That’s why internships are so helpful — they let you try on new careers to see first-hand whether you like them. But there’s a great strategy to be used in tandem with internships, and it’s blogging.
Being a blogger gives you automatic entrée to write about a sector, interview industry experts, attend conferences in the field and ultimately, define and refine your point of view to get the attention of those in your chosen field who may want to hire you. Being a blogger, in short, provides a credential as well as the access to explore an area you want to know more about.
When I attended BlogWorld in New York a couple of weeks ago, I heard great tips from blogging experts around the country. Here are seven blogging strategies that will help you blog your way to a career.
1. Have a Goal
Your blog can be anything you want. But to improve your odds of success you should first have a goal, says John Rampton, founder of Blogging.org. Rampton said it’s important to figure out what you want your blog to do, and to figure out the topics and, importantly, the keywords, to use in your posts. He also recommends writing your goals down where you can see them and revisiting them regularly.
2. Decide On Your Business Model
According to social media consultant Jay Baer you also need to figure out your business model before you start. Do you want your blog to drive consulting work, do you want to get paid for blogging, do you want to get a job or internship out of it? Baer suggests bloggers sharpen their focus by identifying the audience they’re targeting and the questions that audience has so they can provide the right answers. Failing to do this upfront, he warns, will make it tough to be consistent and present a strong point of view—the two most important qualities of a successful blog.
3. Blog Regularly
Most blogging experts concur that if you don’t publish regularly you’ll fail to get traction. The more you post, the more eyeballs ultimately find their way to your blog, with the majority of eyeballs coming through search. And the more you use popular keywords for your category, the higher you will rank with Google, the holy grail of bloggers (and pretty much everybody).
4. Interview the Experts
Get to the experts early and regularly for interviews, and publish timely, interesting content about your prospective sector as you shape your point of view. According to Investigative reporter and journalism and writing professor Dave Copeland, you shouldn’t get hung up about what to write about. If you interview one or two experts you can come up with enough content to fill 3-4 blog posts. And the more you talk to the experts, and read and write about your field of interest, the more of an expert you yourself become.
And never be afraid to reach out. Stephanie Sammons, CEO and Founder of WiredAdvisor, notes that LinkedIn is the perfect vehicle for contacting experts in the field to ask their advice. Sammons suggests using the InMail feature to make direct contact; just be clear about why you’re contacting that person and be brief and to the point. She adds: “Have the confidence to put yourself out there and don’t hesitate to be persistent. I had a young woman contact me a few months ago about managing social media accounts and she had the skills we’re always looking for. Unfortunately she never followed up so I forgot about her.”
Nervous about approaching well-known experts when you’re still green? Copeland counsels, “A lot of the time I’ll say, ‘I know this is a dumb question but I’m trying to explain it to my readers.’ You’re trying to get them to slow down their explanation to speak to the average reader, who also happens to be you!”
5. Link with Others
Blogging is all about sharing, so be sure to tout other blog posts in the field and create a link building strategy early on to both send and receive traffic to other industry bloggers. Alison Groves, User Experience Manager at Raven Internet MarketingTools, says, “Link building is deceptively simple, and yet most bloggers fail to do it in a strategic and consistent way. The key is to find relevant websites with useful content. Then network with the organization (or blogger) to establish a mutually beneficial relationship including featuring content about them in the hope that they’ll return the favor. How do you find those websites? Use tools such as Google.com/blogsearch or conduct a blog search on Facebook, for starters.”
Zac Johnson, founder of Money Reign, says that commenting on others’ blogs is as important as writing your own posts. Your comments should provide value to the audience—not just be a self-serving commercial about you. He also recommends guest blogging as a strategy to reach a bigger audience and achieve links back to your website from blogs that are better known than yours.
6. Provide a Service to Your Readers
Keep in mind that to encourage people to read your blog you need to provide a service in the form of information and problem-solving. Think about the problems your target audience currently has, and who, if not you, might have some answers. That question will guide your interviewing efforts and help you identify and find resolution for issues in your new sector. Sharing the goal of helping others should embolden you to reach out to industry experts since showcasing their ideas in your blog is beneficial to them and their organization.
7. Be Visible on Social Media
Make sure you have a social media strategy for your blog posts. Get the word out about each post on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook as a start. (You can link the three services so they automatically update). Use your LinkedIn groups to promote your posts more specifically by inviting conversation among your group members.
Sammons says, “My general philosophy is that you need to be consistently visible and valuable on the LinkedIn network. This means that you’re there frequently and sharing quality content, some of which should be your own, some of which is culled from others. This will generate profile views. When your connections see you on their home page they’re going to be more likely to click through and find out more about you.”
About the Author: Allison Cheston is a New York City-based career advisor who works with established executives and young adults who are in high school, college or are recent graduates, to help them identify their unique value in the marketplace, explore alternative careers and get that all-important job.
An avid writer and speaker on the topic of career trends, Allison’s blogs for Forbes, and her own website help Gen Y’s understand how to define and refine their right career. She lives in New York City and is the mother of two teenagers. Connect with Allison on Twitter!