In my day job I work for a staffing company, so my LinkedIn feed is a bottomless pit of career advice, interview tips, do’s, don’ts, and pontifications on what hiring managers are really looking for. One piece of advice that stood out to me recently was, “if I’m considering two equally-qualified candidates, I’m going to choose the one who is most enthusiastic about the role.”
What better way to show enthusiasm and passion for a particular industry or career path, than by blogging what you know about it every day? In my opinion, a blog has the potential to be leaps and bounds more effective than a traditional resume (and I hope it will become the norm in years to come!).
A little staffing industry secret: recruiters are slammed with resumes all day, so if they don’t “get” you within 30 seconds of scanning your CV, they’re on to the next applicant and you’re left on the cutting room floor. You need something special that makes you stand out from the crowd, and that’s hard to do with a 2-page summary of your entire career.
Another secret: with the advent of Big Data, you are being aggregated whether you like it or not. With tools like Gild and TalentBin, hiring managers can get a full picture of your expertise, or not much picture at all … it’s up to you to present your best self online.
I know this
seems is messed up, but if you have the grit and drive to go after the career you really want, a blog is perfect for you. You’ll need stamina to do it every day, but I believe it can change your life in one season — the average tenure of an unpaid intern!
Step 1: Lose the Hate & the Excuses
Shake off any anger, resentment, and regrets you have about your current job situation. If you think you’re a terrible writer with nothing to say, go into it with self-hating internal language, or you’re busy bitching about how your boss is a buffoon, this won’t work. And you might end up drunk tweeting, which is not pretty.
Clearing your head now will make everything to come easier, and you’ll be able to stay focused. So whether you’re into meditating, psychotherapy, extreme sports, whatever — find a way to exorcise your demons and set the mental foundation for the future you want. Make a plan for “You 2.0,” with a release date and everything.
Step 2: Define Your Goal & Readership
Before you start blogging, it’s important to define what the ultimate goal is. For example:
- Advance in your current organization
- Explore new opportunities without your current employer clued in
- Re-enter the job market
- An entirely new career you always wanted to try but have no experience with
When you know what your goal is, define who your ideal reader will be. For example:
- Your current boss, or your boss’s boss
- Target companies you want to work for
- Potential users of your freelance services
- A community of like-minded people who will network with you
When you have these two goals of your blog clearly defined, write a short mission statement.
- “My blog will illustrate how much I’ve advanced at ________ and my readiness to move up to a role in ____________.”
- “My blog will educate target employers such as _________ on my knowledge of _______, in a positive way and without spiteful mention of current or former employers/co-workers.”
- “My blog will focus on building a portfolio of my experience with _________ and everything I’ve continued to learn in this area while on hiatus. I will focus on spreading my blog’s message to target employers, such as _________, and recruiters/hiring managers in the ________ industry.”
- “My blog will serve as a portfolio and knowledge of _________, and prove my ability to solve problems for __________.”
- My blog will showcase my lifelong passion for __________ and encourage others in the __________ industry to contribute ideas, provide feedback on my content, and network with one another.”
Your mission statement should be front of mind every time you write for your blog. If you don’t stay focused on the goal and the reader, it will be too easy to veer off course.
Step 3: Create You, Inc. and Get to Work
I’m not going into a technical how-to in this post, so if you need resources for setting up your blog, just email me and I’ll be happy to send you some links!
Now it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts of creating your blog. The first step is figuring out what your URL will be (myblog.wordpress.com OR www.myblog.com). This is important to get right in the beginning, and hard to change later.
I use a self-hosted WordPress site and themes, but there are many options out there (including Typepad and a free version of WordPress with plenty of free design templates). Unless you’re doing this to create a new business and you need to use a specific domain name, I suggest going the free route.
Once you’ve set up your blog and selected a visual theme to match your goal (fun, serious, artistic, etc.), add basic elements such as an “About Me” page with a professional headshot and bio, and a “Contact Me” page with a form or other methods to reach you.
Brainstorm a list of blog topics — you can come up with at least 20 days’ worth if you and a friend just meet for coffee and you tell them what your blog is about. Think of it is as an FAQ on steroids: what questions are people in your specialty asking, and how can you answer them in a helpful way? Quora is a great place for research, but the best practice is any time someone asks you a question that relates to your goal, make note of it and think about turning it into a blog post.
If you’re in the process of learning something that relates to your career goal — a computer language, how you solved a business problem, cooking, trying a new painting technique, law, scientific research, etc. — write about it.
If it’s something you can create a video for, do that and then embed the video in your blog post. Always be teaching, with your intended reader and mission statement in mind. It’s so much more powerful than adding a certification to your resume.
If you’re still stuck on what to write, and you want to do this in three months’ time, check out this list of 88 fill-in-the-blank blog titles for inspiration.
Important: don’t try to make money on your blog — adding affiliate marketing banner ads will annoy your readers and make you look unprofessional. The goal is to get a career you’ll love, and the money will come later. Keep your blog tight and focused on content.
Step 4: Write [Like Crap if You Have to] Every Day
Even if you lack confidence in your writing skills, just do it. As long as you’re writing about something you love and are passionate about, the words will flow and over time you will get better. Most blogging platforms come with spell check tools, and we all have one or two Grammar Police family members who can proofread for us!
I love these 11 blog writing tips, courtesy of ProBlogger:
Be Useful – if your post isn’t informing, inspiring, entertaining or making someone’s life better – don’t publish it until it does.
Share your Opinion – opinions are often what sets bloggers apart from the pack.
Cut out the Fluff – before you hit publish, revise your post and remove anything that doesn’t add value.
Visualise Your Reader – writing with a reader in mind personalises your writing.
Make Your Posts Scannable – only 16% of people read every word online. Format your posts so that your main points stand out.
Work and Rework You Headlines – a good headline can be the difference between a blog post being read, or ignored.
Write with Passion – when you show you care about what you’re writing, your readers are more likely to care too.
Give your Readers something to do Next – ask your readers to DO something once they finish reading. It could be to read something else, comment, apply a lesson, share the post etc.
Tell Stories – stories are powerful ways of connecting with, inspiring and teaching your readers – they also create memories
Give Your Posts Visual Appeal – the inclusion of an eye-catching image or a well designed diagram can take your post to the next level.
Practice – the best way to improve your writing is to write. Practice Makes Perfect.
Step 5: Be Social
You can’t just write three months of blog posts and expect your ideal readers to find them. The magic ingredient of blogging for a career is the appropriate use of social media.
Think about where your “tribe” does their most socializing online — LinkedIn groups, Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, GitHub, etc. — and create your own profiles on those networks. Share your content, retweet and favorite the content of others, provide encouraging feedback, and you’ll be surprised by the doors that open.
Finally: Let Me Know How it Goes
If you put your heart and soul into your blog and keep it professional and focused on the end goal, something good (or fabulously unexpected!) is going to come your way. I wish you luck, and am happy to answer questions any time. Good luck, and happy blogging!