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Blogging might be one of the most powerful but misunderstood career development tools available to IT professionals. For many in IT, blogging is considered the domain of the "experts" they read and technologies they follow, but is not an activity they personally engage in.
There are several good reasons why an IT professional might want to blog. Three important reasons are credibility, your professional network, and your technical knowledge.
Blogging is a great way to enhance your credibility as a technology professional and can also help you grow your professional network. I also believe a professional blog will help you more quickly learn new technologies because you must organize and explain the technology you write about, and because other IT professionals will provide feedback on what you write.
You're technically focused blog showcases the technologies you know, your understanding of how they impact the businesses you serve, and your willingness to share your knowledge with others. This is a good thing.
What Is Stopping You?
Reasons why IT professionals do not blog often fall into three categories:
- "I am not an expert."
- "Someone (or many someones) is already writing about it."
- "How would anyone find my blog?"
I want to address each of these concerns and then make a case for why you, the IT professional at your stage of your career, can benefit from a professional blog. I'll also address some tips to get you started.
I'm Not an Expert
This is an interesting comment to me. I am considered an expert in a few areas, but often have the same nagging concern. Additionally, I speak to other "experts" I meet, and they express a similar concern. Actually, it is less of a concern these days and more of an understanding.
You see, everyone has a degree of expertise in some area of their lives. We tend to view those we idealize as having more knowledge than they might actually have.
My admonishment to the IT professional is to understand that there are always people have a little more knowledge in a given area, and there are many people who have less knowledge in a given area. You are, by all accounts, more knowledgeable about a given niche area of technology than many other professionals. This makes you an "expert" to someone.
Additionally, part of what makes someone an expert is their willingness to share what they know, receive feedback, and adopt new knowledge. Blogging provides a great platform for all three of those activities.
Someone Else Is Already Writing About it
You are probably right. But...you aren't writing about it; at least not yet.
When I wrote Building Your IT Career, rest assured that there were other career manuals on the market. What Color is Your Parachute, while not directly focused on IT, covers similar concepts to what I cover. Yet because I was speaking to a niche and because I have a unique perspective, my publisher felt the book was important.
You also have a unique perspective—a unique set of circumstances and knowledge. It could be that your unique perspective and knowledge is exactly what someone else needs to hear.
It is true that someone else is probably writing about the topics you will cover, but they are not you. Your voice and your knowledge can only be shared by you.
How Would Anyone Find My Blog?
I'll make this disclaimer up front: Building a professional blog is not an "overnight" strategy to get you a job. It is a long-term strategy to build your professional reach and grow your credibility. Growing traffic to your blog involves creating great content, being consistent in publishing that content, and sharing that content across your social and professional networks.
The Key Word Here is "Professional"
It is important to note that I'm using the term "professional blog" intentionally. It isn't that you cannot share some personal or anecdotal information on your blog. But if you want to leverage your blogging activity for professional gain, be careful with what you share.
In my previous article on how to use social media in your career, I discuss some do's and don'ts. I won't elaborate more here, but suffice to say discretion and wisdom need to be part of your overall blogging strategy.
In my book, "Building Your IT Career," I cover in detail why I prefer a self-hosted Wordpress blog.
However, if you have never blogged before, it makes sense for you to visit Wordpress.com, or some other hosted blogging platform, and set up an account. It will help you become acquainted with some of the basic features and terms associated with blogging. If you adopt blogging as a strategy for professional growth, you can move your blog to your own domain and self-hosted account in the future.
The important idea is to get started quickly, if only to gain greater understanding of blogging's potential.
Three Keys to Blogging Success
There are a number of strategies and ideas to help make your blog successful. I'm going to cover three. It is important to find strategies that work for you, and I encourage you to find and read other blogs.
Read blogs about the technology you will cover, blogs about other technologies, and general business blogs as well. I believe that doing so will help you come up with ideas for your own blog. It will also expose you to what other bloggers do to engage their audience.
I coach a number of writers, many who are beginning to use blogging to build their platforms. One of the mistakes they often make is creating unrealistic expectations about what they can produce. It is better to write one short blog each week and succeed at that than it is to plan on two or three video tutorials each week and fail.
While I encourage those I work with to strive to write 10 to 12 blog posts in their first 4 to 6 weeks, useful and consistent content is more important than quantity.
Tie Examples to Results
I believe it is important for the technically focused professional blog to not only give an example of how the technology was implemented but also explain how the technology positively impacted the business. This will help showcase both your technical savvy, the how, with your business knowledge, the why.
It could be that your audience, the person reading your blog, does not truly understand the technology but will appreciate how you tied it to a business result.
Break Longer Posts into Multiple Parts
If what you're explaining on your blog is highly technical and in-depth, it makes great sense to break it up into multiple articles.
Doing so actually serves two useful purposes:
- First, even for other IT professionals, it is easier to learn technology in short blocks. Also, complex solutions are typically made up of smaller solutions, anyway. In general, your explanation will be clearer and more likely to be read by a larger audience.
- Second, breaking up a blog into multiple parts simply creates more content on your blog and ultimately more information for search engines to index.
I suppose that there is a third reason, too: Multiple-part blogs give your current readers a reason to revisit your blog.
I have not covered the technical details on how to set up a blog. I cover this information in my book, and I have an extensive Wordpress/blogging tutorial with videos hosted at ITCareerToolkit.com.