Blogs -- not just for ranting anymore

Web logs can be a useful tool for job hunting Windows pros.

Blogs may be better known for dubious contributions to political campaigns, but technology and business management

experts agree that blogging is coming into its own as a powerful communication medium. While it may not have the cachet or wide use of e-mail, instant messaging or other Web content, blogs are poised to transform the way businesses and individuals communicate and build spheres of influence, they say.

And that's exactly what makes Web logs ideal for the career-minded Windows professional who wants to heighten his profile and marketability.

"New jobs are all about circles of people and creating one-to-one relationships within them," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger Gray & Christmas, a global outsourcing and placement company in Chicago. "Blogs can help you convert that activity to real project work, consulting assignments and full-time job offers."

The casual browser of Web content may be most acquainted with blogs from their role in reporting the dubious sourcing of the CBS News report on President Bush's National Guard records. Prior to that, many tended to dismiss blogging as the purview of highly specialized interests (Joe's Musings On Fly Fishing in Northern Indiana) or those prone to uncontainable rants and self-righteousness.

But this boom in self-publishing has mushroomed into something larger and more important, according to John Patrick, president of Attitude LLC, Ridgefield, Conn., and a former vice president of Internet technology at IBM -- and himself an established blogger.

"They're not the next CB radio or the hula hoop -- blogs are a major transformation in how information is created, distributed and read using the Internet," Patrick said. "Blogging is the perfect medium for anybody with a point of view about something, knows how to express their ideas clearly, and has a desire and motivation to share."

Bloggers can go a couple different routes -- they can buy blogging software for a server which handles the archiving, distribution and communication aspects of a blog. Or they can pay a nominal monthly fee and work off a third party's server that handles those functions. All the blogger then has to do is write, publish and respond to reader feedback as time and interest permit. TypePad.com seems to be the third-party software of choice, though there are lots of options out there.

For Windows professionals looking to move up or change jobs, the blog can be a diary of sorts about project status, insights about the latest patch, experiences with common applications for developers, sysadmins or end users. The blog can contain links to your resume, published articles or other relevant information for prospective clients or employers.

Windows professionals might even consider being the official blogger for their current employer, a move many companies have made both as a recruitment tool but also to give a more human face and voice to outsiders who want to know more about an organization beyond its annual reports and press releases.

"Company blogs are a way to open the curtain and reveal what's behind your organization -- which is what everyone wants to know," said Debbie Weil, president of WordBiz.com Inc., Washington, and a business blogger herself. "You don't have to tell them everything, but they want a feel for the person and how smart you are -- techies are all about being smart."

Weil also cautioned would-be bloggers that they are creating public Web pages, which means they might want to consider clearing it with their bosses. And it means all the common sense business principles apply -- use correct grammar, avoid vulgarity and stay on topic. More importantly, write with a specific audience in mind, in a way that your unique voice shines through. Avoid rants, she added. "Developers have a tendency to whine about stuff that isn't going right or how stupid users are," Weil said. "Don't stay so much inside your little bubble that you only appeal to people who are just like you, who may have no hiring authority."

What gives blogs their power and impact is their currency, according to Attitude's Patrick. "For some people, that's hourly updates. For others it's weekly, but it's usually updated more than once a month," he said. And if blogging isn't an officially sanctioned job responsibility, then bloggers will need to find the best balance of how they use their time. "There are only 24 hours in a day, so you have to look at the total picture and what you're trying to accomplish and how you're accomplishing it," Patrick said.

The returns can be plentiful. "Many bloggers have become recognized for their knowledge, insight and problem-solving activities," said Challenger. "Blogs represent a new way of letting people know how your mind works and what you can do and what your capabilities are. But it's one career development strategy of many -- you don't want to use this exclusively," he added.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terry Sweeney is an independent writer and editor in Los Angeles.

This was first published in October 2004

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