There are countless benefits to starting and running your own blog, especially for programmers and IT professionals.
Whether you are wanting to discuss the ins and outs of a technology that only a few thousand (or hundred) people understand, or are looking for a neutral space to brainstorm your next project, blogs offer a perfect combination of flexibility, accessibility and low overhead.
When done right, a blog can also act as a springboard for finding work that challenges you–and pays well.
In this post, we’ll be looking at how you can use blogging to get the attention of hiring managers, recruiters and influencers from top companies and government agencies seeking the best workers in tech.
1. Showcase your skills and knowledge.
Everyone knows that one of the best ways to gain experience and grow as a coder is to participate in open source projects, and while your contributions can look good on a resume when framed correctly, much of the work is thankless, pay-less and relatively anonymous at the end of the day.
Updating a blog to note your contributions and share code samples, however, can bring your work out of the shadows, launch helpful conversations and highlight your impact and interest in a way that goes beyond the stats on your GitHub profile page.
Your blog is not just a platform to brag about what you’ve done (although those brilliant 3 a.m. bug fixes should get their due), but it’s also a place where you have the opportunity to teach others. That doesn’t have to mean paragraph after paragraph of jargon or an hour-long lecture on best practices. Programmers like to learn by example, so sharing blocks of code with appropriate breaks for tips and explanation can be immensely helpful.
You might be wondering whether you have the time to keep a blog, and the short answer is yes. You do. A code paste-and-post update can take as little as 10 minutes, and you can fit in longer, more refined walkthroughs, success stories and rants here and there when a spare hour presents itself.
It’s one thing to have “proficient in Objective-C” on your C.V., and quite another to have 36 posts over two years featuring your own original code.
2. Show your passion!
Did you notice the word rants above? It wasn’t (entirely) a joke. A blog is the perfect place to get mad, get excited or express grief about the technologies, standards and industry shifts you have to contend with every day. Showing passion and personality is another advantage of your professional blog that a resume or LinkedIn profile can’t touch.
As always, discretion is required. You don’t want negativity to dominate the tone of your blog as a whole, and you never want to get personal by calling out specific company CEOs or the green-haired hacker who didn’t smell as good as you on the elevator at DEF CON. Save your ammunition for the battles worth fighting, and when you want to go off on a piece of software or hardware, don’t forget the why.
3. Show that you are a human.
A good blog lets employers see you as a person. This dovetails with the previous point, but goes beyond your individual rants, raves and breakthroughs. Once your blog has enough posts, a larger picture emerges, based on the topics you choose to write about and the voice you use to express them in. If you weave in occasional personal posts about family or hobbies, the image becomes even more complete.
More and more, companies are hiring based on whether you are a “fit” for their company culture, rather than sticking to a must-have list of skills. If you have a strong baseline knowledge of industry standards and competence in multiple programming languages, a company may be ready to hire you for who you are even if you’re missing a specific skill point, with the confidence they can help you catch up after you’re on board.
4. Become a better writer and thinker.
While “soft skills” are often derided in tech circles, the ability to write clearly, speak well, and play nicely with others can lead to substantial pay increases as your career advances. Precisely because communication skills are underrated in tech, they also are rare, and having proof of these skills in your blog sets you apart.
If you are not a particularly strong writer now, updating your blog on a regular basis will give you the chance to become better. You can also gradually work up to appearing on podcasts and in videos, as well as collaborating with other bloggers, engineers and thinkers in your field. Competence in different aspects of media and networking only adds to your list of “hard” skills, making you a more desirable candidate, qualified for a wider range of positions and eligible for a higher pay grade.
Robert Scoble, formerly a strategist and evangelist at Microsoft and now at Rackspace, has led a rewarding, high-profile career by being able to communicate with developers and broader audiences, through multimedia initiatives and a long-running blog.
Both Scoble and Asmani differentiated themselves by making grassroots connections with other developers through their blogs and social media presence, and both have also embraced video, podcasting and speaking engagements to establish themselves as respected voices in their fields.
5. Prepare for the interview process.
Finally, running your own blog will naturally prepare you for job interviews. Apart from specialized skills testing, much of your interview will consist of talking, and once again, your improved communication skills are an asset.
If you already discuss coding and development on a regular basis on your blog, it will be that much easier to do it in person. By networking with open source projects, news sources and other bloggers, you’re also more likely to understand where a given technology fits into larger trends, and you probably have a battle-tested, real world perspective that your prospective employer will find compelling.
Getting Started and Learning More
Now that you know how a blog can help you get a better job, it’s time to get started on one. Remember to take it step by step, and don’t stress over hitting a high word count with your posts. Instead, focus on publishing compelling content that demonstrates your skills and helps others.
In future posts, we’ll look at developer blogs that are currently doing it right, good sources of post topics you can use and some of the common mistakes programmers often make when starting their own blogs.