edit that “first of two” post and remove the promise of a second part. Ta-dah! Now that’s taken care of.

Also, decide whether you truly want to return to blogging regularly again. If you don’t really want to, you could rework your website a little bit so that the content is no longer presented as a blog (with the expectation of regular or at least semi-regular posts) and instead is more of a static site (with less or no emphasis on when the content appeared there).

But if you’re eager to get back to it, then yeah, I’d say just dive right back in. There’s no need for a detailed explanation of your absence; you can simply launch your first post back with a sentence or two acknowledging your break, and you can be vague about the reasons if you want to. (Or you can share them if you prefer that; I’d just err on the side of not throwing out too many personal details that you wouldn’t normally share with an audience that could include prospective employers.)

And going forward, keep in mind that you can manage readers’ expectations however you want. It’s fine to only post occasionally (although keep in mind that you’ll probably have a lower readership if you do; higher traffic tends to build through more frequent posting, but you might not care about that, depending on what your goals for the site are). Generally, as long as you’re posting high-quality content when you do post, that’s far more important than how often it’s showing up.

Speaking of all of this, this is a good time for me to mention that I’m moving into a holiday posting schedule here for the next week — probably two posts a day rather than our usual four a day — because I will be eating cookies and drinking punch and so forth. Happy holidays!

{ 16 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous

    A blog thats been abandoned for nearly a year isn’t something I would be eager to show employers.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      She’s not directing them to it on her resume (as far as I can tell). It’s simply out there on the Internet. She might be sending them URLs for writing samples, but she’s not saying “check out my blog!” So why should they care that it’s not current?

      1. Saturn9

        The way I read her letter, it sounded like that is exactly what she’s doing. She said she wanted the blog to function as an archive of writing samples since employers in her industry typically ask for them. Also it sounds rather paranoid to give a blog so much weight for disqualifying one for a job if one isn’t pointing employers to it.

        Speaking purely as a blog reader, I find unfulfilled promises of series annoying and I can’t imagine why an employer wouldn’t read into it–if they had been referred to the blog by the LW. If they’d found it via Google search, it’s not really an issue because that’s part of the “hidden portfolio” and is weighted differently than something the candidate volunteers.

        1. fposte

          While I see the blog fate a little differently (as a blog reader, I assume most blogs will peter out), I would agree that it’s a different matter if the OP really is highlighting her blog in her application. It was three months of blogging close to a year ago; if people are pointed to it, it suggests that the OP is considering it more significant than it really is.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            If she’s pointing people to it explicitly, I think that’s still okay, as long as she takes steps to de-blog-ify it a bit — make it simply a website of writing that aren’t quite so time-specific (the way a blog is). That could be as simple as some quick reframing of how the articles are presented (probably without tweaking the articles themselves, depending on how they’re written) and removing the date/time stamps. Then presto, it’s just a website with articles she’s written.

            1. fposte

              I agree, and I definitely would agree with reframing it instead of picking the blog up again out of obligation. Let it be a repository that may or may not be added to.

          2. louise

            Wait. There’s a chance AAM could peter out?! No! I can’t sleep at night if I think there’s a chance most blogs will someday cease to be updated…

  2. Ruffingit

    Agree with Alison, it’s most certainly not the blog. It’s probably more the tight job market coupled with the fact that it appears you’ve had sporadic work experience in the last year or so, although you have been doing chairwoman work so that helps some.

    I think you might be better off moving your writing samples to another location if you’re concerned the blog might make you look bad to prospective employers. Just have a “writing samples blog” that is specifically for employers. Otherwise though, I wouldn’t be that concerned about the blog. Tight job market + resume + cover letter is usually the culprit when it comes to difficulties in the job hunt.

  3. Barbara in Swampeast

    If you want to continue blogging, instead of a “why I wasn’t here” post explaining the complications that came up, can you find a way of weaving in going to help your grandfather while he was ill in an area that is not fully connected to the Internet and the problems you encountered or observed in public health? That way you kinda explain where you were and didn’t have access to the Internet but you also add something of substance to your blog. Leave out home remodeling unless you can find some public health (lead paint, asbestos) angle to that also.

  4. visionary thinker

    Social media ROCKSTARS keep their online presence fresh – that means frequent updates. You can’t win the internets with stale gruel.

  5. Anonymous

    Does this advice still hold if it’s a small company’s inactive blog, re: leaving a bad impression with customers? That what matters is high quality posts, not consistency? I always thought that for commercial ventures, it had to be both and that an inactive blog on a company’s website would actually do more harm than good. But maybe not?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Company blogs are a little different, I think. There’s more of an expectation that you’ll keep it up and not let life get in the way, and it looks worse if it’s dormant.

      1. Ruffingit

        Agreed. I follow the blog of a woman who wrote a book and her page contains information about buying the book as well as products related to the book’s topic. She has a blog on the site that hasn’t been updated in almost two months and I have to say it does make me look askance a bit at her. Especially because she has a box that talks about upcoming topics for the blog. Some are interesting and I’d like to read them, but who knows if/when she’ll ever write about those. If you’re not going to update the blog, just remove that component from the page is my feeling.

  6. MR

    Unless the OP is explicitly pointing the hiring managers to the website, I think the chances a HM seeks out a candidate’s blog is just above zero. There is a better chance (but not much) that the HM looks for a Facebook page or Twitter account.

  7. MissDisplaced

    If the OP wants the blog to function as an archive of writing samples, it should be easy enough to address on the blog.

    Yes, get rid of the “part one of two” bits and then post a fresh update/notice that the blog is on hiatus, but still functions as an health topic archive. Also update your “About” page to reflect something similar and what your current focus is. I’ve actually come across this from time to time and see nothing wrong with it.

    Of course, you could also just take down the blog.

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