Indeed, Jeremy’s recognition of how valuable a good education is has led to his involvement in ‘Education Matters’, a grassroots education campaign and funding platform. BusinessBecause talks to Jeremy about making networking worthwhile, ‘Wildly Important Goals’, and what he’s learned from writing his multi-award winning blog, JeremyCWilson.com.
What is your background?
I've done a lot of different things in my career. Most recently, I graduated from Northwestern’s JD/MBA program and joined a law firm in Chicago. I also studied Anthropology at Stanford and worked in consulting before business school.
However, most people find my job as an Archaeologist, my time at an Internet wine company, and my MBA blog to be more interesting. I also recently launched an education non-profit, and my passions are for education and inspirational stories.
How did you get into blogging?
Right before starting school, I started a blog. Ever since I’ve started, I’ve logged in to my blog just about every single day, and I’ve written hundreds of blog posts . People all over the world have seen my posts but – more importantly – I have started to love writing. It’s a great way to reflect. It’s about telling a story, and it’s about taking part in the larger conversation.
After starting, I realised that some people I admired also had a habit of blogging - people like Seth Godin, who runs the most interesting and popular blog in the world.
What sort of topics does your blog tend to focus on?
I write about topics like education, graduate school, achievement, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. I also spend time answering peoples’ questions, many of which are admissions-based.
Explain to us your concept of ‘Wildly Important Goals’
‘Wildly Important Goals’ are the things that you’re most interested in pursuing – the things that you want to work towards relentlessly, for as long as is necessary to accomplish it. It might be focusing on a high-impact project you have in front of you. But it could also be focusing on the industry you want to work in, the people you want to meet, or the classes you want to take.
The idea is that as you continue to progress in your career, the work gets harder and the people get smarter. As a result, it becomes much more difficult to achieve all of your goals. If you want to do well, sometimes you have to focus on the ones that you really want.
What are the benefits of being involved in the blogging world?
The benefits of blogging fall under two categories – what you get out of it, and what your readers get out of it.
The great thing about starting a blog is that it doesn’t matter how good your posts are or how many people read it to start with. What matters more is what you get out of the process of writing.
This might be learning how to organize your thoughts, understanding new and interesting ways to share your stories, or the ‘metacognition’ of taking thoughts from you head and putting them on paper. And then you have to do that in two or three paragraphs, since people don’t write 1000-word blog posts anymore!
If you do that well, then people will read what you write. If not, you can practice until you get better at it. Eventually, people will read and your readers will get a lot more out of it. You can share share your perspective and tell interesting stories.
What did your MBA experience teach you?
MBA programs give you the opportunity to think about success. A lot of people come to school to get a road map to success. They figure out the path they want to take, the grades they need to get, the classes they need to attend, and what jobs they should be aiming for.
But success is a funny thing. The rules for success are changing. Today, it’s easier than ever to try something new, to get new experiences, learn new skills and to make your own path. Long gone are the days where you have to take a prescribed path to be successful.
Sheryl Sandberg said it best in her recent graduation speech at HBS, where she explained that, in today’s world, graduates no longer face a career ladder, but a jungle gym. You might need to take a job in a new field, work in an industry that you didn’t expect and in some cases to take a different job title, all to gain new skills and experiences.
Do you think businesses fully understand the importance of social media?
Networking is always important when it’s ‘real’, and it’s becoming increasingly important to build ‘real’ relationships online. But today the internet allows a lot of useless networking to take place. Everyone online is fighting for more friends and followers, most of whom do not really care if you succeed or not. It’s like getting hits to your website. Often it’s irrelevant, because they don’t translate into dollars.
On the other hand, MBA programs are an example of good networking, because students invest time in getting to know people. My blog has also been a good networking platform. I get to exchange a lot of ideas with people all over the world and work on building real relationships with them as they apply to jobs and graduate school. In fact, I recently had the pleasure of meeting one of my long time readers in Kenya.
Tell us a bit about your passion for education, and your project ‘Education Matters’.
I love the fact that there is a spotlight on education. I grew up in a city where there was a 50% poverty rate, and very few people got a higher education. Now I live in Chicago, where only 18% of kids are expected to enrol in college and less than 8% will graduate.
There’s a lot of great work being done today by a lot of great organizations, but there’s still much left to do. Access to education in disadvantaged communities is not dramatically improving. The cost of education is on the rise, and the gap between high and low income students is higher than ever.
‘Education Matters’ is a campaign to make it clear that a good education really does matter. We built our platform to raise awareness about the importance of education and to raise money to send students to college who might not be able to go on their own. We believe that a world where people truly understand the value of education will be a much better world.
Why do you think blogging is such a powerful medium?
It’s all about the power of being able to tell a really good story. Whether you’re an entrepreneur trying to get funding, a CEO talking to investors, a lawyer trying to convince a jury, or a blogger with a large audience, the ability to spread the right ideas is very powerful.
Have you got any advice for MBAs who are thinking of sharing their own experience online?
The first piece of advice I ever got came from MBA blogger Marquis Parker. He said that the best bloggers were the ones that keep blogging, since most blogs stop soon after the bloggers start business school. If you take a look at past MBA bloggers, you’ll see he was definitely correct.
I also think you have to consider what it is that you want to be known for. Do you want to be someone that is more formal or informal? Do you want to make your reputation in education, start-ups or something else?
But the most important piece of advice I’d give would be to say something interesting. A lot of blogs write about the same things: it becomes a race to say it first and put it online faster. The only way to create a real audience over time is not to just be first but instead to
say things that other people aren’t saying at all. Sounds simple but most people don’t do it.
Where do you see the future of your blog?
People ask me every day whether my blog will live on, and I assure everyone that it definitely will.
We’re also planning to start a new video-based segment, to answer readers’ questions, and to share information in a faster and more unique way.
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