Having a professional online portfolio is a great way to show off your technology skills and provide additional information to potential employers that doesn’t fit into your résumé and cover letter. However, this alone won’t give them a strong sense of who you are, nor will it help you develop a professional network. Adding a blog to your professional presence provides you with a great way to network and distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Blogs are easy to start; you could be blogging five minutes from now! While you can install blog software on a server, there are plenty of free, hosted services like Blogger and WordPress. Most blogs have a WYSIWYG editor, so you don’t need to know HTML to format text or add media. It’s also a nice medium for your readers as they can subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed and have the posts delivered to them without visiting your site.
Putting you into your blog
Blogs are known for being an informal medium and offer great opportunities for a professional platform where your personality can shine through. The authors of most popular library blogs put their own spin on professional topics and manage to blend the personal and professional seamlessly. That doesn’t mean that you have to talk about your private life; it does mean letting your audience get to know you and what you think about professional topics.
It can take time to find your authentic voice. When I first started, my posts merely rehashed news stories I’d read. Over time, I started to include my own thoughts on topics and my posts became more like personal essays than news stories. The best blog posts spark a conversation, so writing things that are thoughtful and thought-provoking will attract readers.
Within the world of library blogs, there are various genres and formats. Some bloggers focus on a narrow range of topics (like scholarly communication or instruction), while others tackle any topic that piques their interest. In terms of format, some posts are brief and contain mostly links to useful resources, others are longer essay-type posts, and still others resemble journal articles and include citations. Make sure that you are passionate enough about your choice of topic(s) and format that you can see yourself continuing the blog for years to come.
A blog looking for a reader
So, once you’ve written a few blog posts, how do you get people to read them? Beyond posting interesting content regularly, a great way to increase your visibility is to take part in conversations across the blogosphere. When you comment on someone else’s blog, you can include a link to yours. If the author or her readers find your comment interesting, they’ll likely visit.
You can also comment on people’s posts through your own blog. When you link to another blog post, the author will receive a notice that his post was mentioned by you. This is called a Trackback and is how people can track conversations across multiple blogs. You can also have your new entries auto-posted to Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, and other social media sites you might use. All of this will make you more visible to other social media users, which will help to increase your audience.
As with any writing online, it’s important to be judicious about what you’re posting. Getting too personal, too negative, or revealing too much about work or job interviews can be damaging to your reputation. Being authentic, passionate, and thoughtful will not only attract people to your blog, but also distinguish you as someone who cares deeply about the profession.