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Blogging for your Career

At the portfolio panel SI Career Services hosted earlier in winter 2009 term, one of the students had a professional blog on her site – Sensical – which I noted as an excellent way for this particular student to demonstrate what they were learning to the world and also for them to spend time reflecting on their studies.

Not too long after that, I was invited to attend a webinar hosted by Brazen Careerist. Brazen Careerist is "a community of top Gen Y thought leaders, forward-thinking organizations and everyone else who realizes that the way we define ourselves in both work and in life needs to change." Brazen Careerist was founded by Penelope Trunk, who has an excellent blog, Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist, with many interesting entries about blogging for your job.

At this webinar, the speaker provided some great advice and tips for students to consider when creating an online presence through a blog. I thought that the SI student and alumni population would be especially interested in this knowledge, especially knowing that many of our students already are very active in the blogosphere.

So here we go.

The old way of doing a job search was an “active job search.” This is where you go out and find jobs and apply to them by sending your resume and cover letter to a postal or email address. The new way to do a job search is to do a “constant job search.” A constant job search is on going. In fact, you many already be doing your constant job search right now. This includes actively building a network (i.e. your SI classmates, LinkedIn, professional organization colleagues), monitoring your online presence (have you Googled yourself lately?), learning about new opportunities through your network (in contrast to learning about them through a job board), and job-hopping when appropriate.

Brazen Careerist strongly promotes the idea of using a blog as the way to get your next job. And, they give solid reasons for why blogs are (one of) the most effective career tool. For one, a blog helps you build a personal brand. Bloggers stand out from the crowd. Most resumes look pretty similar (as do blogs visually), but the content of blogs can vary incredibly! What you can contribute to your blog will go above and beyond that of what you can add to your resume or even your unique, tailored resume. Also, having a blog shows initiative and creates talking points for you in your resume, cover letter, interviews, and in life in general.

A blog also provides amazing networking opportunities. The barriers that people face when applying for jobs through a corporate careers website do not exist when you are a blogger – or even a blog reader. You are easily accessible as are most bloggers that you want to talk to. This multiples your network immensely -- but only if you take advantage of these contacts.

Also, contributing to your brand development, a blog in itself is a living resume. Recruiters get in-depth knowledge about you and what you know and how you do things from your blog. A blog may not be as visual as an e-portfolio, but it is much more dynamic (unless you update your portfolio weekly or daily, which is just about unheard of!) Also, you may have noticed that many job descriptions state a requirement for “excellent communication skills.” A blog demonstrates that – and it will help you hone your writing skills as you go along.

Lastly, blogging establishes you as an expert. You can create your niche and promote yourself as being knowledgeable in the field. Brazen Careerist says that the expert status is no longer reserved for the experienced and that the youthful and public can now take on that stance also. And, it makes research fun. You’re going to have to think hard about a lot of stuff and look it up – so why not make your research all the more enjoyable since it will be for your blog?

So, how does one become an Effective Blogger? How does one make blogging work for their career? First of all, choose a topic or subject that you are going to focus on. Your blog should be tailored, so you should stick to one general theme throughout all of your posts. This can be an area of interest to you and should be in alignment with your professional field of choice or in the industry or function that you want to work in.

Then, choose a blog platform. There are many out there – Typepad, Wordpress, Blogspot, Weebly. Then, choose a domain name. You want this to accurately reflect your topic. Using your name is always good for networking – of course, then everything you put on there must be professional. Your preferred domain name may not be available, so think of a couple options. It’s always ideal to also purchase your direct domain name if you have the technological prowess to redirect the link. A suggested domain site is GoDaddy where a domain name is around $10 per year.

Then, start your research and development. Read lots of other blogs and make notes of what you like, don’t like, what is done well, and what isn’t. Start leaving comments on other blog sites and make sure to include your link to your blog. This is a form of reciprocal networking… you’re investing in others, and by doing so you are investing in your own network.

Then, set a schedule and start writing consistently. A blog post make take you anywhere from one to four hours to write, so plan accordingly and decide if once a week, once a day, bi-weekly or whatever is best for you. Be sure to not start out sprinting… new bloggers will write every day for a couple weeks… and then never write again. So, start out realizing that a blog is more of a marathon and that you need to space your postings out best for your life and writing schedule.

The hardest part of all is building a following. You need to get the word out. Add your blog link to your email signature, your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook site, your portfolio site. And, actively put it out there when you read other’s blogs or post comments on sites. This is the biggest and most important part of building your brand to make your blog work for you and your career development.

To wrap things up, it’s also important to touch upon how you can use your blog to get the job you want. Like I mentioned above, you need to get your blog link out there. Make sure to also include it on your resume – at the top in the contact information section. You should include a short blurb about it to draw attention.

You should also treat your blog like a living resume. You need to add a picture to it, add an “about me” page, and make sure that your contact information is displayed everywhere. As great as you may be, if a recruiter can’t easily get a hold of you via their most preferred contact method, they can easily move on to another qualified candidate. Lastly, be sure to talk about your blog in interviews. I firmly believe that the blog writing process is equivalent to the reflective process that is part of the PEP program at SI. Similarly, this writing process will help you to distill your thoughts and opinions about what you are learning and going to be applying which will make you sound all the better in your interviews. You blog entries will demonstrate to any employer your depth of knowledge in a subject, your prowess in social media applications (which is an in-demand skill!), and it gives you the opportunity to share that you can “mentor up” (basically train your boomer-generation boss on how to use Wikipedia or a blog effectively in the workplace.)

Blogging in this way allows you to leap over the barriers that are in place in the job-search world. Bloggers share information informally and the formal hierarchy that is in place for job applicants is removed. Therefore, you can be in contact with just about anyone that’s relevant to your needs - as they can be with you!

To conclude, blogging takes time, dedication and hardwork. Its not something that can be done overnight. Each blog entry in itself is time-consuming and the time it takes to gather a following takes more effort and dedication. BUT, employers will recognize the hard work and they’ll notice your dedication to the field. So, if you are willing to do it right, your next blog entry could mean your last formal job application ever.

Posted by kkowatch at April 28, 2009 12:27 PM

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