Advance Your Career Through Blogging

There are a lot of reasons for a company to start a blog.

SEO, long tail keywords, establishing thought leadership, or even just to talk to more customers, it’s almost never a bad idea.

But what about you?

Is it worthwhile to start a blog as a professional?

As it turns out, yeah — probably.

Here’s everything you need to know about how starting a blog can help your career, how to do it, and what you should be blogging about to stand out from the crowd and score your dream job.

advance-your-career-header

Why Start a Professional Blog?

The reasons to start a company blog largely map onto why you should start a professional one.

1. It Helps Employers Find You

LinkedIn is a great place to start, and there are plenty of guides on optimizing your professional profile on the network.

But LinkedIn isn’t the only place that recruiters and companies look for new talent.

Sometimes, they just look around the internet.

A blog can help them find you.

For most personal bloggers, it’s difficult to get the authority and link profile to get onto page one for critical keywords.

For example, the keyword “marketing manager” has over 7,000 searches per month:

keyword-marketing-manager

Most professional bloggers won’t be able to rank for those terms.

But it does mean that if someone Googles your name, they’ll get your crisp, professional blog — not your Facebook photos from university.

2. Thought Leadership

A blog gives you a soapbox to talk about your industry and profession to demonstrate your expertise to a wider world.

For example, imagine that you’re a barista. You probably have dozens of conversations every day at work about how to solve common problems. Problems like:

  • The best way to avoid over-extraction
  • What to do about personal coffee requests
  • Your favorite suppliers for specialty coffees
  • What treats sell well and which ones go to wastage.
thoughtful-statue

Thought leadership never goes out of style.

While it’s good to talk to your colleagues about this stuff, there is a much wider world out there would benefit from learning all these things.

With a blog, you can be the one to teach them with posts like:

  • How To Avoid Over-Extraction
  • How To Respond to Special Requests
  • 10 Suppliers for Specialty Coffee Who Ship Internationally
  • What Coffee Treats Sell Best.

Then, when some recruiter is looking for you online or a potential new café owner is looking for who to hire, they find out you know your stuff — because you’ve already told the world about it.

3. Join a Community

Finally, starting a professional blog integrates you into a global community of other professionals. It’s a great way to develop connections within your industry. Plus, communities tend to look after their own. Blogging is a good way to meet people who can recommend you, tip you off about new jobs, or even recruit you as a founder for a new company or startup.

How to Get Started With a Blog

Now that we’ve established exactly why you should build a professional blog, it’s time discuss how to get started with actually building one.

Even if you don’t have any tech skills, you can still build a great blog quickly for an extremely low cost.

Here’s how.

What Is a Web Host?

Let’s get some language clear first.

  • To have a website that’s connected to the internet, you need to host it somewhere. This means to store all the files (eg, the logo, design, layout, words) on a computer.
  • Web hosts are companies who provide this service.
  • Web hosts have lots of special web hosting computers called servers stored in data centers.
  • These are computers that are connected to the internet with crazy-fast connections and don’t have any extra stuff on them like operating systems, so they can load your site extremely quickly, are turned on 100% of the time, and have all sorts of redundancies so that your site is live 24/7.

Technically, you could host your site on any computer, even your laptop! But every time you turned it off to go to bed your site would go down.

Choosing a CMS

Next, a content management system, or CMS. A CMS is essentially an interface that makes it easier to manage your website without requiring any coding. It’s a tool that lets you design a website with drag-and-drop tools and user-friendly systems that look like this:

cms-example

A typical CMS blogging dashboard.

rather than something that looks like this:

coding-example

Blogging the (very) hard way.

If buying web hosting is like buying the hardware for your site, the CMS is the software.

To build a website, your first step is to choose a hosting company and a CMS.

There is plenty of choices out there, but for a simple professional blog, any of the top reviewed companies will work.

If you’re not a confident tech geek, it’s worth paying special attention to what sort of support is available. Choose a host that offers support through a channel that you like (eg, phone, live chat) even if it costs you a little more.

Building websites inevitably involves something going wrong, so it’s worth getting a host that will be there to help you through it.

When it comes to choosing a CMS, there’s something for everyone depending on how much you want to spend and your technical proficiency. Here are the basics of what you need to consider.

If You Have No Technical Skills and Don’t Wish to Learn Them…

Go with a website builder.

Services like Wix and Weebly give you a simple drag-and-drop tools refined, streamlined interfaces that are designed to help you go live — and fast.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Fast to get your site up and running — 1-2 hours, tops.

Cons

  • Lack of flexibility. While easy, the products they provide tend to be very templated. If you want to change one little thing, you’re out of luck.
  • Expensive for what you get. The extra cost of building and maintaining robust systems is passed on to consumers, so it’s not the rock bottom pricing you might be looking for.

If You Have No Technical Skills but You’re Willing to Learn…

writing-master

This guy didn’t use a CMS.

Open source options like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal will all work, but WordPress is the industry leader.

Currently the most popular CMS in the world, WordPress makes it simple to build a website, and most hosting companies will provide packaged WordPress hosting deals.

And, since WordPress is open source there are literally millions of free and paid templates out there, so you can get the exact website that you want.

Pros

  • Lots of choice for design and web hosting companies
  • Lots of plugins to expand site functionality
  • You can get a one-stop shop for your CMS and web host
  • Because WordPress and other popular CMSs are open source, they’re technically free, so the cost of themes and add-ons is usually low.

Cons

  • Usually require more technical expertise than robust paid website builders
  • Because support comes from a community, it can be difficult to solve your problem quickly
  • Usually ends up taking more time and effort to get a site live.

For most people, this sort of product is a good combination of flexibility, ease of use, and functionality — without breaking the bank.

There are plenty of other options out there like paid CMSs, totally open source ones, and everything in between. Plus, for blogging, there’s a range of blogger-specific services like Medium, Tumblr, and Blogger.

These will get you started quickly and are free, but don’t provide the flexibility with design or functionality you get with a CMS or website builder.

Choosing Blog Topics

Once you have your site, the next step is to work out what you want to blog about.

Most professional blogs start with a resume. Like a LinkedIn profile, this has the advantage of being dynamic — you can improve it as you advance in your career and it’s always up to date.

What’s more, using the full functionality of the internet, you can improve your website from a boring piece of paper in 12-point font and create something awesome.

Designers, for example, often will use a professional website to showcase their expertise, representing their experience and skills in a new and creative ways.

Professional websites are also a good opportunity to use various proof points that companies use to convince and convert.

Testimonials, for example, are a great way to show future employers that you’ve been valuable to employers in the past and can do what you say on your CV.

Sample work is another function of your site. For example, freelance writers often use websites to showcase what they can do. For example, check out Joe Coleman’s website, which shows the breadth of his skill as a writer in a fun, tongue-in-cheek way.

However, while testimonials and sample work are good, the brunt of any content is going to be in your blog.

And this is where you can really shine.

A blog is a superb place for you to share your thoughts on your industry or relevant topics in a constructive and positive way. Here are 3 ideas that you might use to get started, plus one you should definitely avoid.

1. Review Existing Technologies and Products

Every industry has technologies or products that everyone uses. It’s a common topic to chat about with friends in the industry, and it’s an easy place to start your professional commentary because reviews are both useful to others and easy to produce.

After all, you’re just putting what you already know on the internet! No additional research needed.

For example, if you’re a sales professional, you might write a blog about 10 customer relationship management systems (CRM) that you love.

2. Curate Relevant Industry News

newsie

Working his way up to CEO by curating news, old school.

For virtually every industry, there’s a huge amount of news via specialist publications, niche websites, and good old fashioned industry magazines.

Blogging about that news and providing some of your own analysis can help set you apart as a leader and an engaged employee. What’s more, it’s a great way to stay up to date with what’s going on.

One example of this is Seth Godin’s blog. He’s a marketer and writer who blogs regularly about the world of marketing. Not only is he one of the most popular marketing bloggers, his blog is one of the most widely read on the internet.

3. Blog About the Job You Want

A trap that is easy to fall into when blogging about your professional life is to only focus on your specific job and the challenges that you face every day.

For example, imagine that you’re a project manager for a digital agency. You might blog about scrum, agile development, developer management, and keeping expectations in line with reality.

But you probably don’t want to be a digital PM forever.

You might want to move into a senior digital role. Or progress more to a client-facing role to hone your client management skills.

But your blog doesn’t demonstrate how you can do that job.

You should be writing for the job you have and for the job you want.

So, our digital project manager might write a blog post about the basics of project management — not for other PMs, but for clients to understand what they’re paying for.

One Topic to Avoid: Competitor Analysis

It can be tempting to write negatively about your competition. Critiquing their work, their product, or their service and extolling the virtues of your own.

But the truth is that you’re probably going to be working with those very same people you’re tearing apart right now.

Most of us bounce around jobs at some point, and most industries are a pretty tight knit community. Everyone knows everyone, especially as you move up the food chain.

The best way to keep your options open is to keep your blog positive (even if it’s not as much fun to write).

Summary

Creating and maintaining a professional blog can do wonders to help you advance your career. And with a staggering number of options available to build one, you can be up and running in under an hour.

Whether you use your blog to amp up your resume, showcase your work, position yourself as a thought leader, or just engage more with your professional community, it can help you achieve your career objectives quickly and efficiently.

Why not get started now?!


Screenshots courtesy of the author. Thoughtful by Jamie C2009 is licensed under CC BY 2.0The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1844–1916 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0 and in the public domain. Lewis Hine: Ferris, 7 Year Old Newsie, Mobile, Alabama, 1914 by trialsanderrors is licensed under CC BY 2.0 and was cropped for size.

Natalie has been blogging since before the word “blog” existed. Her work has been published on Engadget, Laptopmag.com, Tom’s Guide, and About.com. She lives in Southern California with her husband, their feline-American children, and a banjo.