Wherever you are, when you were growing up, there was a sport that was more popular amongst your friends than others. For me, we primarily switched between basketball and football (with an occasional straying into wiffle ball). We would play as long as there was light, and sometimes when there wasn’t. It was a great time full of memories. However, there was always the tenuous moments before you began playing where teams would need to get chosen. How did you get on the team you wanted?
Let’s be honest. As kids, things were rarely fare. In fact, while a child is generally pretty kind, you get them together in a group without supervision and they become very mean people. You remember this… Everyone has been the brunt of a joke or two at some point. “I’m not picking him. He’ll probably drop the ball.”
You had times when you knew the team you wanted to be on. You wanted to be on the team with your best friends or with the neighborhood jock that no one could beat. When it came time to choose teams, you inevitably said any number of variations of, “Pick me!”
Now, just asking to be picked would rarely work, you had to exercise some salesmanship. You sometimes found yourself elaborating as to why you should be picked – sometimes at the cost of those around you. You were selling yourself to the neighborhood team captains. You yelled out a reason why the team would benefit from choosing you.
This wouldn’t always go as you wanted. So, to ensure that you got chosen the next time, you began marketing. You made a point to walk or eat with someone likely to be a team captain. You spoke about the good things you did (ignoring the bad), and you jokingly pointed out what others did wrong. This is human nature. No computer was needed.
Even as young children, we each began learning and teaching each other how to market and sell ourselves. Everyone is a marketer and everyone is a salesman. Every time you needed a job, you began marketing. Every time you were lucky enough to land an interview, you began selling.
This hasn’t changed, but why in the world are you waiting until you need a new job??? You should be marketing and selling yourself every moment of everyday. With today’s technologies, every excuse you might have are all but gone.
Todays blogs are yesterdays equivalent of the analogy above and more. They have become an essential tool for how we communicate online. There are various forms of them too. Even if you’re calling what you’re writing an “article,” it’s essentially a blog as well if you’re doing it online. Blogs have given individuals the power that was previously only held by a company. You can tell the world what you think about something.
Most blogs do something else as well. They encourage back-and-forth communications. They end up being a medium where people can give further commentary and criticism on the viewpoints that you have.
While blogs do all of that and more, the main thing you need to realize about blogs is that they are a perfect way to market yourself to the team captains of the world and they take very little effort to create and maintain. You can scream, “Pick me!” to team captains anywhere, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
Here are 3 very strategic ways that you can use blogs to further your career.
Create Your Own Blog
Let’s start with the obvious. Not everyone thinks they want one, or thinks that they have anything useful to say, but you do and you do. Create a blog. Having one alone will already boost your “cred” when talking to people. Friends and strangers alike will ask questions like, “Really? What do you blog about?” You’ve immediately gotten another team captain interested in you, with no effort at all.
Speaking of effort, creating a blog is super simple. Sites like Wordpress, Tumblr, and Blogger make it so that even you can have a blog. There’s no need to contact the smart kid down the block. Anyone can do it.
Now, what should your blog be about? Ideally, you should be writing about what your current or dream profession. This gives you an opportunity to express yourself to let the world know that you’re an expert. Don’t kid yourself. You are. At the end of the day though, your blog should be about anything that you’re passionate about. If you consistently write about something you’re passionate about, this could come across to potential employers just as powerfully as a blog about your career.
The only thing I’d steer you clear of is blogging about anything dividing, such as politics – unless that’s your target career. Divisive topics will instantly alienate 50% of your potential reach and audience.
Don’t just create your blog though. You need to maintain it too. Regularly post new blog articles. If you can, do it at least twice a month. Blogging is like practicing or exercising. The more you do, the better and faster your results will be done. You get out of it exactly what you put into it.
Make sure that every blog you post is written as concisely as possible (don’t ramble), and includes visual things for us to look at. We humans love our visual distractions. Believe it or not, they help with keeping people ON your site.
“Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left”
- Steve Krug, Author of Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
You won’t be an instant blogging expert, but you’ll get there in no time.
Comment on Other Blogs
Throughout our days at work and sometimes at night, we find ourselves looking at a blog. Again, it might be labeled an “article” or “news,” but one of the key things about a blog is that it usually has a section where comments are available to be read and made. Use it. I submit to you, never read a blog ever again without also leaving a comment.
I have yet to see a blog that allows comments without first requiring two, maybe three things: Name, E-Mail and Comment. A very useful additional field that you almost always see is WEBSITE URL. That’s right. Once you read this post, you can leave a comment. This comment becomes instant marketing material for your own blog.
When you leave a comment, please hurt yourself if you even think about leaving a comment that resembles anything like, “Thanks for the great post!” You might as well have said nothing.
You just read the blog post. Leave a meaningful comment. Something that will inspire others to either like or reply to it. If you really feel like a thank you is the necessary thing to do, add some meat to it, “Thanks for the great post! I really enjoyed your analogy comparing wiffle ball teams to personal branding.” This does two things… First, it will make the author’s day, but it will inspire the author to thank you back. This and other meaningful comments may also inspire other readers though. A reader may disagree 100% and reply to your comment.
In either case, most comment systems will boost or otherwise highlight the comments up that are more popular. If the blog is using Disqus for the comments like most do, then your comment might even get voted up, which is a public recommendation of your comment, and in turn you and your blog. Your marketing just got easier and it is promoting itself now!
Market Your Blog
The final tip is to do a few very easy things to make sure your blog gets some attention. You need to do some marketing. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to turn this into a job. We’re going to focus on the low-hanging fruit.
Did you know that Hotmail grew to 1 million users in a single month simply by adding a link to their site in the footer of their email? You’re no Hotmail, but this is a simple, easy, and straightforward way to get a few people to notice your blog. If you post regularly and post useful content, those few will turn into a few more, which turns into a few more, and so on. Add your blog to any signature that makes sense. Be careful when promoting personal blogs in company emails though. The boss may not like it.
The same goes for any communities or forums that you participate in. If the site has a profile, bio, or place to put a URL, put your blog into it. Every time you contribute to that site, people will see it. This goes for your social media profiles too.
While we’re talking about social media, LinkedIn is a different animal altogether. LinkedIn is your holy grail of personal branding. If you spend time anywhere to improve your future, this is the place to do it. If you don’t have an account, create one. If you don’t keep it updated, shame on you!
LinkedIn is the foremost place that people go to look you up at any point when they might be considering you for anything that might be a business opportunity. In many cases, it might not be intentional. When you are looked up by your name, LinkedIn tends to be one of the top search results. A very useful thing about linked in though is that you can attach your blog posts as updates to your profile in one easy step. Simply by posting an update, it will boost visibility to your profile, get people in your network to see you more often, and be visible as content you create. Companies eat this up! The more active you appear to be investing in your future, the more you appear to be a great candidate.
One thing you might be thinking though is, “Well, I blog about curling and I work in telemarketing. Why should I post that?” The answer is simple. You never know what your career has in store for you. Sometimes, the most incredible opportunities come to you when you’re least expecting it. You might get an invite through LinkedIn to join a company that specializes in curling articles, or equipment. They could be blown away at your curling content!
Bottom line is this. If you don’t blog, blog. If you have a blog, update it. If you update your blog, post it everywhere you can every time you add a new article. You never know what it will lead to.
This article is cross-posted from my personal blog.