Today is the official announcement of my blog. I actually started blogging three months ago, when I was doing interviews for my recent column about blogging. It became clear that anyone who is very serious about their career should have a blog, and I didn’t have one.

It turns out, it is not that easy to blog. Well, it’s easy to write a blog for an audience of six best friends and your mom. But if you want to be seen as an expert in your field by making a significant contribution to the daily community discussion, then you need to think things through a bit.

Fortunately, I’m a person who loves to learn something new. Here’s what I did:

1. I called all the people I knew who were bloggers and asked them about their technique.

2. I spent two hours a night for a month reading other peoples’ blogs. I read hotshot blogs, like Lifehacker and smaller blogs like Communication Nation.

3. I started blogging furtively. I told only my blog mentor and my brother (who said “You should get a better picture of yourself.”)

Today is the last step: Announcing the blog to everyone else.

It turns out that I really love blogging. It appeals to three very big aspects of my personality: I love to write, I love routine, and I’ll read anything. This last thing is genetic, I think. My mom will read anything, too. My mom has an amazing memory, and she was on the game show Jeopardy. I don’t have her memory, but I’m a good synthesizer of information, and blogging is a great outlet for that.

According to the guys who wrote the best selling book Freakonomics, the idea of talent is overrated. What makes people stand out — concert pianists, Olympic athletes (and probably big-time bloggers) is that they love to practice. They love to do it day in and day out and so they get really good at it.

This is the reason that people should do what they love — because that’s what they’ll be really good at because they’ll do it a lot. So I’m happy to have found something I love.

For those of you who are still looking for something you love, you should know that I did not know that I would love blogging before I tried it. In fact, before I tried it, I thought blogging would be a daily pain in the butt. But I took a risk because I know you can’t find what you’re really good at without trying a lot of things.

Blogging is a very big time investment. And it’s not like I'm getting paid to do this. But you cannot get paid to do everything in life. I have made almost all my big career steps by doing something that I did not get paid for. I have written business plans with no assurance that they’d be funded (I got the money). And I have contributed time and ideas with no assurance that I’d get credit (I got a job).

In this case, I’m not really sure where the blog will lead, but I feel strongly that I need to be doing it, to contribute to the online conversation about work and life. Some days I worry about how much time I spend on the blog, but I tell myself that good things happen to those who take risks to do things they love. So, I’m doing that. We’ll see what happens.

Blogging is good for your career. A well-executed blog sets you apart as an expert in your field.

Ben Day blogged his way into a career as a high-earning software consultant while maintaining the freedom to schedule frequent jam sessions and performances as a keyboard player. Blogging gave him the opportunity to stand out enough to support the life he envisioned for himself.

Phil van Allen, a faculty member of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, said to me in an interview, “For your career, a blog is essential. It’s the new public relations and it’s the new home page. Instead of a static home page, you have your blog.” It’s a way to let people know what you are thinking about the field that interests you.

Employers regularly Google prospective employees to learn more about them. Blogging gives you a way to control what employers see, because Google’s system works in such a way that blogs that are heavily networked with others come up high in Google searches.

And coming up high is good: “People who are more visible and have a reputation and stand for something do better than people who are invisible,” branding consultant Catherine Kaputa told me.

But pick your topics carefully and have a purpose. “The most interesting blogs are focused and have a certain attitude,” says van Allen. “You need to have a guiding philosophy that you stick to. You cannot one minute pontificate on large issues of the world and the next minute be like, ‘My dog died.'”

Day realized the value of focus after a misguided mashup of his politics and business. “I used to have liberal politics on my website as well, but my mentor said, ‘Dude, you gotta trim that off.’ Which was fine because in the world of liberal politics I was just another piece of noise.” Now his blog is all about software development with an emphasis on technologies such as NHibernate and C#.

Once you zero in on your topic, here are eight reasons blogging helps your career:

1. Blogging creates a network.
A blogger puts himself out in the world as someone who is interesting and engaging — just the type of person everyone wants to meet. “A blog increases your network because a blog is about introducing yourself and sharing information,” says Kaputa.

2. Blogging can get you a job.
Dervala Hanley writes a quirky literary blog that got her a job is at Stone Yamashita Partners, a consulting firm that “tries to bring humanity to business.” Hanley told me that the firm was attracted to her ability to put her business experience into personal terms on the blog.

3. Blogging is great training.
To really get attention for your blog, you’re going to have to have daily entries for a while. At least a few months to get rolling, and then three or four times a week after that. So you will really get to know your topic well.

4. Blogging helps you move up quickly.
To escape the entry-level grind, you can either pay your dues, working up a ladder forever, or you can establish yourself as an expert in the world by launching a blog. High-level jobs are for people who specialize, and hiring managers look for specialists online. “Decision-makers respect Google-karma,” writes Tim Bray, director of Web technologies for Sun Microsystemson his own blog, of course.

5. Blogging makes self-employment easier.
You can’t make it on your own unless you’re good at selling yourself. One of the most cost-effective and efficient ways of marketing yourself is with a blog. When someone searches for your product or service, make sure your blog comes up first.

Curt Rosengren, a career coach, periodically Googles “career passion” — words he thinks are most important to his business — just to make sure his blog, Occupational Adventure, comes up high on the list. He estimates that his blog generates at least half of his coaching business.

6. Blogging provides more opportunities.
Building brands, changing careers, launching a business — these endeavors are much easier once you’ve established yourself online. Rosengren told me, “My blog is a foundation. I’m building an awareness that I can leverage to do other fun things with my future, such as product development, or public speaking.”

A blog gives you a leg up when you meet someone new. Dylan Tweney, a freelance writer, told me his blog, the Tweney Review, gives him instant legitimacy with clients.

7. Blogging could be your big break.
Visually creative types can blog beyond just text. Mark Fearing has a cartoon blog. “Cartooning and illustration are very crowded fields,” he says. “My blog has gotten me more notice than any other publicity tool I’ve used. Plus, the blog gives me a way to have a new conversation with potential clients about other work.”

8. Blogging makes the world a better place.
“Blogging is about giving stuff away to a community,” says Day. “For years, as a junior developer, I would go to the Internet for solutions and I would always take, take, take. Now I am happy to be a contributor and give something back.”

Article sponsored by YouSayToo – a bloggers community where you can make money blogging by uploading your existing blogs.

Here is my first post to my blog. About two years too late.

I know this because two years ago, my readers started telling me that I should blog. I ignored them, mostly, because it seemed like too much work to write every day. After all, I write two columns a week and I invariably do an interview from the gym or from my son’s preschool. I couldn’t imagine doing more work. But now I can’t imagine not having a blog.

One of the readers who made me think the hardest about blogging was Dennis Yang. In fact, he set up a trial blog for me. Which I never used but also never stopped thinking about.

And this reminds me of dozens of readers who told me I should write a book, two or three years before I did. (And my mom. She told me a lot, too.)

So now I have learned my lesson. If I had taken the advice of my readers, I’d have been ahead of myself in many ways. Hopefully, the blog will make it so I hear from more readers on more topics.

As for listening to my mom more, I’m not sure about that.

Here is a message for people who say they can't stomach office politics: You will die a slow, painful career death. This is because there's no getting around office politics, and mastering them is essential to being able to steer your own career. Don't take that as bad news, though, because mastering office politics is good for your soul. Really.
Office politics is inescapable because it's about dealing with the people. When there is a group of people — anywhere, even on the playground — there is politics.

Let’s say you pack up your bags and go work in a national park, with trees and rivers and no cubicles. There will be politics about who has to take care of hikers when it’s raining and who gets to stay dry, and if you are bad at politics, you will be wet every time.

Politics is part of society. And my guess is that you want to participate in society (at least) so that you can support yourself. But people who are good at politics are generally empathetic (they understand who needs what) and they have good self-discipline (they can moderate themselves so they are pleasant to be with.)

Most people who hate politics think they have to change who they are to succeed. Really, though, anyone who is being their best self — kind, considerate, expressive, interested in others — will do fine in office politics.
So get to know yourself. Saying you just can’t do politics is giving up on being your best self.

And wait, there's more good news about office politics. If you really take a look at what's going on over there at the water cooler, people are not jockeying for power, they are hobnobing for projects. That's right. For most people in today's workplace, office politics is about getting the best opportunities to learn and grow; the best projects, the best training, the assignments that build skills the market values.

Office chatter with the vapid goal of getting power over other people is, frankly, a little offensive. But it is hard to fault people for wanting to grow and learn. In fact, I find more fault with people who care so little about personal growth that they won't spend the extra energy politiking to get themselves on good projects.

Maybe you are convinced, but you are feeling at a loss to get started. Here are relatively simple things that people who are good at office politics do:

1. Make time for it — both in terms of face time, and time alone to analyze the face time.
2. Listen. How can you learn anything when you're talking about what you already know?

Here are realtively difficult things that people who are good at office politics do:

1. Have genuine interest in other people. Each person is interesting if you are interseted enough to ask the right question.
2. Feel empathy. This means putting yourself in other peoples'shoes all the time. And not judging them.

Maybe you're still thinking of being the person at the office who abstains from office politics. Realize that you won't last long — in the office, that is. Putting your head down and doing your work is a good way to ensure that you don't connect with anyone. This situation is deadly in a world where people are hired for what they know and fired for who they are. People need to get to know you in order to like you.

The act of making yourself likeable is office politiking. You shouldn't have to be fake if you are a geniuinely nice and interested person. If office politics requires you to do soething that feels fake, consider that you were not likeable in the first place. For you, office politics is training ground to teach yourself to be likeable, and, as a side benefit, you will save your job. For others, office politics is the time at work when you get to be your best, true, self in search of more learning opportunities and more human connections.