Much of my career practice and coaching involves an organizing thought: You own the business of your career. It’s your work life mission, your vision. For years I coached and, some would say, admonished my clients to take ownership of their career paths as they work for someone else. When you do not own the business, one of the greatest ways you can help or hurt your career centers around your own online and offline reputation. With so many choices and so much information at the click of a computer key, we may feel information overload no matter what our career field might be. We may also feel empowered to create or destroy.
What’s easy can be fun or dangerous. In a matter of minutes, you can set up your Blogger, WordPress, Typepad or related blog site. And the minute you post? Your words can be accessed by billions of people around the world. No Web designer needs to be hired. No technical guru at x dollars an hour has to listen to and potentially kill your ideas. You own this medium. You have freedom. You can say or cite anything. There’s no waste of time and no need to white-board everyone else’s ideas.
It’s so easy but don’t let the impulsive ease of blogging let you forget about the eyes that watch your art, your views, your passions, protests, observations and objections.
How might this medium help – or hurt – your career direction and path?
How it can help:
1. You have an audience. Keep it positive. Blogging may add to the company’s brand and your position as an authority or subject matter expert within your company or your field. Jane S. worked at a powerful, regional advertising company. She cleared her personal blog through her boss, her boss’ boss and her company human-resources department. They said she didn’t have to, but with my advice she did. During a recession, she has received two promotions, and her blog has since been incorporated into the main site of the corporation because of its business development prowess. She says, “Now 40 percent of my time is incorporating my personal brand or blog into the company’s brand with the complete blessing of the executive team.”
2. Paint the right picture. Drive customer confidence. As you cite critical sources and make intelligent, important observations, your personal blog augments your position within your company and promotes your company. You never bash your company. You can be yourself and be authentic. James P., a salesman, asked for permission from his company to comment on his business travels and business adventures as a technology sales consultant. Customers love the funny, idiosyncratic stories. James says, “My blog has been a business generator for the company and earned me four speaking engagements on behalf of the company and four speaking engagements locally that were sponsored by local sales networking organizations. I can’t believe it. It’s made me kind of recession-proof in my career!” His first book is being self-published, and his company uses him to teach and train all new sales personnel.
3. Get a raise and a promotion. Defend the faith. Blogging helps you document and publish your ideas while associating with great people. Again, Alice P. published her blog under a pseudonym two years ago. Today she has kept the quirky observations about life, travel, art and kids quite eclectic. Her blogging has incorporated funny observations about office life without offending anyone at work. It’s been serialized and referred to by the company. The CEO thought her site should be commented on, featured and linked to by the company to help with Esprit de corps. Alice states, “Now I have an in-house company editor who helps me promote and publish my blog. We’ve added videos and more fun stuff. The company pays me monthly.” She keeps her comments happy, funny and still personal.
How blogs can hurt:
1. One small step. Negative posts can be fatal. Blogging can open you up for many legal, liability and employment questions, problems or crises. Last year, Jim C. came to me after he had posted a rather nasty post on his Top Ten Worst Retailers in the World blog. His company did business with two of those retailers and as nosy or highly sensitive corporate personnel found out about his lambaste, it caused a rift at the company. According to Jim, “This year for other reasons I was let go. It was not the economy. I crossed the line.”
2. Pictures tell a thousand stories. Larry seemed to pipe up at work a lot about things that bothered him. So he decided to publish a seemingly anonymous blog. As a techy he posted hundreds of comments on political ideas, named people he thought should be impeached and railed against what he considered bad taste and fashion. He did this anonymously under a lot of different names. But when he decided to take pictures at the year-end Christmas party and publish captions that offended nearly everyone, he was, well, suspended without pay forever (fired).
3. Beautiful art can be destroyed. Craig became disillusioned after an 18-year career. Nearing retirement, his company had promoted three people younger than him to the technology-director level. Years ago he had engineered their Web presence. Knowing that having no blog presence left his company vulnerable, he found it increasingly interesting and titillating when he created a blog presence; added negative comments to company products; and dumped a list of customer complaints onto the proverbial, anonymous IHATEXCOMPANY.com, the site a former employee developed to stick it to the man. Under pressure, the IHATEXCOMPANY.com author faced legal entanglements and gave up Craig’s name as a blogger. Now Craig is in litigation. It’s not looking good.
Imagine you’re an artist like Michelangelo dipping brush into paint; a seemingly limitless creative well. You’re halfway done with your masterpiece, the signature of your worklife and rather spiritual mission. As you take your impossible position on the scaffold to paint more of the Sistine Chapel you have a thought. Imagine you could destroy your Sistine Chapel with one strike of the match. Like the great artist, blogging can help you take ownership of your career and worklife vision. Of course, it can also be just for fun, too. But let’s also realize you, like the great artist, have the power to create or destroy your career future with just a few strokes or decisions.
Make sure you know your audience and you understand the potential impact of your newly minted blog posts. It could make a lasting impression and a permanently positive or negative impact on your career picture.
Paint yours. Paint it well.