Yesterday traffic to my blog doubled. On top of the usual load of about 350 visitors, I had 350 investment bankers: At 1pm Dealbreaker posted a link to my guest rant, and in the next hour alone, 100 people came. No joke.

Of course, my traffic statistics were endlessly interesting to me throughout all this. But by the end of the day, all I could think about was how I have no system for capturing these extra visitors. I can tell from my traffic analysis that most people from Dealbreaker did not read other posts. I’m still thinking today about what would hook them.

As a former software marketing executive I think “squandered sales leads.” But then I think, hold it, I’m not even selling anything.

This reminds me of the time I worked at a Fortune 100 company during the very beginning of the Internet. A team of four of us (yes, that’s all it took back then) launched the web site and rumor had it that our site was the second online store — right behind Dell. A big deal, right? But no one in the company cared, probably because there was no strategy for making the web site huge, only a strategy for getting it up.

Now, like then, I am doing something large (read: consumes a large amount of my time) and I’m not sure why.

This is a career issue we should all think about. Here are the questions to ask:
1. What is your next career step?
2. What is your plan for using what you do today to get to your next step?
3. How can you let people know where you’re headed so they can help?

If you can’t answer these three questions then you don’t even know if you should be doing the stuff you’re doing today.

I don’t have great answers to those questions right now, but I realized from all this extra, one-time traffic how connected I feel to the people who do read the blog regularly. I realize that the community aspect is one of my favorite parts about the blog. So I know that when I have answers to those three questions, it will include the idea of community.

Meanwhile, I continue to post. And you know what? I know I have some affinity to those investment bankers, because below the Dealbreaker post about my blog is a post that I think is so funny.

You can judge someone’s personality by what his or her work space looks like. Take Tara Hirshfeld, for example. She’s set up her office on a picnic table. She has the laptop, the headset, even the office-type snacks. But there are leaves falling and cars honking. Intuitively, you know she’s not an accountant-type. And you surely won’t be surprised to hear that she’s a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

People leave deliberate and inadvertent clues about themselves in their personal space and Samuel Gosling, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, studies these clues. And Gosling concludes that your co-workers are good at judging what the clues mean even if they don’t know why.

Deliberate clues people leave are things like plants, which reveal that you are nice and that you intend to stay a while, and candy, which reveals that you’re an extrovert, because you want people to drop by your office and talk. These are deliberate because a person puts them in their office for other people to see. Some clues are deliberate but not other-focused. For example, a pebble you keep from the beach of your first kiss will not be meaningful to someone who doesn’t know the story, but it reminds you of something nice. Still something like this gives the co-worker information, and he or she will pick up on the fact that you’re sentimental.

Hirshfeld’s clues fall into the inadvertent category. For example, when asked about her picnic-bench desk, Hirshfeld says, “I needed some fresh air.” She inadvertently conveys that she is non-conventional, which, for an art student seems fine. But for an accountant, watch out. You can give inadvertent clues with a plant, too. “Anyone can buy a plant,” says Gosling, “but you need to be task oriented to actually keep the plant alive.”

Be careful about all the clues you leave about yourself in your office because your image is at stake. And the image you project might be more powerful than the work you actually do.

So manage your workspace like you manage the colors in your wardrobe, the layout of your memos and all other aspects of your image. In many instances you’ll be able to control what you project. For example, if you are trying to be more detail-oriented in your work, but you’ve killed every plant you’ve ever owned, don’t buy another because your dead plant will just emphasize your lack of attention to detail.

When it comes to projecting a positive image through your personal space, some areas are more easily managed than others. A messy desk is tough. If you keep a messy desk, it’s probably inadvertent, and you will have to change behavior in order to clean up your act. It’s worth the effort, though. “There is a cultural bias toward orderliness,” says Eric Abrahamson, professor at Columbia University Business School, “Messiness is considered bad.” Kelly Crescenti, an Illinois-based career coach, concurs: “When people have a clean desk it looks like they get things done and they are productive.”

You cannot really know how productive someone is by looking at their desk, says Julie Morgenstern organizing guru and author of Never Check Email in the Morning: And Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Your Work Life Work. But she concedes that “the image issue is giant.” So even if you can find everything you need on your pile-laden desk, clean it if you want to look good. Start with a filing system, and Crescenti advises that at minimum, you take the last fifteen minutes of every day to actually use the system and clean things up a little before you go home.

But as with all image management advice, don’t go overboard: Everything in moderation. Abrahamson provides a postmodern defense of the messy desk: “Messiness is related to creativity because it tends to juxtapose things that don’t normally go together.”

“It’s the last frontier of messiness,” says Abrahamson, and he reports that he’s seen computer desktops that rival the worst of the classic desktop messes. Hirshfeld can attest to that. “The last computer I had got very, very messy.”

But that might be okay; it’s true that your co-workers can accurately judge you by looking at your work space, but it’s also true that your computer desktop is a nice place to hide your worst attributes.

The way you talk about yourself is very powerful. Whether or not you are conscious of it, the way you tell stories of your life frames how people see you, and how you see yourself. So you may as well do this consciously, and also be conscious that people get the most tripped up in their storytelling when they are talking about uncertain moments in their career.

“The stories we tell make an enormous difference in how we cope with change,” writes Herminia Ibarra in the Harvard Business Review. Crafting good story is essential for making a successful transition to your next point. Yet most of us do it badly — we can’t figure out a story arc, so we just start listing the facts of our career. But if you can’t tell people why your prior path and your new path are part of one story, then you probably can’t see it yourself, and that leads to feelings of being confused, lost and insecure — all the feelings that are typical of an uncertain life but do not have to be.

“Creating a story that resonates helps us believe in ourselves. We need a good story to reassure us that our plans make sense — that, in [making our next step], we are not discarding everything we have worked so hard to accomplish. A story gives us motivation to help us endure frustration, suffering and hard work,” says Ibarra.

For example, when someone bugs you about how can I trust you to stay at this company when you’ve changed your mind before, you can come at that person with a story. Don’t hide things because coherence is important. When you’re telling a story about yourself, coherence is the key to making the listener trust you. If you can make your story of change and self-discovery “seem coherent,” writes Ibrarra, “you will have gone far in convincing the listener that the change makes sense for you and is likely to bring success — and that you’re a stable, trustworthy person.”

Most importantly, coherence goes a long way in convincing yourself. “Think of the cartoon character who’s run off the edge of a cliff, legs still churning like crazy, he doesn’t realize he’s over the abyss until he looks down. Each of us in transition feels like that character. Coherence is the solid ground under our feet.”

The first way to envision yourself in a new phase of your life is to tell people about it. But there is another benefit to meeting new people: You can see yourself in a different light. Ibarra writes, ” Strangers can best help you see who you’re becoming, providing fresh ideas uncolored by your previous identity.”

The best reasons for wanting to change what you’re doing are grounded in character — they talk about who you are, what you are good at, what you like. Bad reasons are external, like getting fired. Giving external reasons for making change make you look like someone who is a fatalist. You need to show that you are taking charge of your life, not just reacting to what comes along.

More is good, though: The more detailed and more varied your reasons are, the more acceptable your next steps will seem to other people.

You feel comfortable telling it and the other person gives you positive feedback in the nonverbal cues department. When you are practicing, the best people to try it on are people who don’t know you. They don’t bring any preconceived notions of who you are to the conversation, so you can tell them whatever you want. In the conversation with a stranger you can try out being your new self, and you can tell if you ruin your clean slate with a terrible story.

Storytelling takes practice, but everyone who is making a big change in their life has everything a good story needs. You are the protagonist, and there is intrinsic conflict in that something changed in your world to make you want to change jobs. The journey of your story is your search for your next job.

If you’re feeling lost on this read John Gardner’s book, the Art of Fiction. Maybe you think it’s totally over the top to read 200 pages about story telling so that you can tell a one-minute story. But this is your life. And you are going to get through all the tough parts of your life by telling stories, intentionally or not. So why not take control of things and get good at talking to yourself about yourself?

The current issue of Psychology Today asks: Are you too sexy for your job?

This article has good information about managing your image. Here are the nuggets I liked best:

1. Wear short, low-maintenance hair.
“Both sexes perceive women with long, straight, blond hair as being sexy and those who have short, highlighted hair as smart and confident, but not sexy. More hair equals more femininity but also less intelligence. Likewise, high-maintenance hair makes others suspicious about a woman’s competence.” (From Marianne LaFrance, psychologist at Yale University.)

2. Wear a little bit of makeup.
“Women who wear excessive makeup are seen as trying too hard. But both sexes rate women who forgo makeup as less committed to their jobs.” (From Sherry Myaysonave, author of Casual Power.)

3. Don’t dress like the guys.
“When male executives are asked what holds top women back in the workplace, appearing too masculine is always in the top five. Most men think women should be business-like, but should not try to join the club.” (From Debra Benton, author of How to Think Like a CEO.)

One of the best ways to get what you want is to be an extraordinary performer at work. Stars get more training, more mentoring, better projects and greater flexibility. Fortunately, you don’t need the perfect job situation in order to be a star, because most star qualities come from you — from taking your basically good skills and bringing them up a notch.

Most people have the ability to be a star, according to Robert Kelly, professor at Carnegie Mellon, and author of How to Be a Star at Work, because “most people genuinely want to be more productive, do their best, and live up to their potential, but they don’t know how to do it.”

The traits that make stars different from everyone else are the strategies they use to do their own work and to work well with other people. Star strategies allow people to be highly effective, yet highly productive at the same time, so that stars can fulfill their potential at work and in their personal lives. (Yes, stars have time for both.)

It isn’t so much what you’re born with as how you use it. And the traits of star performers are traits you can teach yourself. Here are the four areas that Kelly identifies:

1. Initiative
Stars exceed expectations. Just doing your job is not enough. Stars do their own job well and then perform well in areas that exceed the job description. Generally star initiative includes helping people, taking risks and seeing a project through to the end — all in arenas that go beyond their job duties.

2. Networking
Stars don’t think of networking as something to do once a day at 3pm. For stars, it’s a constant. Nothing is a complete waste of time because you can always meet someone, talk to someone, or help someone. That last piece is important — stars know that networking is as much giving as taking. And there is an inherent humility in this way of life; stars know they can’t get what they want by acting alone.

3. Self knowledge
Knowing how to do your job is expected. You need to know how to manage your relationships, your long-term goals, and your personal development. This is not a one-time goal, this is a life commitment to very regular self-assessment. And this is a commitment to soliciting and accepting outside input, because it’s impossible to know for sure how you appear to others.

4. Kindness
Average workers see the world from their point of view. Stars have exceptional empathy and act on it: They are good followers because they know it’s important to help leaders be the best they can be, too; stars can give the right message to the right audience; and they can get an accurate big picture by looking and listening to the people around them.

The interesting thing about star performance at work is that it actually demands that you be the person you want to be anyway. Being a good person, seeking self-knowledge, and taking responsibility for where you’re going are probably key pieces of your core belief system. So you truly do not need to stray from your idea of a good life in order to be wildly successful in your career.

But Kelly is quick to point out that star performers are not people hanging out in lazy-boy chairs relying on their stellar IQ or remarkable social skills. Star performers work hard to live up to the values they believe in.

People who can be their true selves at work will be the outstanding leaders, says Rob Goffee, professor of organizational behavior at London Business School and author of Why Should Anyone Be Lead by You: What It Takes to Be an Authentic Leader. Many of you will find yourselves in a position to lead others. The most successful of you will find the right balance between authenticity and adaptability: No small feat.

To become your best self — a star, a great leader, a fulfilled worker — you need to know yourself and your goals very well. Start now. It’s a lifelong process, and done honestly, it’s the process that makes almost any job intrinsically challenging and interesting.

Getting a call from a recruiter is like getting asked to the prom. It doesn’t matter if the offer is sub-par; it’s always flattering to be asked. But there’s a lot of advice about how to get a prom date and not very much on how to attract recruiters.

The best way to encourage recruiters to call you is to understand how they do their job. So I talked to a few recruiters and came up with five things you can do to look attractive to recruiters.

1. Post to sites with good search tools.
Recruiters like to visit sites that aggregate resumes and offer specific search criteria, says recruiter Matt Millunchick. Blogs are difficult to search but social networking sites like MySpace and LinkedIn facilitate keyword searches. Be sure to fill in profiles thoroughly on these sites so that your resume matches more searches.

2. Choose your friends carefully, and then monitor them.
Recruiters will put up with a little quirkiness in an online profile but don’t worry only about what you post yourself: “Be careful about what photos of you are available and what and your friends post about you,” warns Millunchick. Recruiters will find everything. Recruiter Mark Jaffe told me he has a full-time employee with a master’s degree who researches candidates. “The two of us work like the FBI looking at persons on interest.

3. Be a thought leader.
Recruiters use Google to find the articles you’ve published, says Millunchick. So write some. Many sites are eager to get well-written content for free. If you feel totally lost in the article-writing world, Article Marketing Niche Blog can show you how to do it.

4. Use the scientific method.
The importance of keywords on your resume cannot be overestimated. John Sullivan, recruiting advisor and professor of management at San Francisco State University, told me that he advises his students to post three different resumes in an online database and see which receives the most responses. This is a way to continually hone the keyword effectiveness of your resume.

5. Do great work at the job you have.
The higher up you get, the less likely it is that a recruiter will troll the Internet. Jaffe told me he relies on word of mouth to find senior executives. “We follow candidates like my sixteen-year-old son follows all the details of baseball players. We look at minor leaguers, we look at who’s coming up, and we track people who we see as nascent superstars.”

He adds, “If you’re doing a really, really good job at work, we’ll find you. Once you try to get our attention you are turning that dangerous corner where you start looking like a used car salesman in gold chains.”

I am a big advocate of blogging to give yourself an advantage in your career, but, as Seth Godin says, you need to have “candor, urgency, timeliness, pithiness, and controversy,” (by way of Global PR Week.) In short, you need to have something to say that will interest other people.

I believe that each person has interesting things to say, you just need to learn how to say them, which takes practice. This applies to both blog entries and job interview questions.

Take, for example, the most ubiquitous question: “So, tell me about yourself.” To answer that question well you have to be a good storyteller. You have to sift through all the information you have to find the pieces of information that are interesting to your audience. The same is true for a blog. You need to learn how to be interesting. But you have to do it more regularly than you interview.

If you’re looking for encouragement, Claire Adler writes in the London Guardian, about people who have “typed their way to the top.” Adler shows wide range of routes to blogging success, (and, BTW, she quotes the Brazen Careerist blog, hooray.)

On the other hand, The Flack gives a summary of the people who should not be blogging. Tucked inside that summary is a link to a New York Times article quoting Nick Denton, the man who made millions from blogging, saying for the millionth time that we are in a blogging bubble. Every time he says that I am encouraged because if there’s a blogging bubble then there’s still money to be made before it pops.

I decided I needed a short blog entry in between my long ones. Being a good writer is important if you want to be able to communicate ideas at work. And writing short helps.

The faster and more concisely you get to your point, the more likely your audience will understand your message.

We sound most authentic when we talk, and verbally, short, simple sentence construction comes naturally to us. When we write, authenticity gets buried under poor word choice. For example, people who use complicated words are seen as not as smart as people who write with a more basic vocabulary.

Writing short is not easy. Take the 270-word Gettysburg Address, for example. “Lincoln didn't just suddenly master elegant language. He wrote wonderful, down to earth language that was very concrete. But he rigorously trained himself to do that,” says Bryan Garner, editor of the Dictionary of Modern American Usage.

People pay attention to brevity, writes Janice Obuchowski in the Harvard Management Update. “If today the president got up and addressed the nation in 270 words, it’d be a top news story,”

You’ve heard the axiom, “You’re only as good as your network,” but how do you get one? It used to be that a network was a Rolodex: A flip-book full of beer-stained business cards collected at an industry brew-ha. Today, your network is the people you truly connect with, and their friends.

Isabella Tsao understands networking. She is an information technology project manager, who enjoys salsa dancing. With the ten or so dance partners she has each night, there is an immediate connection, and there is no pressure to engage in small talk. Tsao says that “you make friends in a wide variety of fields and you get a different perspective.”

Keith Ferrazzi, coauthor of the book, Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, says you cannot get anywhere alone. “Everything you’ve achieved has been done with the help of other people “? parents, teachers, friends, family,” he says. For those people who think networking is for the obsequious and desperate, he advises, “they need to give up their ridiculous sense of John Wayne rugged individualism.”

When Ferrazzi talks about networking, he talks about being liked. If people like you, they will help you, so instead of concentrating on getting favors, focus on being likeable. Otherwise, he said to me, “you’ll wake up when you’re 40 years old in a cube and upset that a 30-year-old is your boss. And you’ll say to yourself that the person got the job because the boss likes him better. And the answer will be, right.”

How does one become likable? Ferrazzi recommends you project yourself as confident, interested, experienced, and excited. But ultimately, you need to create a connection. To this end, share your passions so the other person will feel comfortable sharing his.

After you’ve established positive rapport, share your struggles and the person will share his; the more you understand about someone the better you can connect.

It is not your immediate friends, though, who will be the most helpful to you in a crunch. It’s your friends’ friends. Ethan Watters, author of Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family and Commitment, told me that when you have a difficult problem to solve, like finding a job in a new city, the group of people you know has the same information. “But the people just outside this network are the most helpful: It is the strength of weak ties,” he says.

The current generation intuitively understands this lesson, hence the rip-roaring success of Rolodex-replacing online services like LinkedIn, MySpace and Instant Messenger’s Buddy List.

These community-building tools seem more like ways to keep track of friends rather than to get a job. But in fact, for tech-savvy generations streaming into the workforce, networks of friends are not distinct from networks of career helpers.

Says Watters, “This generation doesn’t make distinctions like ‘we’re friends outside of work.’ Friendship ties are mixed up in all aspects of life.

Asking a friend to recommend you to an organization for a job is like asking a friend to move a couch.” So many of you have a wider network and more effective skills than you even realized.

And now, the inevitable question: “What if I’m shy?” The good news is that shy people aren’t bad at networking, they are just obsessed with what they sound like.

Bernardo Carducci, professor of psychology and director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, told me, “Shy people need to be more other-focused and less self-focused. Think about what you can do for the other person. Shy people worry that their opening comment will not be smart enough or witty enough, so they never get started. Instead, remember that when initiating contact you don’t need to be brilliant, you just need to be nice.”

The new workplace currency is training. Title is not important if you’re not staying long term. And salary increases of three or four percent are ceremonial. So use the clout you earn to get training; it will make a difference in your life in a way that salary and title cannot because training can fundamentally change how you operate and what you have to offer.

The two most important types of training teach you how to understand yourself and how you function in an office. To a large extent, you have to take responsibility for training yourself in these areas. You can’t learn this stuff passively, like learning key dates in U.S. history.

“This must be a self-motivated kind of learning,” Julie Jansen told me. As a career coach she recognizes that, “The problem is that most people don’t know how self-aware they are.” Her book You Want me to Work with Who? offers self-diagnostic tests to show you where you fall on the spectrum and how to re-train yourself.

Most people think they make a good impression, but they are misguided. So a great help is an objective third-party who can tell you where you are weak”?after all, everyone has weaknesses. The trick is to identify and fix them early in your working life so they don’t hold you back.

Workplace stars receive great training perks. “Most companies quickly segment out high potential employees and they get more advanced and aggressive training,” Jeff Snipes, CEO of Ninth House, told me. “Companies don’t usually market these programs because they create an atmosphere of haves and have-nots. However you can ask around at your company if there’s a high-potential program and what you’d need to do to get in.”

Here are some of the types of training to ask for:

1. Self-awareness coaching. Few people can accurately judge the impression they make on others. This is so widely accepted that companies are willing to pay big bucks for the a performance review that gives 360 feedback and includes in-depth interviews between a third-party and a wide range of people you work with. Once you determine your weaknesses, hiring a coach is a great way to understand the results of the review and figure out how to either get rid of your weaknesses or at least get around them.

2. Communications coaching. One of the most difficult pieces of managing yourself is projecting what you really feel to other people. So many things get in the way of authenticity in the office — most notably, your ego but also your nerves.

Lindy Amos, a coach at TAI Resources, teaches executives to communicate better by using acting techniques. She has said things to me like, “The difference between fear and excitement is breathing.” Before you decide that you are already good at projecting your true self, consider that Amos’s clients are top executives from companies you respect. If they need it, you do too. So get the training early in your career so you can make authentic connections from the beginning.

3. Training on how to navigate within a company. Many young people complain that they have great ideas but no one is listening. And this is often true. That’s because it’s not enough to have innovative ideas. You need to know how to promote them within the company.

Ninth House, for example, offers training programs that teach how to package an idea so that you can get it funded within the company. Topics in this program include how to align the idea with corporate strategy and how to find an internal sponsor, two critical pieces to being an innovator in the workplace.

When it comes to selling an idea at the office, don’t forget that you’ll have to sell the idea that training will be good for your boss and the company as well as for you.

If you’re unemployed, you can also think about training is in terms of the job hunt: Hayden-Wilder, for example, is one of a bunch of companies that teach people how to use public relations and marketing techniques to present themselves to employers.

Whatever sort of training you use — self-generated, corporate funded, or a mix of the two — if you create a life that encourages constant learning, your career and your life will be more interesting and more fulfilling.