I’ve been reading. Books. Yes, those paper things that in the 1990s various pundits were predicting would be completely extinct by now and replaced entirely with digital publishing. Of course this didn’t happen. But over the last few years we’ve actually seen a serious up-tick in this progress as e-book readers, such as Amazon.com’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, are rapidly gaining in popularity and these classic book sellers are selling a significant portion of their books on the e-readers.
But back to the book I was reading…it was Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone” that got me thinking about networking and job hunting in the Digital Age. Much as the world is watching books slowly migrate from paper to e-paper, I’ve noticed that resumes and networking are making a similar shift. Most notable is the job search migration from a one or two page paper resume to a digital portfolio or for career seekers choosing to develop an online networking presence. Ken’s book (and his website) identified publishing newsletters and e-mailing them to your contacts as a key networking strategy. But since 2004, when he authored most of this book, the social media boom on the Internet has offered numerous alternatives to e-mailing (which is just so 90’s). And while there are many online tools to consider (Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Diigo, etc.), one of the most under-utilized in the job hunt is blogging.
“Blogging? I don’t want to tell everyone what I had for lunch today and what TV show I watched last night!” Yes, that was one of the first responses I got when I spoke to a group of people about blogging. Most of them really had no sense of the great diversity of blogging and the images they conjured up of blogging’s less-than-stellar uses took me a while to get out of their heads. The new blog image I tried to impress on them was a digital repository of their skills and successes. Think of this as a way to share some of your accomplishments or insights relevant to your career with potential clients, employers, or peers. To do this effectively you need a strategy, so here’s a starter guide to developing a “career blog” that can be an effective part of your job hunt strategy.
Sort & Select
1. Make a list of all of your talents where you have some level of professional expertise clearly related to your job search. Pick one (or maybe two or three very closely related topics) and start writing a few 1-page (2-4 paragraphs) articles on various aspects of your experience in a brief and to-the-point fashion. This does two things…it gets you used to writing for other readers and also helps you decide if you have a variety of useful things to say on a specific topic. If the articles aren’t interesting to you, they probably aren’t interesting to me. If you need to, scrap that topic, pick another area of expertise, and try writing again.
2. After you have written 7-10 articles on a topic relevant to your career, get a trusted “reviewer” (spouse, co-worker, professor, etc.) to read your writings and give you some serious critique. Ask them to find at least 10 things to fix in each article. This will give them a “license to criticize” without which they may not really provide any useful feedback.
3. Now, with several articles in-hand, find a blog service (WordPress.com is my favorite, but Blogger.com or others are also fine) and build a basic “test” blog site. This is where you practice blogging, so set the Privacy setting to allow only you and your trusted reviewers to see the content. Work out the themes, the colors, key pages (an “About” page, a “Link” page, a “Resume” page, etc.), and all the other elements of this test blog. Put up at least the first 4-5 articles and get your trusted reviewer to look over the site for layout, professionalism, and content.
Publish & Monitor
4. Next, once you have the test site looking just like you want it, create your public blog. This means selecting a meaningful URL/site-name, copying over your theme settings, populating the first few articles and setting the privacy to be open to the public. Make sure you enable comments so you can start to engage with your audience, but initially set comments to require you to approve each post.
5. Over the next few weeks, keep writing new articles on your test site so you always have a cache of 3-5 unpublished articles. Then about once a week, copy over one of the articles from your test blog to your public blog. If any comments appear, decide if you want to approve them and make sure to post a response to each of them.
Participate & Refer
6. Now that you have a few key articles that show off your skill and talent, you need to “advertise” your expertise. I find that looking for other blogs related to my industry, where I can engage in discussions or using the LinkedIn.com “Groups” feature to help answer someone’s query, provides a great platform for me to provide a brief insight on a topic that’s being discussed and to direct readers back to my blog for more details. (Don’t overtly advertise your site…as you might get marked as a Spammer.)
7. After your site has about 10 articles, it’s time to link your blog page to your other key marketing tools. You might mention your blog in cover letters, put the URL on your networking card, enter it as your blog link or your website link in your LinkedIn profile, put the blog’s URL as part of your signature on your e-mail messages get your friends to add your blog onto their blogs as a favorite link. Also, if your site can’t be found from Yahoo, Google, or Bing searches, try to get these sites to index your blog.
Tips & Hints
8. Make sure you keep this blog career-focused and not a social blog – put your favorite TV shows and what you had for lunch over on Facebook if you want to, not on this blog. While you’re at it, look over all your other social sites and make sure you’re presenting a strictly professional image to those people that you haven’t accepted as “friends”.
9. Make sure to keep the blog active…publish at least one article every week or two until you build up a professional collection of topics across your skill set. Ask your trusted reviewer to post a question/comment or two, just to set the tone for other readers that you are open and responsive to comments.
Insights & Identity
10. You should clearly set the tone throughout the blog that you are a professional on a certain topic and that you can offer insights and information relevant to your specialty or industry. If people are impressed with your writings, make sure they can easily find your contact information and can reach you in a timely manner. Your digital identity, including your professional blog, can be a great way for potential hiring managers or recruiters to learn more about you, thus giving you an edge when they are looking for something more than just a resume to lead them to their interview candidate.
Bottom Line: Blogging is a very underutilized feature of the job hunt and professional networking. You can reach a much wider audience and you can enhance your career opportunities by adding a blog to your digital identity. Write career relevant articles and publish them on a blog, make sure they are well written and reviewed, connect your blog to your other self-marketing methods, and keep your blog active and professional. (More blog tips in Part 2.)
. . . .