It must have been two years ago when I had a discussion with my sister-in-law Nancy about my blog. She was surprised about the nature of my blog, my writing about my work as an agricultural economist, and how relatively unexciting that was. (Nancy is a senior legal officer in an international media company so she does have some idea of what is currently in fashion). She has a few friends in Hong Kong who have become celebrity bloggers: they earn their living from their blogs and related commercial products; they have thousands of followers and appear on photos inside glossy magazines. I guess she must have found that my blogging about food and agricultural marketing in developing countries with 11 declared readers was rather paltry.
I told her that the purpose of my blog was to contribute to my becoming an internationally recognized expert in agrifood marketing. My objective was therefore not to have many followers on my blog but to be found by search engines when people were looking for content relevant to my line of work. Apart from the fact that I enjoy sharing stories through my blog, it was a way to increase my professional influence among the community of agrifood marketing development experts. This is important given that I am still considered as quite young in many country contexts.
It looks like my strategy is starting to work.
Two weeks ago, I blogged about a workshop I had attended in Vietnam. The meeting convened several researchers in order to choose a relevant research protocol for livestock value chain research: definitely not newsworthy content for the mass media. However, this week end I received an email from a human resources specialist who had read my blog about value chain research in Vietnam. She wanted me to consider a job offer to work for two years on developing a new sustainable agriculture initiative in the Amazon basin for a large American foundation based in California. I had been headhunted.
I was particularly pleased to read the following sentence in her email: ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for a thought leader who is available to take a two-year sabbatical.’ I am sure this was a standard flattering phrase for all the people she had approached. Nonetheless, it was the second time I had been identified as the right person for a particular job by somebody I did not know who had found out about my expertise through an Internet search. Unfortunately, I did not possess any of the specific requirements to apply successfully for that job.
The lesson I have learned from this experience: as a young professional working on agricultural research for development, blogging about my work is likely to have an impact on my career development. It will also increase my influence on my professional peers, and hopefully, on the real-life business and policy decision makers who will be using my expertise.
Jo Cadilhon, Agricultural Economist, ILRI