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Building a career with a blog

Here’s one career-boosting tool that you may not have in your career tool kit yet: a blog.

Yes, blogs are a great way to grab the attention of prospective employers or clients and share your expertise in the process.

Just ask any serious blogger, such as Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, a business-writing trainer in Seattle, Wash.

Gaertner-Johnston recently landed a contract as a lecturer in the MBA program at the University of Washington because the school recruiter had read Gaertner-Johnston’s blog, www.busi

“I was hired a few days later,” she says. “Potential clients become comfortable with me when they read my blog posts and realize that I am an expert and that my approach to writing is very practical.”

Blogs can benefit both established and young professionals and they can inspire the blogger to stay current in their field of expertise.

John Ricks, a real estate agent in Gulf Shores, Ala., hadn’t been consistently blogging. In early 2009, he started posting messages on how the fall of the condo market had created a buyer’s market. He also promoted an auction. One single post resulted in numerous calls and inquiries from individuals who had read his blog.

“I have a renewed dedication now,” he says. “I must admit that it was gratifying to know that someone who was obviously interested in that particular subject found my post informative.”

Blogs can help steer careers in new directions. Health books ghostwriter

Alisa Bowman of Emmaus, Pa., had been fascinated with relationships, particularly her own marriage. She’d craft long and detailed e-mails to her friends about her then-rocky marriage.

They’d e-mail her back with comments like “This is hilarious! You should publish this!”

“I tried to place a few essays without much luck,” she recalls.

In August 2008, she posted her first entry in a blog known as Project Happily Ever After, www.projecthappilyever Her hope was that the blog — and the idea of putting her stories on display — would lead to a memoir contract. Little did she know how quickly it would open many doors.

New Job Opportunities

Within a few months, an editor at a large website discovered Bowman’s blog and offered her regular freelance work — no interview or resume required.

Another editor at a well-paying parenting magazine assigned her a marriage/relationship story because she liked the style of her blog. Again, Bowman didn’t seek out that opportunity. She also was asked to speak at a large writer’s conference, an invitation she would not have received without her blog. A number of potential clients have contacted her.

“My blog has allowed me to break out of my niche of health writer and transition [to] relationships expert,” she says.

If you’re thinking about blogging, heed some advice from experts:

Understand that it’s a considerable time commitment. If you don’t have at least two hours a week to spend posting one or two blogs, don’t get started.

Determine what you have to share that is of value. Identify what you’re passionate about and what topic will keep you motivated to keep learning more.

Refrain from self-promotion. Even if you’re using the blog to promote yourself or your business, don’t view it as a vehicle to toot your own horn. Rather, promote your knowledge and ideas. Develop a voice and attitude. Your blog should reflect your philosophy about a topic.

Take care not to offend people with the general taboo topics. Even in the

blogosphere, sex, politics and religion are topics to avoid, unless these are your fields of expertise.

Make it clear who’s the blogger. Craft a powerful bio and identify goals for your career. Make it easy for prospective employees or clients to see how you could fit into their organizations.

Respond to reader comments promptly. You’re engaging in a conversation. Respond to queries and continue to share your expertise with interested readers. Don’t be afraid to disagree, either.

Become familiar with blogging gadgets. These enhance the look and functionality of your blog.

Use online tools such as RSS feeds to announce new articles or figure out how to post pictures to make the page more visually appealing.

Review your entries thoroughly before posting: Make sure each is free of grammatical errors and jargon.

Personalize your blog: Use pictures of graphics to make it more attractive, particularly if you’ve selected a generic template that is widely used.

Also, don’t forget to include some ways for visitors to contact you.