Monday, April 14, 2014

Writing Your First Blog

How do you write your first blog piece? Here's a few simple steps to get you started.

Set Aside a Time

This can be ad hoc, but I'd rather you set aside 15 minutes at least once a week. Make yourself an appointment. At lunch, at night, weekends, whatever. Just pick a time when you can spend 15 minutes writing.

Use a computer, or a pad of paper, but just give your blog 15 real minutes.

Get LiveWriter

If you're on Windows, use Live Writer. If you're not, a text editor works fine.

Pick a Topic

People always struggle here. I get it; it's hard to choose something. I've written about it before, but here's what I suggest to start..

What did you do in your career today?

You had to do something? Maybe you built something with code. Maybe you helped a customer. Maybe you pushed paper around in meetings and updating status.

No matter what it was, take a minute and think about what you did and what you think about it? Was it worthwhile? Did you use some skill you have? Did you make things move forward?

Write a sentence or two that describes what you think of the item you picked.

Just Do It

Whether it was positive or negative, you can stop and evaluate what you did and write about it. Put your thoughts on paper.

Focus on your topic sentence and then start writing. The main thing is to periodically look back at your topic and make sure you're writing about it. If you're not, move the irrelevant or related items to a new draft post.

Rinse and Repeat

Whether you get this done or not, leave it. Go back to it when you can, perhaps the next 15 minute session next week. Taking it slow means it's more sustainable. If you go faster and do more this week, don't be afraid to drop back to your 15 minutes if you get busy.

Review what you wrote and see if you can improve the spelling and grammar. Do a little self editing and see if your thoughts makes sense

Get an Editor

When you think your piece is good, use someone else as an editor and get their opinion. Pick your spouse or partner, a friend, a colleague, just get someone else to read it. Even if they don't understand the meaning of jargon or technical items, the piece needs to flow and make sense.

Make sure you buy them a coffee or beverage. You'll use them again.

If they think it shows something about your career, it's ready.

Save This Piece

I wouldn't recommend you publish this right away. Write 5 or 10 of these, and once you have them, you'll know how quickly you produce pieces about your career.

At that point, I'd schedule them if you want to publicly blog and use a schedule that allows you to keep going for a bit.

If you want them to remain private, then compile them in a folder, and zip them up. Also be sure you make a copy occasionally. Keep a copy of these handy in case you ever want to showcase your knowledge for a recruiter, client, interviewer, or anyone else.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Most Valuable Thing for Your Career

Networking is the best thing you can do for your career.

I've seen it time and time again, with people helping others find an opportunity, get a reference or recommendation, or even just provide advice. I'm constantly amazed how often friends and acquaintances help each other in their careers. There are so many stories where good friends or loose connections have resulted in opportunity.

It's easy to do, so make sure you network more often, especially at your next industry event. Take the time to meet a few new people.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Career Warfare - Book

I grabbed this book some time ago, trying to understand brand building a bit. At a presentation recently someone asked me if I had any books to read, and this was the only one that came to mind.


The author is the CEO of John Hancock Financial Services, and he goes over a number of things that worked well for him in his career, and some things that didn't. Overall I think it is good advice, though perhaps conservative.

As an example, he mentions not drinking at social events with colleagues or your boss as you can only look bad. I somewhat agree that you can look bad, but having a drink or two, interspaced with water, nursed perhaps, can help you fit in. He also doesn't recommend bringing spouses to your events as they can make you look bad as well.

The book treats events more like war, and in large corporations, that might be true if you're climbing the ladder. However there isn't always such a kill or be killed mentality for most of us when we're trying to fit into a group.

I'd read the advice, take it with a grain of salty, but above all, remember to maintain your moral compass as you search for a job and look to get promotions.

Monday, March 24, 2014

No Quick Fixes

I gave my career talk recently at an event and quite a few people had questions about starting careers (in or just out of college) or finding another job (out of work). I answered as best I could, but there was one thing that I emphasized over and over and need to do here.

There is no quick fix.

The things I suggest to you, the ideas for building your brand and creating a modern resume can work and they will help you. However they take time. They take an investment in yourself across time.

You don't build a network in a month. It takes many months and years.

You don't build a blob that showcases your knowledge in a few weeks. It's a journey and a chronicle across time.

You don't volunteer, or lead, or research, or anything else in short periods of time.

Build your brand, slowly, steadily, using determination and focus, but remember that it takes time to get there.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Out of touch

My apologies for the delays in posting new content. There's no shortage, but I keep getting distracted with work. I've almost run over my own "update every quarter" time limit without a post.

I'll work on a few and get back to weekly posts next week (I hope).

In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying your career, and here's a short video to watch. If you don't find these three things in your career, start to make a change.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why Should You Network?

A piece I wrote a few years ago. It still applies.

Why should you network? I'm speaking about interpersonal networking, not the bits and bytes in the ether kind :)

It's an interesting question and one I've been thinking about a lot since reading Andy Warren's posts on the subject. He thought it was interesting enough to engage Don Gabor for his business and spend a little money to learn how to do it better. After having a few sessions, Andy thought it was helpful enough to get a pre-conference session at PASS on this topic. It's a short pre-con, 2 hours, and won't interfere with anything else you've booked. It's an additional $60, but I've paid my fee (it's a business expense) and will be there.

Whether or not you attend the session (it's limited in size), I think there is value in learning to network better. Andy has reviewed a few books, and I'm sure I'll have some quick techniques to give you after PASS, or even during it. If you see me during the conference, please don't hesitate to come up and say hello to me. It's always great to meet new people.

Back to me question: why network? I'll give you a few examples in my life. I involuntarily networked myself into this field. When I was in graduate school searching for a job, I saw an internship at the power company. There were a few positions, but one of them was in the EE department, slightly out of my field. The guy in charge, however, was an alum of the University of Virginia, and I applied, and he gave me the job because we were fellow graduates. I had asked him a few months later and he said I got preference for that reason.

In 4 other cases later in my career, I've heard about consulting jobs in various places in the US. I haven't been interested in any of them, but I have passed them along to friends that I've gotten to know over the years from SQLServerCentral. These were people that had taken the time to say hi to me at some event and then correspond with me a little. Many of them were authors, and as I got to know their skills, I became comfortable with recommending them for work. It didn't benefit me other than a little goodwill and the feeling of helping others.

I have heard about similar situations all the time, where people have built a friendship, or some other bond, and then referred work or helped someone get a job. As much as it may upset technical people, it's still often who you know that matters much more than your technical skills. Networking is a great way to grow your career by knowing more people.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Blog for you

In my talk, I give that advice that your blog is for you, it’s a chronicle of your career, and it’s really written for the person that is considering hiring you, not for everyone else.

Matt Mullenweg agrees. He’s one of the founding developers of Wordpress, and his post was picked up on Twitter by John Batalle and a few others. He says you should:

  • write for yourself
  • write for a single person who you have in mind as the perfect person to read what you write

That second, single person, is the HR person, the hiring manager, the person that might offer you a job.

The first one, that’s you. Your present self, that’s solve a problem and is explaining it (showing your communication skills), and your future self, who might come back to this later and learn from it, or revisit the

However in both cases, you want to do a good job. Proofread your work. Get opinions from friends. Make sure that you are proud of what you write.