Come closer. Lean in. I’m about to tell you a job search secret that will boost your employability and make your hotline bling.
In the job search, the time you have to set out your stall and impress a target employer is extremely limited. Your suitability is evaluated in a matter of seconds, and if your CV makes it past the initial screening, your opportunity to impress in person is limited by the physical availability of the hiring manager.
During interviews, your target employer sets and leads the agenda, and questions asked may not play to your strengths. Under pressure to perform, you may forget to mention something vital that would strengthen your case for employment. It’s often over too quickly, leaving you regretful that you didn’t have the chance to say more.
What if I told you there was actually a way to start an open-ended conversation with your target employer? What if you could set the topics, prioritising subject areas that play to your strengths? What if you could take all the time you need to prepare and order your thoughts, presenting a coherent and compelling case? What if I told you this secret tool could position you as a must-hire candidate who understands your target employer’s issues, and knows how to meet them? This opportunity is real. It’s called a blog.
Benefits of Blogging
Your blog can promote your skills and knowledge, even when you are not in the interview room. It’s like the interview before the official interview, and it’s a tool that can continue to promote you after the interview has ended.
Developing a great blog is an opportunity that all jobseekers could take, but few do. By investing your time and energy in developing and maintaining a career-related blog, you can:
>> Differentiate yourself from non-blogging candidates who demonstrate the same qualifications, credentials, and experience.
>> Show yourself as someone who is willing to walk the extra mile to engage and interest your target employer.
>> Demonstrate true interest in industry issues and commitment to advancing the conversation.
>> Build credibility by conveying in-depth understanding of an industry-relevant topic, positioning yourself as a subject matter expert in your chosen field.
>> Collate a high quality portfolio of material that supports your career goals, which can be accessed by employers before or after the interview stage.
>> Give potential employers a stronger sense of your knowledge, skills, and achievements, whilst providing a window into your personality, perspectives, and professional style.
>> Define and refine your own views, ensuring you can present them in a clear and articulate way.
>> Spark conversation on a chosen topic by inviting comment from industry stakeholders.
>> Develop confidence and competence in your writing and marketing skills.
How to Get Started
First, get clear on who you are writing for, and what you want them to do. Defining your target audience and the action you seek will enable you to set topics, write clearly, and meet their information needs. As a jobseeker, your target will be your next employer, but who are they? Do you have a specific company in mind? If so, what do they care about? What do they need to see to want to meet you? Research the answers to these questions and, once you know, that’s what you should write about.
In terms of physically setting up your blog, you can integrate your blog into your personal website if you have one or use LinkedIn Publisher. Publishing a blog on your personal site will make the site much more dynamic and engaging. On the other hand, using LinkedIn Publisher is a great way to share your thoughts with your first, second, and third degree contacts. Alternatively, you could set up a dedicated blog on hosting sites such as WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger.
Tips to Ace Your Blog
When writing your blog, aim to do the following:
Meet your future employer’s information needs. Your blog needs to engage and interest your target reader, and demonstrate you have the skills and experience needed to perform your target role.
Set a realistic writing/publishing schedule, and stick to it. Whether you can commit to one blog a week or two blogs a month, do that consistently.
Get the tone right. Make sure you write in a way that suits your target audience.
Give enough content. Aim for at least 500 to 1000 words. Some experts recommend slightly longer word counts of 1200 – 1300 words. At the same time, make sure your content is valuable, and eliminate any ‘fluff’ when you edit.
Make it scan-able. Break the content up using clear, easily scan-able headings.
Add a clear call to action, indicating what you would like your reader to do next. Would you like them to pop over and check out your up-to-date LinkedIn profile? Would you like them to call you if they are seeking a <<target job title>> who can deliver <<what they need>>? You betcha! Remember to say so before you close your article.
Edit with fresh eyes. Once you have finished writing, let it rest overnight (if you can) rather than editing with tired eyes. Read it aloud to spot any clumsy phrasing or factual inaccuracies.
What to Write About
Before you start, it’s good practice to plan your content. Decide on your first 12 blog titles, so that you have a framework and schedule to work to.
As a starting point, you could pre-empt questions you can imagine being asked at interview, and base your blog topics around those. You could also centre your blog topics around keywords mentioned in target job adverts, adding your own slant to engage your reader. There are several online tools that can help you generate interesting blog titles, search ‘blog title generator’ to find them. Other sources of blog inspiration are question-and-answer website, Quora, and industry-relevant LinkedIn Groups, both of which can be a hotbed of content ideas.
Once you get the blogging bug, you’ll see a new blog opportunity everywhere you go, but here are some ideas to get you moving:
>> Discuss relevant challenges and achievements within your role.
>> Present a case study of a flagship project, one that shows your skills in action.
>> Comment on current issues faced by industry players and outline your ideas on how to resolve them.
>> Predict how your industry will be affected by changing market needs, technology, or legislation.
>> Share how you got started in your chosen field.
>> Write about your experience of a recent industry conference.
>> Dispel a common industry or job-related “myth”.
>> Reveal key takeaways from a recent training event or presentation.
>> Demonstrate your knowledge by outlining ‘how to’ processes.
>> Discuss lessons learnt from an industry thought leader or new market entrant.
>> Interview a leading industry figure or someone who works at the coal face of your industry.
>> Review the top three/five/seven tools you use in your job.
>> Spread the word about a game-changing tool or technique.
>> Review an industry- or role-specific book or report, or share a top-five reading list on your chosen subject.
>> Predict the future. You could be right, you may be wrong, but it shows you are thinking about it and are willing to share your opinion.
If none of the above ideas appeal, you could always Google ‘blog topic generator’ or content idea generator’ and use one of the handy online tools.
Whatever you blog about, remember to be respectful of your current employer and to maintain confidentiality, where needed. Your blog will be shared in the public domain, and you never know who may see it.
Once it’s up and running, your next job is to generate some traffic. Link to it from your CV. Promote the URL in your contact details on LinkedIn, and on your profile’s Publications list. Link to it from your email signature, business card, and your social media bios (those used for career purposes).
Promote your blog on career-relevant social media. Build links with and invite comments from relevant audiences. Seek out guest blogging opportunities in your chosen field.
Having gone to the effort of writing it, you should milk your blog for all its worth. Get more out of your blog by breaking it down into tips and soundbites for social media, or by repurposing your content for a vlog, podcast, or guest blog.