If ever there were a perfect tool for the job hunter, blogging is it.
Think of a blog as the 3D version of your resume: in it, you provide context and meaning to the work experience and educational background you've so carefully wordsmithed in your resume.
A blog is the online version of You, Inc. It's a microsite where you can showcase your thinking and writing skills. And where influencers and decision makers can get to know you better. Either because they found your blog through the search engines or clicked through to it from a link in your resume or cover letter.
So let's talk about how to blog well. Good blogging is good writing, after all.
What should you keep in mind when you start to blog? Here are seven rules for effective blogging.
1. Start with a topic you're passionate about
This is your theme, the thread that will run through your blog. You'd better be passionate about it, because you'll be chipping away at it for months. Yup, that's the bad news. It takes time to build your blog into something worth reading. It's the accumulation of posts (or entries) over a period of months, or longer, that will set you apart as a real blogger.
Ideally, your topic should be related to your job hunt. If you're searching for a position in sales, for example, you might develop a blog that focuses on "the close." All the different ways to get there; what works and what doesn't; examples or case studies based on your current experience; and so on.
2. Concentrate on shorter, more frequent entries in your blog
Now for the good news. You don't have to write a long essay each time you post to your blog. On the contrary, a short paragraph or two is plenty—sometimes a sentence will suffice.
Your goal is to show that you're knowledgeable about your topic. That you're reading other, related blogs or news sources (online or offline). In fact, a sentence or two with a link directing readers to a relevant article in the Wall Street Journal or other respected periodical is plenty. The fact that you noticed the article and have an opinion about it is what counts.
3. Let your authentic voice emerge
Good blogs have a viewpoint and a voice. They reveal something about the way the blogger thinks—as well as what he or she thinks about.
This is where it gets a bit tricky, however. You want to be honest and forthright in your writing. But you don't want to cross the line into saying things that are critical or inappropriate about your current employer or major players in your industry.
The best advice I have is to use common sense. Every time you post a new entry, remember that you are creating a public Web page, easily searchable by Google.
4. Use correct grammar and syntax (no misspellings allowed)
Which leads me to another tip: if you're blogging your way to a new job, the quality of your writing really does matter. As a refugee from the corporate workplace myself, I can tell you that the ability to write is in woefully short supply at most companies.
No matter what type of position you are pursuing, a blog is a way to demonstrate that you can write and think clearly, concisely and concretely. That will put you head and shoulders above most candidates. Oh, and yes—you must use proper grammar and spelling no matter how informal the tone of your writing.
5. Purposefully organize the content of your blog
A blog provides you with an elegant and easy-to-use writing tool. It is also a mini content management system. Use it purposefully. Think about the categories you want to cover over time. Are there keywords you should be using that recruiters or potential employers may be searching on? Create a category for that phrase.
In addition, title each of your posts with care. Include as many specifics and keywords as possible. If you're quoting an expert or brand name company in your blog entry, include the name in your title. Your blog entry may show up in search engine results alongside the Web site for a Fortune 500 company.
6. Post a new entry at least once a week, preferably two or three times a week
Circling back to tip No. 2: you need to write frequently in order to keep your blog fresh. The more you post, the more content you are creating. Since each new post or entry is its own Web page, you are increasing the chances that search engines will find your blog.
I can't emphasize frequency and consistency strongly enough. One way to force yourself to write more often is to use your blog as a place to park an interesting tidbit of info or useful URL. When you run across something you'd like to write about, open up your blog and create a draft entry. Give it a provisional title. You can come back later, when you've got 20 minutes to spare, and write up a coherent paragraph.
7. Include your key contact information on your blog
You'd be amazed at how many bloggers forget to do this. Never forget that your blog may turn up in a recruiter's or potential employer's Google search. By building your contact information into your blog template, you make it easy for them to pick up the phone and call or send an email.
Additionally, it's proper etiquette to indicate where you currently work. And also perfectly acceptable to add a phrase such as "the views expressed are my own."
8. A bonus tip
Have fun when you blog. You may find that blogging is truly a creative outlet. Over time, you might find yourself teasing clarity out of a complex topic or delving into subjects you didn't know you were so interested in.
Keep chipping away with each blog entry. Who knows? Your blog might turn into a book!