Use blogs as a career tool for becoming super-connected

One of the best ways to make a big leap in your career is to blog. Blogging allows you to create a high-quality network for yourself based, not on the old model of passing out business cards, but on a new model of passing out ideas. Contrary to popular opinion, blogging is not for college kids holed up in their dorm room posting photos of themselves. Blogging is so text-intensive — in terms of both reading and writing — that the amount of time required of a blogger makes it unattractive to college students. (Here’s a funny video about how time-consuming blogging is.)

However, to the curious and driven who are passionate about their careers, blogging is a great way to keep learning after college is over. So when you go to Google to search for blogs, most of those that come up will be from professionals who are using a blog to establish themselves as a thought leader in their field.

Most of the time you spend blogging will be reading other peoples’ blogs and linking to them and writing commentary on your own blog about what others in the blogosphere are talking about. It’s a constant course in your specialty and keeps you on the cutting edge. Moreover, the linking between blogs keeps you in touch with the other thought leaders in your industry, even if you do not know them personally.

One of the best things about blogging is that the benefits are huge, but the barrier to entry is very low. The software is free, and easy to use (try Blogger or WordPress) and it takes about 10 minutes to get started.

Minh Luong wanted a career in food writing, but found breaking into the industry was very tough. Instead of waiting to find an offline connection and nurture it and wait for the right opportunity and then make her move, Luong opted for taking more direct initiative to create the life she wants: She started blogging.

Almost immediately, her blog, Minnie Eat World, became a local Boston favorite, and the credibility she gained by blogging led to offline offers for work she would not have had access to had she not built a quick network for herself via blogging. The blog has replaced not only paying one’s dues, but also the network that comes from that.

The most efficient way to build a brand name for yourself is via blogging. Not just because blogging is so linked to one’s own ideas, but also because the tools for blogging encourage people to measure the reach of their personal brand. You can measure the number of people who are talking about you (via Technorati) and the number of people who are visiting you (via SiteMeter), and you can see who is telling their friends to read you (via Mint). But the commitment to a blog like this is intense — writing blog posts at least four days a week is a basic requirement, for example.

Harleen Kahlon recognized that while blogging is a great way to feel part of a smart, informed community, the time it takes to blog is often at odds with the time it takes professionals to manage the career they already have. So Kahlon founded Damsels in Success, which is a community for professional women that includes a group blog — a place where about 50 professional women are contributing to a blog that serves as a connector for all of them.

Many people are finding that group blogs provide both an outlet for ideas and a foundation for community, but the demands are much less than blogging on their own.

Another group blog that provides similar benefits is Employee Evolution. Led by the intrepid duo Ryan & Ryan, this blog provides a place for generation Y to spout about workplace issues to a wide audience without having to blog frequently enough to build that audience for themselves.

Another limitation of blogging is that you need to decide what sort of expertise you want to be known for before you start blogging. A blog needs a topic, and the only topics worth investing in are topics that are very meaningful to you. If you are not sure about a topic, you might just start blogging and find that you gravitate toward the topic that’s right for you.

But if that seems too disorganized to you, start by commenting on other peoples’ blogs. The bloggers are knowledgeable, committed, and passionate — just the kind of people you should add to your list of friends. Pick the bloggers you enjoy reading the most, and comment. Don’t just say, “great post.” Suggest an angle the blogger might not have seen, or present some information the blogger might have missed. Have a conversation with the blogger, because this is, after all, what building a network is all about: conversations.

Which brings us to Ben Casnocha, teenage entrepreneur and author of My Start-up Life. Ben blogs at ben.casnocha.com, and he has a loyal following of people who are fascinated by the thought process of someone who could launch a successful Internet-based company in sixth grade (check it out: Comcate.com). But Ben is doing something that is both in the realm of forward thinking and conventional thinking: He’s meeting people face to face. Ben took a tour of the United States meeting people each day who have become part of his electronic network.

Ben’s tour of the United States reminds us that each connection we make — either electronically or face to face — is just a starting point for something deeper. And he reminds us that for all the hoopla and fantasy building of the “new amazingly networked Web 2.0!”, it all comes down to good, old-fashioned connecting with people we want to hang out with.

Posted in How to blog, Networking, No image, Promoting yourself
17 comments on “Use blogs as a career tool for becoming super-connected
  1. Brian Johnson says:

    It occurs to me that while traditional print and tv news outlets struggle to redefine themselves in the internet age, and man are they struggling, bloggers are beating them at their own game. The concept of a group blog is strikingly similar to that of the newspaper – a group of writers highly knowledgeable in various areas offering information individually that, when taken as a whole, provides great rounded insight.

    But as newspapers try to transition to web-based initiatives, they haven’t been able to lose their their historical baggage – restrictions on content length and ad driven circulation goals. Each of these hindrances are often at odds with the ability to deliver the best quality content.

    And traditional news media STILL doesn’t have a clue about the value of connecting their own information and research with that from other sources. If there’s a more stale environment for creativity and new thinking than newspapers or television, I haven’t seen it.

    Extreme kudos to Penelope and her fellow bloggers for creating a communication format vastly superior to anything in the 20th century.

    * * * * * * *
    Thanks, Brian. The idea of group blog as newspaper is new to me – but interesting. Maybe, becuase the scope of a group blog is usually much more narrow than a newspaper, it is more like a newsletter. Or something in between.

     Penelope

  2. David Harper says:

    Hi Penelope,

    These stories speak to a gradual but wild shift from the days when I started work. Then, becoming a professional was solely a matter for the authorities (an ‘institution’ more or less dictated terms, about your path and status into professionalism). Nowadays, you don’t necessarily need to navigate the institutional brokerage on your way to professionalism. You just need a threshold number of people to value your ideas.

    The only ‘mod’ i’d offer is that blogs seem to be merely the tool du jour in the new read/write world. The key point, as you say, is that (if you have broadband and education) you can reach almost anybody with your idea in an two-way (n-way) conversation. It’s not obvious to me why text enjoys any pole position here. Ideas will be shared in mediums that we cannot imagine. We can podcast (more intimate than writing). We can share images (www.istockphoto.com) or share a writeboard. We can video-blog or screencast. Our avatars can meet in second life (just read a story about companies conducting interviews in second life!). Rich media is only get started, and blog-text is just one sort of object in a rich media toolset for sharing creatively.

    * * * * * *
    David, you bring up an interesting question — why blogs and not other shared media like photos or video. I have posted about how using video for professional reasons is not a good idea unless you know how to be professional on video. Here’s a link:http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2006/11/21/thinking-of-video-blogging-you-should-probably-forget-it/ And the problem with photos is very few high-level professsionals are taking photos related to their professional life and sharing them, so it’s hard to be part of a network.The great thing about text is that we all had 18 years of schooling about how to be good at generating it (as opposed to video or photos) and there is a critcal mass of professionals writing it in the form of blogs.

    There probably will be something different in five years. But that will be true every five years, and none of us can afford not to act becuase of that.

    –Penelope

     

     

  3. Caitlin says:

    I think David raises a great point. I am an avid podcast listener and I subscribe to just as many podcasts as I do blogs. My favourite is Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing (www.ishouldbewriting.com).

    I think blogs are slightly more interactive than rich media, in terms of the audience talking back. In Mur’s case it’s very much a two-way conversation – she has a part of her show where she plays voice mails and reads emails from listeners and she also has online forums. However, I must admit I don’t personally interact with podcasts in the same way I do blogs. I am much more likely to leave a comment on a blog than email or send voice mail to a podcaster. It feels like the barrier to doing so is a little higher and I would need a good reason for doing so.

    I must, however, disagree with Brian. Blogs can replace newspapers and television in some respects because they replace opinion columns and timeless information such as a feature on how to choose a savings account or how to use your digital camera. They can also replace old media for advertisers who will simply go whereever the audience is.

    However, I don’t believe that blogs will ever do a great job of reporting the news. That is where newspapers and television (and also the online equivalents) come in. Sure, you might get an occasional scoop on a blog but that is rare, and tends to be within a particular niche. News reporting is moving online without a doubt but it’s traditional media organisations that are taking it there, not bloggers. The problem is not really that they are doing a bad job but that there is not as much advertising money to go around as there used to be.

  4. michelle says:

    Speaking of teenage entrepreneurs, I encountered one when setting up a blog to showcase my writing. He has done all of my graphic work so far, and did it in a much more timely fashion than most adults I know. I just know he is going to go places, thus proving your point.

  5. Michael Schaffner says:

    Penelope,

    Blogging is a great career tool for becoming connected. My top ten reasons for blogging are:
    1. It is yet another form of networking
    2. It helps to keep your name “fresh” with your network
    3. It is a great form of viral advertising
    4. It is a great form of “pull” marketing
    5. It keeps you in the game
    6. It demonstrates comfort with and a mastery of current technology
    7. It shows a maturity and depth of experience
    8. It helps to answer the third question
    9. Blogging builds writing muscle
    10. Its fun
    I explain these in more detail in my post "Why I Blog: 10 Reasons to Blog To Establish Your Personal Brand" http://mikeschaffner.typepad.com/michael_schaffner/2007/03/why_i_blog_10_r.html

    Mike

  6. Joselle says:

    This is another great post with information that I actually use. One great thing about my interest in reading blogs is that, when I really thought about what I was clicking on every day, it became very clear to me what my interests were, which help dissipate some of that “what am I going to do” job career confusion.

    I also think participating in a group blog is beneficial. Having a partner not only helps in terms of generating a good quantity of posts but it keeps your posting momentum going in the beginning when you’re still working on building your skills, focus, and blogging network.

    * * * * *

    Maybe having a group blog is like have a workout buddy; You’re more likely to do it if you’re doing it with a friend.

    Penelope

  7. Florinda says:

    Your timing with this post was just fantastic. My own blogging has little to do directly with my career right now, but I’m open to wherever it might lead. You’re right about something I didn’t realize when I started – if you’re serious about it at all, you’ll spend a lot of your blogging time reading and commenting on other blogs, since they’ll inform what you post on your own to some extent (less on a more personal, diary-type blog).

    But I’m trying to get my sister involved in blogging, and since she’s always had writerly ambitions, it could be more directly career-related for her, so I’m really glad you posted this now. I’ve already claimed a space to group-blog with her, hoping some support will help her get started. I’m going to be sending her this post as part of my recruiting effort, since you make so many points about the benefits of blogging more effectively than I would, and I hope she’ll find it persuasive. Thanks, Penelope!

  8. David Airey :: Creative Design :: says:

    Wow! Your archive section is huge! In blog terms, you’re a great, great grandmother, but quite an attractive one if that header photo is you.

    I’m not sure how I arrived here, perhaps through Cory’s blog or Brian Gardner. Either way, good job on the blog devotion! I’m just a tadpole in comparison.

  9. Tiffany Monhollon says:

    Penelope,
    Hi! Thanks for your comment earlier. I truly appreciate your encouragement and insight. I think the issue of personal branding is so huge for my generation, and I really think we need more people talking about it and offering real solutions. Personal SEO – the good, the bad and the ugly! I read an entire article the other day about a woman who had such a common last name, she used Google to name her children – so they would have uncommon first names and rank as THEMSELVES in the algorithm! You know it’s a big topic when that sort of news breaks. With my situation, I’m at the other end of the spectrum with a bit different perspective, but it’s a pretty big issue, if you ask me. So thanks for your encouragement and advice. Oh, and by the way, my last name is Monhollon. Nice to meet you.

    * * * * *

    Tiffany-
    I’m honored that you used your full name on my blog! I was thinking, maybe all this identity stuff is more loaded for men than women because women grow up with the idea that they might change their name anyway — because of marriage — but men don’t. I have a feeling that names feel more permanent for men than women. But maybe my perspective is skewed…

    Penelope

  10. Carmen says:

    Daily blogging reminds me of an artist constantly sketching in their notebooks. Both allow you to observe and comment on the world around you, and as you progress, it provides the opportunity to reflect on your improvements and growth.

    * * * * *

    Carmen, this is a great analogy. And, just like sketching makes you pay closer attention to your surroundings, so, too, does daily blogging.

    Penleope

  11. Purva Brown says:

    Hi Penelope,
    Thanks so much for your advice. I read your advice about starting a blog in Feb-March of this year and since then have successfully networked with so many more people than I thought I would. Not to mention I now have a forum to truly express what I think and have researched in my chosen field.
    I think a blog is indispensible today. But don’t tell my competition that!:)
    Purva.

  12. Purva Brown says:

    Whoops… missed the “g” in the URL above. Important to know how to spell! :)
    Purva.

  13. Ajay says:

    Awesome…..
    The best feature on Blogging I have read so far…

    Great going…
    Best of Luck…..

  14. Victor says:

    [ – ]Blog it’s like life[ – ]

  15. Alanna Shaikh says:

    I found Damsels in Success through you, and I have just been accepted for the group blog. I’m very excited.

    Thank you for pointing me there!

  16. Stefanie Hartman says:

    Wonderful post. Love the video about how time consuming blogging is, it’s so true!

  17. Cynthia Dettman says:

    Hi Penelope,

    thanks for inspiring me to launch my own blog! And I’m a white haired 60 year old! Question: What are the pros and cons of blogging on two very different topics at the same site? In my case, I’m blogging about India and about my local career coach practice. Also, I’m somewhat concerned about blogging internationally about a business that is very local- how do I attract local, face-to-face business? I’m not quite prepared to offer career coaching through skype or online. Would love your thoughts and comments! Cynthia I blog at blog.cynthiadettman.com