A piece of career advice almost every IT professional should follow

I believe that almost every IT professional should write a blog. It can be anonymous. It can contain only a couple of posts per year. It can be done for zero cash cost. It can be extremely beneficial to you even if it only ever getting a few readers. (And by saying those things, I've addressed over 90% of the objections that probably rushed to mind.) Basically, the information ecosystem is opening up a huge number of new niches for specialized, independent expertise, and you will find it much easier to survive if you go fill one or more of them.

My comments here will assume that you're a salaried employee rather than a freelancer. If you're a freelancer, blogging is even more important, because you're constantly looking for jobs, and because you want to exhibit the most possible expertise. To a first approximation, the reasons are similar to those cited below, but with their importance increased by a factor of 3-5X or more.

The biggest reason is that a blog can be your "portfolio" for future job interviews. In good times and bad, almost every IT worker should be getting set up for her next job search. And a blog can be a huge help in that. A blog lets you:

  • Show specific technical expertise.
  • Show specific business expertise.
  • Show general technical problem-solving ability.
  • Show general people-problem-solving ability.
  • Show that you can communicate.

Even if nobody ever sees your blog except you and people you've interviewing for jobs with, it still gives you a huge leg up. Post a couple of cool hacks you've done. Tell a couple of war stories. Give a balanced review of a couple of technologies. Any of that is a demonstration of skills that are desired by a large fraction of potential new employers.

And if you're insecure about your writing ability, then you should be even more insecure about your ability to talk. Basically, a blog gives you two chances to make a first impression. And by the way, you probably need the writing practice. Remember -- you can always edit or remove posts later on if you decide they don't represent you in the best possible light.

What's more, for many people the process of writing helps them clarify their thoughts. I used to think I wasn't one of those. I was wrong, or else I became one as I got older. That's another way blogging can help you prepare for the job-seeking process -- and also make you better at the job you currently have.

If you are comfortable making your blog non-anonymous, a blog can make you more valuable to your current employer, because it is a way to interactive constructively with the broader IT community. You can build relationships by helping others. You can get help. You can be taken more seriously in other venues for same, such as online forums. You might get useful vendor attention. You might help recruit other useful workers.

Ideally, you'd pay something like $100/year and control your own blog domain and URL. But it's also perfectly OK to do a free WordPress blog at WordPress.com, or to start one on some industry-focused site such as this one.

As for why posting frequency doesn't matter much -- you're probably not going to get many regular readers anyway. That's OK. What you want is to have something interesting to show to people when you call it to their attention and perhaps, beyond that, to be found when people look up specific topics in search engines. Sure, more posts on different subjects = more being found, but if you don't have many interesting things to say, then don't say much.

On the other hand, if you have nothing at all interesting to say, then you're in the wrong job. There's surely SOMETHING you've learned that SOMEBODY else in the world doesn't know and would like to. That's exactly what you should share!

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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