67% of American adults are Internet users (2005 Pew Internet Research Study), and the Internet has transformed the way professionals throughout the world find and manage information. In the new millennium, the Web has replaced traditional research resources and is often the first place we go for information, putting the phone book and the reference librarian on the endangered list. The Internet has impacted not only the way we perform our jobs, but also the way that we look for jobs, network and manage our careers.
What does Google reveal about you?
As you are researching opportunities online, others will be researching you. A recent Harris Interactive poll showed that 23% of people search the names of business associates or colleagues on the Internet before meeting them, and 63% of recruiters are Googling candidates according to a survey by Recruiter’s World. Therefore, as William Arruda’s previous articles on Googling have demonstrated, controlling your online identity is now essential to your career success. And, what’s one of the easiest and most affordable ways to create a professional, on-brand Web presence that catapults you to the top of the search engine listings when you are Googled? A blog.
Blog? What’s a blog?
Although it sounds like something that would be green and gross, a blog (a.k.a., Weblog) is a personal, chronological log of thoughts, ideas, commentary, etc. published online that is updated daily or at least once per week. Blogs, unlike message boards, usually have one author (or a few regular authors) and are increasingly used by professionals and corporations. Basically, a blog is really nothing more than a type of Website that allows for public commenting on the author’s postings.
With heightened awareness in the 2004 U.S. Presidential elections and the power to influence millions through instant “journalism,” blogs are often mentioned in nightly news broadcasts. With 40,000 new blogs launched every day, blogs are rapidly becoming mainstream online publishing tools. To further cement the popularity of the blog in 2004, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary pronounced Blog word of the year, and Bloggers were even recognized as people of the year by Time Magazine. However, blogs are still a relatively new and underutilized phenomenon. Only 19% of adult Internet users in America read blogs and 62% of Internet users don’t even know what a blog is (2005 Pew Internet Research Study).
Blogs are an excellent platform for you to promote your personal brand online—to build both visibility and credibility. Creating a leading-edge, well-organized resource that is related to your niche/area of expertise further solidifies your differentiation from all those professionals who seemingly do what you do. With commenting features enabled, blogs create an interactive community for your visitors—and all strong brands solicit feedback and two-way conversations with their constituencies. Blogs help with your search-engine rankings, too, because the ranking algorithms value frequently-updated content
Don’t Get Fired for Blogging
What goes in a job search or career-management blog? There are no rules, but common sense and good writing applies. All too often, blogs that people use for career search that include downloadable resumes and professionally-focused posts, also include way too many posts about their friends, what they ate last night or what movie they are planning to see this weekend. There have even been cases where people have been fired for blogging about proprietary corporate information or making unflattering remarks about their work environment.
95% of posts on a blog that is used for professional purposes should be related to establishing your thought leadership around an established topic or group of related topics. Your posts must be relevant to your target audience, and content could include:
- Bio and photo on the blog’s about page
- Downloadable resumes (PDF, Word, ASCII formats)
- Posts about industry trends or events
- Evidence of past accomplishments (link to articles, former companies, press releases, etc.)
- Work samples as attachments or links
- Posts that convey expertise
- Recommended resources or reading
Because blogs are expected to reveal the personality of the writer, it makes sense to give a small window into your world as well. Think about interests that you might include on a resume that are noteworthy and supportive to your candidacy, and apply the same criteria to personal content on your blog. And ensure your writing reflects your brand attributes.
I Don’t Know HTML
What makes blogs especially appealing is that they are so easy and economical to create. Have very limited technical knowledge? It’s no problem with hosted blogging applications. So, what blogging platform should you choose to set up your blog? Because of its ease of use and customizability, I highly recommend TypePad, www.typepad.com, as a blogging service. Other options are:
- www.blogger.com (free service owned by Google)
- www.movabletype.org (by makers of TypePad, this is software that is installed on your server. Not all servers are configured for it and this is best handled by a professional with experience in these installations.)
- www.wordpress.org (similar to Movable Type, this application is free and open-source)
Maintenance is Key
The biggest challenge in creating a blog is posting often enough to justify this medium. Blog posts are meant to be short and regular (2-3 times a week is ideal). If your blog post is turning into a column, then you can break it into multiple posts or put the column on your main Website and an excerpt on your blog with a link to read more. Blogging gives you an opportunity to express your opinion and will not take up much of your time since posts can be just a few sentences long.
To ensure that you are posting regularly, you can set up posts in advance that will automatically publish in the future. So, if you have some extra time, you can get a head start on your blog. Don’t work too far ahead though, because blog content is meant to be newsy and timely. To get inspiration for your blog, subscribe to a Google News Alert (http://www.google.com/alerts) for the keywords that relate to your niche and read other blogs. You can subscribe to blogs (and other syndicated content) that you like best using a News Reader like www.bloglines.com or www.newsgator.com. One of the best ways to attract opportunities is by establishing yourself as a knowledgeable resource and providing useful content. You want to ensure that your posts aren’t one big sales pitch for you or visitors won’t keep coming back.
Don’t forget to upload relevant images to your posts. Including some eye-candy is simply appealing.
To be ahead of your peers, get in now. According to Marketing Guru, Seth Godin’s blog, there’s a new blog every six seconds. Start a free trial on TypePad, if you haven’t already, and start experimenting. You’ll see how easy it is to create and it becomes empowering. Soon your mind will be racing with all of the possibilities that this medium has to offer, and you’ll realize the advantages for your career.
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Kirsten Dixson is a Certified Career & Personal Brand Strategist who is an authority on using technology to increase your career and business success. Kirsten is Technology Master of the Career Masters Institute and Founding Partner of Brandego, the leading provider of web portfolios and blogs for executives and solopreneurs, and the Reach Branding Club, an interactive e-learning environment for building your personal brand.