The rule of thumb is that it's easier to get a job when you already have one. Once you're out of the career loop, it's harder to demonstrate that your skills and knowledge are up to date. Networking also becomes a challenge when there isn't any day-to-day "shop talk" to share. Fortunately, today's social media provide easy and cost-effective options.
Blogging is a way to demonstrate your expertise and continued involvement in your field. Unlike websites, blogs can be set up with minimal expense and no outside expertise. "Wordpress really works well," according to Bob Keller, a graphic designer who maintains two blogs of his own and sets up blogsites for clients. "Wordpress has a huge selection of templates that you can use that are very clean and very nice. They aren't difficult to use if you don't want to customize them too much. It's not difficult to do what you need to do without technical or design knowledge.
DIY for free
Wordpress basic templates are free, and you can also set up a Wordpress domain - without charge. The site has a simple 10-step walkthrough guide at wordpress.com. The next step up, Keller says, is to get your own domain through a service like godaddy.com and host the blog somewhere else. "It's not expensive but it takes a little more technical savvy," Keller says. "A total technophobe who didn't want to follow instructions would have problems."
Keller suggests no more than two or three blogposts a week, at a maximum of 500 words each. An additional benefit is that finding materials for the blogs encourages the blogger to network for information and stay up to date. Keller suggests using Google Reader to pick up on the latest from sites that focus on your field. "Really, you would hardly have to write - just post a link and your comments on it."
By providing readers with a steady supply of news and relevant information, Keller says, "you can become someone whom other people depend on to know what's going on in the field." Keller uses Mailchimp, a list management application, to send new posts out as e-mail to subscribers. It's free for up to 5,000 e-mails a month, Keller says. He also recommends a free plug-in called Akismet that filters the comments posted on your blog. "You'll get a lot from people trying to self-promote, and a lot of spam. This plug-in really nails them."
Using several social media together is a way to build synergy. Post links to your blog posts on your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, for example. On Twitter, you can use the "hashtag" - # plus a search term - to attract followers interest in your field. Joining relevant LinkedIn groups is another way to reach a broader audience.
The reverse is also true: Following the leaders in your field on Twitter is a great way to stay current and find material for your blog. You can also post questions on LinkedIn - the answers are great material for a blogger. One recent example: "What was the biggest technological disappointment of 2010?"
If job-hunting is your primary purpose for blogging, getting your posts in front of hiring managers is critical. "Just because it's there, nobody is going to go to it unless you promote it somehow," Keller says. His final tip: "You have to stay on it. People will forget about you immediately if you don't keep posting."