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Start a blog (TW Job)

Series: How to get a job in technical writing

by Tom Johnson on Dec 23, 2009
categories: beginners

Next to a strong portfolio, an engaging blog can also win over the hearts of your employers and get you a job. I cannot restrain my enthusiasm here when I talk about blogs, because in my experience, having a good blog can be your ace card that wins the game for you.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine at another company interviewed several candidates for a position. He searched for information about the candidates online and was startled to find that almost none had an Internet presence. Zilch. It's somewhat creepy, in this day and age, with Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and dozens of other social media sites, to find that someone is isolated from all of them, a stranger to the world wide web.

While there are various social media options, a constantly updated blog is the key one. Twitter can just be chatter, but your blog shows depth and engagement. A blog – focused on your profession – can showcase your creativity and knowledge. A blog brands you as an industry expert and reveals your awareness about the latest trends and topics in the field. Employers love to review blogs because it allows them to get to know you better. You're no longer a piece of paper sitting in a stack of other pieces of paper. You're a lively writer with an engaging mind and a bit of style.

Penelope Trunk, one of my favorite bloggers, writes a blog called the Brazen Careerist, centered on career advice. In her post, "Blogging essential for a good career," she explains,

A blogger puts himself out in the world as someone who is interesting and engaging — just the type of person everyone wants to meet.

In another post, she writes,

The reason that people who blog have great careers is that bloggers are always thinking about issues in their industry.

She's right. When I meet people at conferences, bloggers are always interesting. For example, I remember meeting Darren Barefoot, a prolific Canadian blogger, at Doc Train West a couple of years ago and thinking how smart and approachable he seemed.

Your blog will portray you as one always thinking about issues in the industry, one who keeps up with the latest trends. If your style is friendly and conversational, employers may also perceive you to be a good fit. These are key qualities that you want a company to think about you, and it rarely comes across in a resume.

Robert Scoble, practically a public figure on the web, explains:

Your blog is your resume. You need one and it needs to have 100 posts on it about what you want to be known for. ("If you are laid off, here's how to socially network")

Scoble recommends that you only blog about what you want to be known for, or the direction you hope to go. For example, if you want to drive cabs, let cabs be the dominant focus on your blog:

If you want to drive a cab, you better go out and take pictures of cabs. Think about cabs. Put suggestions for cabbies up. Interview cabbies. You better have a blog that is nothing but cabs. Cabs. Cabs. Cabs all the time.

There are about 20 reasons why blogs can help you in your job search. Recently a student in college wrote me to ask for advice on finding a job. Motivated by my blog, he had started a blog as well. I encouraged him to keep up with his blog. About two weeks later he wrote,

I was contacted a week ago by an IT company, World Wide Technology, Inc., and offered an intern position! Before the interview process, one of the managers took the time to look at my blog. He told me that he was impressed with what I was trying to do with it, and he found it interesting. We ended up talking for at least twenty minutes after the interview about communication-related concepts. It was the best interview of my life. Just earlier today I received a call, and I was offered the position! -- Brian Kennedy

To recap: When employers read your blog, they start to perceive you as knowledgeable. When you have several posts a week, they perceive you as passionate. If you have an engaging writing style, you're perceived as likeable. When employers google your name, your blog usually appears at the top of the list. Your blog helps you almost every step of the way.

Now, one warning about blogs. In order for blogs to make a positive impact, you have to steer clear of the following pitfalls:

  • Don't post inappropriate pictures of yourself
  • Don't express views contrary to your potential company's views (for example, avoid incendiary political posts; actually, just avoid political posts)
  • Keep your blog focused on the field of technical communication
  • Avoid badmouthing previous or current employers
  • Don't use abbreviations such as gr8 for great or cu for see you.
  • Don't blog with sloppy grammar
  • Don't write excessively about your job search, because it tends to look a little pathetic.
  • Don't blog with the idea that no one will find what you're writing

Always remember that blogs aren't anonymous. Blog responsibly by exposing your full identity. Include your blog on your resume, right next to your contact information. Remember, your blog is an asset not a liability. You want it to promote it because it brands you as an expert.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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