What is the single most important thing a college grad can do to land a career-launching job? Start a professional blog about a niche in your field that will demonstrate your skill set and industry knowledge and cause you to interview the key players in that field thus building a powerful professional network.
An intelligent, professional blog about topics and trends in your field will:
- Showcase your skill set and expertise
- Demonstrate your industry knowledge
- Begin building your professional network by putting you in touch with key industry players
- Differentiate yourself from the competition
- Get past the gatekeepers (hiring managers, secretaries, HR departments)
- Get on the radar screens of companies you want to work for
Mashable just published a story encouraging job seekers to start a blog to find a job by making themselves unique, appealing, talented.
So, how does a recent graduate get started?
- Choose a narrow niche within your field, one where you have an interest and some knowledge. Don’t worry about how much you know. If you’re passionate about it and can develop good questions, you’ll learn as you go. But be ruthless in narrowing your topic. Don’t write about marketing; write about the best marketing companies or leaders in New England. Don’t write about fashion; write about the leading fashion designers in the Atlanta area. Don’t write about the environment; write about the the best water sustainability organizations and practices in Southern California. With a narrow niche, you’ll have a greater chance of being found in a Google search and you’ll be able to narrow the blog post topics down to a manageable area where you’ll be able to develop some expertise.
- Choose a blog platform. WordPress is the most ubiquitous and when you do land your job the most likely platform you’ll be asked to use. Tumblr, however, is the fastest growing, the easiest to learn, and the most fun, flexible, and graphically pleasing. You can post to Tumblr from anywhere with anything (photos, Tweets, blog posts, video, etc.). There’s also Blogger.
- Draft an editorial calendar. What topics will you write about? Make a list of the key issues and trends in the field. What are people talking about? Go to LinkedIn, look for related professional groups, join them and see what they’re talking about. Whom will you interview? Choose key industry players who will become your professional network, the people you will go back to for tips on job openings later (but never asking them directly for a job, instead asking them what they’re hearing about openings in the field). Start with the easiest interviews and move to the more difficult. Start writing two or three times a week, then you can settle in for once a week.
- Go to flickr.com for copyright free photos. Click on “search” and type in your topic. When you get the results, go back to the top of the window and you’ll see “Advanced Search.” Click on that, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content.” That way, you’ll be using photos that you don’t have to worry about breaking copyright laws by publishing.
- Choose five to eight keywords or keyword phrases that you will use over and over and over again as the focus of your blog posts. You won’t use all of them every time, but these will be the words you use in your headlines, URLs, first paragraphs, subheads, etc. You want Google to find you for these keywords. Here’s a great blog post about how to choose your blog keywords. And here’s a chapter of a great book about Search Engine Optimization that is focused on how to choose your keywords.
That’s it. Go get started!
It will be daunting to start from scratch, and you might worry that you don’t have anything to say about an industry you’re only just joining as a newly minted college graduate with no professional work experience outside of, perhaps, a few internships.
That’s OK. You are not purporting to be an expert; you’re interviewing the experts and providing value by putting their thoughts out there for others in your field to see (and impressing people in your field with your ability to ask intelligent questions and assemble intelligent blog posts).
Contacts and networking are the name of the game in any serious career-launching job search. You can have the best grades, the best resume, the best personality and the best skill set, but if the people who matter — the people who make the hiring decisions — don’t know about you, it’s like a tree falling in the woods. They can’t hire you if they don’t know about you, and just sending out resumes to job postings is like throwing yourself into a black hole.
Stand out from the crowd with a blog!
So, get started!
PS Here’s how one recent graduate parlayed a new blog into her dream job.
PS Here’s a little secret that no one talks about when they tell you to start blogging: It’s a heck of a lot of fun, especially if you take my approach of interviewing key players in your field. You get to meet the biggest names in your industry, ideally in person. You get to go to their cool offices, and, if you’re good, they’ll tell you so, boosting your self confidence for the next interview. By the time you get to an actual job interview, you’ll be self assured and you’ll be able to drop names like you were an old pro!
(College graduates photo above is a Creative Commons-licensed photo by NazarethCollege)