Can a Blog Boost Your Career Prospects?

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bloggingWith six job seekers for every open position (more if you count those who are employed but actively pursuing other opportunities), looking for a job these days is like applying to a very competitive college: You need to show why you're special and why you deserve that coveted spot. One of the ways to do that is by starting a blog.

While you're able to convey some of your story in your resume and cover letter, a blog can give recruiters additional evidence of your expertise, passion and knowledge of your industry, and can be especially critical in helping you get the interview in the first place. And since only one in 10 online adults maintains a blog, according to a new study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, it's easier than you think to gain that edge.

An internal recruiter searching on LinkedIn found Jeff Ogden's name at the top of the list, and subsequently followed links to his Web site and popular blog, Fearless Competitor. Jeff, a marketing professional in his 50s, had been unemployed for 19 months before landing a job he didn't even have to apply for and beating out 100 candidates in the process.

A blog can help you get the attention of a target employer, as online-savvy executives who've set up Google alerts will be notified of articles and blog posts containing their company's name. Ken Horowitz, who's targeting media/entertainment companies and tech firms built on creative content for his next position, is hoping his Media, Money, Entertainment blog will show prospective employers not only how much he knows about the industry, but also how industrious he's been during his job search.

Although professional blogging didn't exist as a career 10 years ago, there are more opportunities now for even casual bloggers to build new careers and businesses.

Laura Gesin, a full-time technology teacher, started a blog last year mixing musings on how teachers could leverage students' interests in social networking with entries documenting her foray into vegan eating. Her efforts led to freelance blogging assignments, and then to a paid part-time job when a colleague recommended her to a PR firm. "I would never have a chance at that paying gig if I hadn't started blogging for free," she says. "I do have an undergraduate degree in creative writing that I never put to use, so this opportunity is doubly sweet."

A blog can become a foundation for a business. Deborah Smith calls her blog the "hobby that went haywire." She started JerseyBites.com in 2007 as a way to post her recipes so she could easily send a link if someone asked for a copy. Soon she was including food news and restaurant reviews. This year she's expanding into a full-blown business of hyper-local Jersey Bites blogs throughout the Garden State with revenue generated by local and network-wide advertising.

With blogs giving so many the opportunity to be heard and be noticed, will non-bloggers get overlooked -- or at least, have to work that much harder for advancement opportunities?

Next, I'll lay out some key do's and don'ts to marketing yourself effectively with a blog. Stay tuned.

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