In a world where jobs no longer last forever, the only constant in your career is you. So instead of relying on the brand of your company to define who you are, you have to rely on your own brand.

That’s not easy, though. Think of all the brand managers who have had their hands onNike or Apple. The brands people adore and really connect with are brands that are consciously developed and well cared for every day, even in bad times.

Admit It — You’re Special

That’s how you have to treat yourself. It’s true that you’ll never be as big a brand as Nike or Apple, but your brand is much more important than theirs, because your brand is what will feed you and clothe you and keep your life stable. And just as specialized brands are always the most successful, specialists have the best careers.

Think about it: The people who get the most job offers are the ones known for doing something very well. They have an area of expertise and they have a reputation for being great at it. The stronger your specialty is, the more opportunities you’ll have for career moves; and the more opportunities you have, the less likely that the inevitable bumps in the road will throw you off course. That’s how branding creates stability.

The way to build a brand is to know what your strengths are, why they’re special, and what you like doing with them. If you’re unclear of what personal branding is, here’s a great definition from personal-branding blogger Dan Schawbel. And if you’re unsure of how to build your own brand, here are three steps to follow:

1. Know what you’re very good at.

This isn’t about what you like to do. We all like to do a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean we stand out for them. You also don’t need to get paid for what you love to do most. After all, you may love food, but you probably don’t get paid to eat, right?

So pick something you love but that makes sense to get paid for, which means it should pay enough to support you and whoever depends on you. Also, pick something in an area you’ve done work in that people have told you is exceptional.

Each of us can only be fantastic at a few things. One of the big tricks to career success is to find what you do better than almost everyone else, and then let people know that that’s what you do. For most people, the search for what makes them special takes years and years, and includes a few wrong turns.

2. Know what people think of you.

This is hard to do. For example, most people think they’re more well-liked than they are. And most people think they’re more essential to a team than they are. A great way to get an assessment of how people think of you is to ask yourself if you have the five traits of a likable person.

Another approach is to think about traits that likable people have and work on those, because the traits you consciously focus on are ones you can generally improve. Branding blogger Adam Salamon writes that there are some things you should always want to convey, for example that you’re interested in other people and that you have a positive attitude. These are things everyone should think about.

But being likable is only part of brand building. You need to be not just liked, but known for what you’re good at. Do people know what you’re good at, or do they just know that you’re nice? You want both.

3. Meet the right people.

Not every brand is relevant to every person. Understand the kind of people who’ll connect best with you, and surround yourself with them, at least to get started. That way you can focus on presenting the parts of you that are most relevant to your brand.

This shouldn’t seem extreme. The younger the workforce gets, the more mainstream the idea of personal branding becomes. Travis, a blogging entrepreneur at Young Go Getter, describes his community as a place where people write about what they want to be known for and share ideas to connect with people who think like them.

You need a community like that. Because in the new workplace, no one can take care of you but you — not your boss, not your company, not the economy. It’s all up to you, and it’s hard to do alone, so figure out what you’re great at and then let people know. Start with a small community and let it get bigger and bigger. This is where true financial security and job safety come from.

When I was playing professional beach volleyball, running around in a bathing suit every day, you’d think I would have been more conscious than ever about my image. But at the start, I was generally oblivious.

In fact, when I was in my first Bud Light commercial, we were told to bring three bathing suits to the set. So the volleyball players stood in line while the costume person – or whatever her title was – picked out her favorite bathing suit for each of us.

When she got to me, I was sitting in the sand reading a book, and she said my not standing up was slowing everything down. If you have ever done a commercial, you know that things move insanely slowly, and the idea that I could slow down something that already moving at the speed of molasses made me laugh incredulously. She also did not like that.

Then I handed over my three suits and she said, “One-piece suits??!!?? Are you kidding me? You brought one-piece suits for a Bud Light commercial?!?!? Do you ever pick you head out of that book? !!? Do you know what this commercial is about?!??! It is not about your one-piece suits!!!

That moment drove home to me how important it is to think about image: what people are expecting me to look like. I always wore bikinis after that. I understood that that was part of my job.

When I started working in corporate America, I had to learn about image all over again. At first, I had no money for clothes, and I bought stuff at thrift shops. One day, at my Fortune 100 company, I wore a sweatshirt inside out, trying to make it look like a sort of dress-up sweatshirt, and my boss sent me home to change. I’m not kidding. I told her I thought it was absurd. She said, “Trust me. You don’t want to have this debate with human resources. Just go home.” So I did. And since I lived two hours from work, I took the day off. But I threw the sweatshirt out.

As my career progressed, I spent a lot of time on image, mostly because there were so few women doing what I was doing that I had no role models for how to dress. I hired a consultant to overhaul my whole look, and then when I was getting ready for my first meetings with venture capitalists, my partner (fifteen years older than I was) sent me to a coach to give me “polish”.

Image must be an issue for a lot of people because in my post about bed bugs, the most popular outbound link is actually ” great work clothes ” . And the post that has generated the most offers to me for free stuff was one about my shoes.

So it will surprise none of you that when CNN invited me to do an interview last week, I thought a lot about what to wear.

The last time I linked to a TV interview I did, a few of you wrote to me to say that I need to be more dressed up. “People who have authority usually wear a suit on TV,” one person wrote to me.

I’m not into the suit. I see it’s a sign of authority but I think it’s outdated to rely on something besides your ideas to get authority. If authority comes from something besides ideas, then the world becomes rankist. That is, discriminating against people in low rank, not because of what they have to offer, but because of where they are in the pecking order.

One thing blogging has really driven home for me is that today, real authority comes from what you say, not your credentials. I am fascinated by this. It’s the grand democracy in the blogosphere that some of my favorite bloggers are in their early twenties. And some of the worst blogs are from people who are actually in positions of huge authority.

The Economist notes that for CNN-type moments, Mark Zuckerberg wears a signature fleece and sandals, and Steve Jobs wears a black turtleneck and jeans. I like those outfits. They’re authentic to those guys. But I’m sensitive to the fact that women need to follow different guidelines than men do. If I dress like the guys, for example, the guys won’t like me.

So, I brought six shirts to the studio for the CNN interview. At the last minute, I decided that the important thing to me is authenticity so I should wear something I love. I chose my favorite black shirt that is sort of an expensive-flirty-dress-up version of a t-shirt. I think it looked good, though I confess to being unable to find the CNN interview online to link to it.

And yes, I know, you are not supposed to wear black on TV. They even tell this rule to all the volleyball players. But that’s for another post.

I get asked a lot of questions about self-promotion. Mostly I give answers like find something you are great at doing and be nice to people. It’s a killer combination, really. But people always want more advice than that. So, here are five tips that I give a lot. And I live by them.

1. Specialize, which means saying what you don’t do
In order to talk about yourself in a memorable way, you need to say something specific. This is why specializing is essential for effective self-promotion.

A good example of this is promoting yourself as a personal trainer. If you say you can train anyone, then you are the same as everyone else. If you say you help people work on their core strength without free weights, then not only do you separate yourself from the crowd, but you say something so unique that you encourage more questions.

It’s always scary for people to specialize because they think they’ll lose clients. But turning away clients is actually the best way to get them. You have to say no to people to establish yourself as an expert in something, and experts get hired more often than non-experts.

2. Stay the most focused when things look the most difficult
We each have a wide range of talents. And it’s easy to get frustrated when things are not happening fast enough. So it makes sense that we’d try something new, to see if it might work faster.

I did this a lot while I was trying to be a freelance writer. I can write a wide range of stuff, and it took me a while to figure out the intersection of things I like to write and things I could get paid well to write. I knew a ton of opportunities in both of those categories, but I could think of very few things at the cross section of the two categories.

Which is why I found myself writing online dating profiles. I could tell I’d be good at it because it’s a lot like writing a resume. And I could tell there was a big market of people who would pay well for the service. So I gave it a try with my ex-boyfriend’s profile. I told him his was bad and I could fix it. And I did. And then I wrote myself a plan to promote myself as a dating profile editor. And then I threw it out, and focused on my real, long-term goals.

I did this all the time on my way to where I am now. The important thing is to recognize when something is a brilliant idea and when it is a way to avoid facing your true goals when they are difficult.

3. Be the tortoise, not the hare
Self-promotion is about building a long-term reputation for yourself. Establishing trust and respect in the marketplace. This is not something you do in a few months. So you need to get some work habits that will allow you to move self-promotion from a project type thing to a lifestyle type thing.

So first of all, get out of your head that you work well under pressure. You don’t. No one does. Not when you are promoting yourself. Because in the end, what will make you stand out is your ability to find creative approaches to your chosen specialty. And it is a myth that creativity happens best under pressure. Also, you need sleep. People who get enough sleep are more creative.

Another hurdle for being good at self-promotion is that it’s hard to quantify success. There are some metrics, like blog rankings or Academy Awards, but they never show the whole picture. One of the biggest risk factors for burnout is doing lots of work without being able to measure your success. So it’s important, with self-promotion, that you make daily goals for doing something small – reaching out to someone, publishing something, showing up at an event. This way you can show yourself that you are making measurable progress in the self-promotion realm even if the real measure – like new clients – will come months later.

4. Mitigate the fear of starvation
Getting your name out there takes time. And while you’re doing it, there is a nagging fear that you won’t be able to and you will starve. You might be encouraged to hear that this is actually a feeling that is essential to grand success.

But here’s some practical advice as well: Don’t say no to anything. Just because someone is offering you a stupid project or a project that you would never want your name on, don’t turn it down, just raise your fee. It’s rare that someone would offer you work that you wouldn’t do for a million dollars. Start there and go down. For most of my freelance life I was willing to write anything for triple my regular fee.

Another good way to freelance without starving is to change how you think about time. If you keep a paying job and do self-promotion on the side, until you have some traction, then you are giving yourself time to learn how to be your own publicist before you depend on that for food money.

5. Know yourself, really, so you know when to shut up
Most people err on the side of not talking themselves up enough. We each need to learn the right way to toot our own horn. However sometimes you really do have to let your actions are speak louder than words.

I am struck by how well Oprah balances this. When her school was getting trashed, she got out into the press and defended it. But it turns out now that she was the only mainstream media figure to come out against the Iraq war before we went to war, and she does not make a big deal about this at all.

How does Oprah know when to be loud and when not to be? She knows her brand well because she knows herself well. She understands what she has to offer so clearly, and what her goals are so clearly, that she knows she needs to stand up for the school in order to protect her brand, but making a big deal out of her early position on the war would not help her meet her goals.

Make it a point in your life to have the same level of self-knowledge that Oprah has. Don’t underestimate that piece of the self-promotion puzzle.

I’m speaking at the BlogHer Conference in Chicago on July 27. My panel is titled Self-Branding and Self-Promotion. I’ll be talking about how to use your marriage as a way to increase blog traffic. Just kidding. (By the way, I get way more traffic when I post bulleted lists about productivity, so keep your eye out for those…)

Nina Burokas and Stephanie Cockerl are on the panel as well.

I hope to see a bunch of you there.

For those of you who don’t know what’s going on in my marriage, please read My First Day of Marriage Counseling, and maybe you will want to leave a comment about how if you were my husband, you’d divorce me for blogging about my marriage.

My husband, in fact, has brought up divorce for other reasons. I am not totally sure which ones, to be honest, but I think it is career related since I have a great career and his sort of stalled when he became a stay-at-home dad and then went to hell from there.

I know that there are a lot of stay-at-home dads. But while it may seem like there are a lot who are happy, I think it’s really just that every single one of the happy ones is blogging.

There are a lot of stay-at-home dads in my neighborhood. After all, I live in a town where you can buy a house for under $200,000, so living on one income is not that hard here. That’s part of the reason we moved to Madison.

So my friend who writes for a very huge and widely read publication needed some stay-at-home dads to interview. And I said, “I know a bunch. I’ll give you names.” But you know what? None of them would talk. And of course my husband would not talk, because stay-at-home parenting has been a disaster for us. And if you ask all the high-level women who have men at home with their kids, (there are tons) their husbands are not talking.

So I’m going to tell you the truth about stay-at-home dads: The happy ones are working part-time at something they love. This is not surprising because the majority of women with kids would rather work part-time than either stay-at home full-time or work full-time. Which explains why we’re done with the stay-at-home dad routine.

Not that I really know what my husband is doing, though, because we are barely talking. We are doing what I imagine lots of couples do when things fall apart: Acting totally normal at events where normal families show up as families, and then pretending we don’t know each other at home.

And I do feel a little like I don’t know him. Last night I accepted a LinkedIn invitation from a friend. I went immediately to see our common connections – my favorite thing to on LinkedIn — and, there was my husband.

I wasn’t shocked that she knew him. I was shocked by what he wrote for his profession. Stay-at-home dad, former online game producer.

Surely writing stay-at-home dad on a LinkedIn profile cannot be good. But that’s what he is, so what else is he going to write? I went to LinkedIn to investigate the stay-at-home situation. When I searched the string “stay at home”, I got 471 results. It makes sense, I guess, because the biggest problem people have when they leave work to take care of a kid is that they lose their contacts. So LinkedIn would be an obvious thing to do to make going back to work easier.

The list was mostly moms. The first guy I saw was not only a stay-at-home dad, but in his special skills section he lists “baby stuff”.

As the career expert in my household, I always think I’m ten steps ahead of my husband. But I didn’t know that somewhere in the back of his mind, while we’re at soccer games and swimming lessons, he has been wrestling with the question of what to write on LinkedIn, which is really the question of how to present himself professionally when he’s abandoned his profession. I feel very lucky that I’m the one who kept up a career.

So we are interviewing babysitters because my husband needs time to think, and you can’t think about the state of your life and what to do about it when you are taking care of kids.

While I was conducting an interview, my husband was scurrying around getting camp lunches ready for the next day. This is an endearing thing about my husband – he is the king of details, and I am terrible with them. Every time there is something wrong in the lunchbox, my son comes home and asks if I could please not pack his lunch anymore.

So my husband was running around the house and he bumped into me. A normal thing to do would be to say I’m sorry. But we are not talking to each other. And the babysitter saw that an opportunity to be normal was somehow missed.

I needed to say something to explain the weirdness, because good babysitters do not work in homes of messed up families. I thought a little story might make things feel like I have some control. So I said, “Um. My husband and I are, uh. Well. We are…”

And the babysitter said, “Oh, don’t worry. I know. I read your blog.”

A lot of people ask me if they should blog under a pseudonym. They ask me because I started writing under a pseudonym eight years ago, and it ended up being such a mess that I turned it into my real name. So I advise everyone to start out using their real name. Here are the reasons why:

1. Your blog could get very popular, so plan for that. Blogging takes a lot of time. If you’re going to put in the time, you may as well do it assuming that you will gain a very big readership.

Imagine you get phone calls from the New York Times and they ask for you using your pseudonym instead of your name. What do you say? Imagine you get an inquiry from someone who might hire you and you have to explain that you are not exactly the person they’re calling. Mostly, though, imagine that when you use your real name and people don’t know who you are. No one wants to hear a long-winded explanation for a name. They just want you to use a name that works. Take it from me.

2. Blogging is good for your career, if you allow it to be. Picking a topic helps you focus your career energy on the intersection of your strengths and your interests. And really, it’s hard to blog and not become an expert in your topic. You read about the topic all the time, you think about it when you think about your posts, you have conversations about it constantly via links and comments. One of the best benefits of blogging is that it’s a great education. But how can you get credit in your field for this expertise if you blog under a pseudonym?

If you’re worried about how to keep a personal blog while you have a corporate job, check out Steve Rubel at Micropersuasion. He is employed at Edelman and is sort of inventing the wheel as he goes along. He makes mistakes very publicly, and we all learn from them, and he’s a great model for making a blog and a corporate job work together. Other examples of bloggers who have personal blogs and corporate jobs are Tim Bray and Melanie Parsons Gao (both at Sun Microsystems) or the hundreds of bloggers at Microsoft.

3. Blogging is a great way to network – if you are being yourself. Blogs are one, big conversation, so your ability to meet people and make real connections with them increases geometrically through blogging. People were very unsatisfied to hear that they thought they knew me but in fact I was not giving them my real name. And people who were just getting to know me got hung up on the name issue – they couldn’t believe that I was so well known by a name that wasn’t my name. Having a pseudonym is like having a wall up between you and everyone else. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that’s usually how people perceive it when they find out.

4. Technology can make your life feel more coherent, if you plan for that. One of the great things about social media is that we can integrate our work life and personal life so well because we can work remotely and on our own time. But this sense of an integrated life is undermined with dual identities. If you always tell people you have two names then your pseudonym will start to feel fragmented and fake. And if you never tell some people and not others then you won’t remember who knows you as which name, and you will feel inauthentic.

5. A pseudonym will not protect you from sexual harassment. It’s true that women bloggers get harassed online way more than men. Kathy Sierra is an extreme and terrible example, of course, but harassment happens in not so dramatic a way every day .

Online men pick on women because they are women . For example, Mike Arrington, a highly influential technology journalist, inexplicably insulted, the topic (knitting) of a very successful web site aimed at women. And each week I receive many comments on Yahoo Finance rife with misogynist accusations about sex and intelligence that the male columnists at Yahoo Fiance do not endure nearly as often.

But is this a reason to hide? There is a 70% chance that a knowlege worker will be harassed on the job. Women are more likely to be harassed in their office than online. Does it mean women shouldn’t show up to the office? No. Women have gotten good at dealing with harassment. Probably because it’s a fact of life. It starts when we are twelve years old and a guy whistles from a car as he drives by. And it looks to me like it never ends. We cannot stop this. At lest not today.

The best we can do is not suppress ourselves behind a pseudonym as a measure of protection. Otherwise, men get all the benefits of blogging and women don’t, and we create an all-new Web 2.0 version of the gender divide.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the braided career. The idea is that in order to create stability in a world where career change is frequent and job security is non-existent, you need to be managing three things at all times: your personal life, what you are doing for work now, and what you might want to do next. These things are intertwined, and make for an interesting, stable, but complicated life. If you consciously braid then you keep things in order.

But how do you translate that to a business card? What do you call yourself?

The answer is that your business card should directly reflect the story you are telling about yourself in the moment. And in fact, the issue of what to put on your business card is actually a very fundamental question.

The best way to get a clear sense of who you are is not to philosophize with your head in the clouds, but rather, to describe yourself in sentences. Sometimes this means writing a lot, sometimes this means talking a lot. This is why keeping a diary keeps some people feeling centered and talk therapy keeps other people centered. It’s also why when you are working on your elevator pitch about yourself, you get better and better with practice, because you understand yourself better each time you talk about yourself.

When you meet someone new, and they ask you “what do you do?” Blogger Pam Slim gives a great answer: She says to answer what you want to be doing. That is, you are under no obligation to tell people your day job. And you don’t need to confess that you want to be a designer but the only thing you’ve designed is the web page that says you’re a designer. Everyone starts somewhere. Bill Gates sold his first computer before he had manufactured one. He did that by saying that he does it and then someone hired him to do it. This is fair play – even expected play – in business.

So you need a business card that says what you want to be doing, if you are ready to start doing it. If you are doing two things and they are related, like designer and illustrator, you can put a slash on the card. If you are doing things that are unrelated, like designer and travel agent, then have two separate cards. This way, when someone is going on a trip, you can give them the travel agent card. If designer is also on the card then it looks like you are less focused on travel, whether or not it’s true, so leave it off. In this sense the card is like a resume – it’s not your life story; just put on the card what you want to get hired to do.

You can do fine with a very basic business card, and there are plenty of places to order these online. But here is a site with really incredible business cards, that I spent way too much time looking at. (Thanks, Marina.) But before you go there, a word of caution: The wrong font can ruin your image in one second. So don’t get fancy unless you know how.

And hey, if you still have a corporate day job as well, don’t forget to carry around cards for that, too – until you can quit.

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, 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: 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.

By Ryan Healy — like most people our age, my friends don’t really read blogs. So I created a My Space page to market my blog. At first, this worked out great. Our friends could see bulletins every time a new post went up and people got a better sense of what the blog was all about.

On top of this, every night before bed I left an AIM away message stating, “click here” and people would be sent to the site. I also updated my Facebook profile every time a new post went up. All of these things worked great for the first few weeks. My friends went to the site, and someone new would ask about it nearly every day.

Despite all of this, we realized that it is not easy to convert the average twentysomething to the wonderful world of the blogosphere. Even my friends and acquaintances that appreciate what I’m doing and compliment my site do not frequent my blog or any other blog on a regular basis. And when they do visit the site they almost never leave a comment.

It’s ironic, though, because blogging is a way to deal with the biggest problem at the beginning of one’s career: No expertise. If you offer intelligent opinions or advice on a credible blog, then you are an expert. This is why more young people should blog. If you have a focused blog, then you can jump from job to job and learn many skills, but the constant will be that you are an expert in whatever area you choose to research and write about.

A great example of someone establishing themselves as an expert through a blog is Ramit Sethi of He started writing about personal finance a few years ago and now he gives speeches on the topic, has a book coming out and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal. Sure it takes a little hard work, but the end result can certainly justify the means.

If you are interested in a subject but really don’t know much about it, creating a blog is a great way to learn. If you are really clueless at first, then start your blog as a clearing house for everything related to your niche. Scan the web for articles, create Google alerts for key words and contact a few experts. Eventually you will absorb so much about the topic that you can write intelligent posts as often as you would like. Get Rich Slowly is an example of a blog that started as mostly links and summaries of other peoples’ posts. Quickly, though, author JD Roth became expert enough to write his own commentary in addition to linking.

One of the hardest parts about starting a blog is that nearly every subject worth writing about has been covered to death. The solution to this is to put your own spin on it. If you are a young person the easiest thing to do is highlight the fact that you are young and write about it from a young person’s point of view. For example, if you are interested in marketing, research how the “experts” try to reach young people and then write about what works and what doesn’t. People are bound to listen; everyone is trying to figure us out.

Creating a blog will not only turn you into a subject matter expert, but it shows drive and motivation when trying to get your next job. Highlight the blog on your resume, discuss how you balanced blogging with working and brag about your site statistics and mentions around the web. Maybe blogging is the new graduate school.

Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.

The job hunt of the new millennium is not sending out resumes and going to interviews. For the most part, it’s casually talking to people. And they don’t want a ten-minute story as an answer to the question, “What do you do.” They want an “elevator pitch” — one or two sentences that you could get out in as fast as an elevator ride. It’s a very short answer, but that’s why it’s so hard. Because we think of ourselves as so complicated and multidimensional, but the answer must be simple and straightforward.

My grandma once told me that if you don’t have a lot of money, be sure to buy nice shoes because you wear them every day, so every day you’ll have something nice to wear. (I realize now that the idea of a closet full of shoes was foreign to her generation. But you get the point.) Investing time and money in your answer to the question What do you do? is a lot like buying that good pair of shoes, because you will have to answer that question, in one form or another, almost every day.

So I’m happy to say that this week’s Coachology is working with Laura Allen, who specializes in helping people answer the question, What do you do? You can work with her for free, for 90 minutes, to hone your elevator pitch about who you are.

Laura, through her company 15SecondPitch, helps people to see themselves and their vision for their career in a way that will make immediate sense to other people. And, really, that’s the way you get what you want in your career — by communicating well with other people.

If you want to work with Laura, send an email to me with three sentences telling why you want to work with her. The deadline is May 6.