Thinking about starting a blog and wondering how to make it pay off for your career? Blogging can raise your professional profile, expand your network, and impress prospective employers. But it’s not for everyone, and you should proceed carefully before launching your site.
Done well, blogging can be a boon to your career. It can help you build your reputation, increase your expertise, assist you in keeping up with what’s going on in your industry, and give you a place to showcase your knowledge. And if you’re blogging about your field, you’ll build credibility as someone who, at a minimum, has an intense interest in and passion for the field.
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Blogging can also make you part of a fairly select community of colleagues—people who will trade ideas with you, help you network, and serve as a sounding board.
But before you jump into blogging, ask yourself these questions first:
• How’s your writing? You don’t have to be Hemingway, but you have to be able to express ideas clearly.
• Do you like to write? Will blogging be fun for you, or a chore you don’t look forward to?
• Are you willing and able to post at least once or twice a week, at a minimum?
• Can you picture yourself doing this for at least a year or more? Blogs aren’t short-term projects.
• Will you stay motivated and keep going if you don’t build an audience right away?
• Do you have at least a little technical knowledge (or a comfort level with learning)?
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If you answer yes to all of these questions, you’re a good candidate for starting a blog. If you answered no to any of them, you might think of other ways to accomplish the same results. For instance, perhaps you can become a regular commenter on other industry blogs, or contribute the occasional guest post to an existing one, rather than taking on all the work of running your own.
If you do decide to launch a blog, here are four ways to make your blog a boon for your career, rather than a hindrance.
1. Use your real name. Some people blog anonymously, but if you want your blog to play a role in your career or job search, then you’ll need to get the credit for what you’re doing! So you want to have your name attached to your work.
2. Remember that you’re using your own name and watch what you say. You must be willing to stand behind everything you write. Ask yourself how a potential hiring manager would judge your blog … or how your current employer would feel if something you wrote ended up in a major newspaper with your name attached to it.
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3. Post regularly. In order to attract returning readers, you’ll need to post a minimum of once or twice a week, and more is better, as long as you’re posting quality items.
4. Observe the cardinal rule of blogging: Be interesting! If what you’re writing is interesting, useful, or entertaining (or, best of all, all three), readers will find you. If it’s not, it doesn’t matter how much work you put into your blog—your readers will drift away.
While blogging isn’t for everyone, if you put in the time to do it right, it can be an immensely useful tool to build your career and reputation.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.