So, you want to document your professional journey? Maybe you feel like giving back and want to share some of what you learned on a project while consulting for a client or what you and your team did on a corporate project? Perhaps you want to make a quarterly goal for work and show your progress? Or simply share how you perfected an irresistible dog food recipe? Well, you’re in luck, there are a few great ways to start building your story and showcasing your efforts while, possibly, helping like-minded folks out there in the world at large.
The first thing I would start with is the idea. What problem are you trying to solve? I use the following template.
- Problem Statement
I usually start with my problem statement. Think of this like your High School essay. Where you have an opening where you introduce your thesis statement. From there you can start to draft a title. Then again, you may already have a title that encompasses your meaning. Some people are gifted like that.
For the outline, create placeholders for your introduction, body, and conclusion. The body is composed of your supporting information, arguments, research, proofs, recipe, experiments and so on. Your conclusion wraps up all your ideas. Tying things up like lace in a shoe pulling the eyeholes of the introduction, points of your body and then the flow of the conclusion acts as the pulling motion that pulls the lace through all the eyeholes.
Think about the kinds of stories you like to hear. Me? I like conversations. Hence, that is typically the voice I strive to write. Everyone is different. For that matter, I read somewhere that there are two types of communicators. Those who convey meaning by talking and those who do it by writing. That’s OK, while this post focuses on blogging, you could easily apply the same principals to creating a talk and submitting an abstract to local or national conferences. There is however a set of editing practices that are unique to both.
While none of this is easy. You have the idea, the work and then the sharing that you want to do. Maybe to build a brand. Or to just fulfill a desire to improve the world around you. Or simply to participate in a larger conversation. Whatever the motivation, it’s all attainable in small bite-sized blocks.
Here are a few things to consider as you shape your creation.
Find your voice. Mine is conversational. Yours’s may be purely technical or academic and research-heavy. Whatever it is, really listen to yourself as if you were a reader. Ask yourself questions. Try to separate yourself from your experience and come at your work from the angle of someone who knows nothing about what you are talking about. What kind of piece is going to capture, and hold their attention? Also, there was a lot of Ted Talk influenced garbage about introducing yourself “as the expert.” Whenever I hear someone start with those kinds of talking points, I immediately switch it off. They just sound like self-promoters to me. Which you may be doing. Hell, I may do that now and then, but I try to write from the angle that I am simply a guy sharing my experiences freely and without shame. You will never hear me open a post like “HI my name is Jeff and I have been hiking for 4 years, have most of a forestry degree and enjoy the celebrity of being a You Tube hiking and outdoor warrior ninja star.” Nawh, I’m gonna talk about falling in the river, forgetting my knife, getting hopelessly lost. All that is true for sure in most of my writing, but I will also try to message on what I learned from all those experiences. Failures and all. It’s funny, I spoke about a technical stack I used to work with at a local tech conference a few years back, The Dog Food Conference, and one of my commenters told me that it sounded like a collection of war stories. Yeah, that’s exactly what I go for. I’d rather share the locations of the steep inclines, tree roots, gravel roads and areas with no water that I fumbled through for others to benefit from and skip the pompous “I am an expert speak.”
Another thing to consider is the keywords. If you intend to write a series about a topic then you may want to tie them all together by some set of keywords. Hashtags if you are on social media like LinkedIn or Twitter. For instance, I use #Hiking, #DotNet, #HeartHealth, #Local and so on. Also, if you can, incorporate a keyword in your title for findability sake. Don’t go overboard and hashtag the heck out of everything. Use these strategically.
On the topic of SEO practices, mind your title length. Try to limit it to 60 characters. And if your platform offers a description text box for your post, try to limit that to 160 characters to be search engine friendly.
As I was leaving Nationwide Insurance, my boss at the time, who was awesome, talked a lot about how the face you present in the form of the collection of all your actions and work become your brand when it reaches other people’s ears. They called that personal branding in the corporate context. While this piece talks more organically about sharing our stories, some of those principals apply. The only social media outlet that I use these days is LinkedIn. You may have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any number of other technologies where you have friends, acquaintances, contacts or followers. Use those. Share your thoughts with your hashtags and well thought out titles. You will be surprised at the number of people who find your post(s) and end up thanking you for the knowledge. I get that every now and then on the heart health and hiking front. All these things, depending on what your topic is, may help you land a new gig or simply check off a goal of yours.
Another good practice? Always have someone proofread your work. But buy that person a beer or something because that takes a little bit of effort. If you have a friend who can do this for you, it’s a huge gift and well worth the ask as it can only improve your work. If you don’t have someone, then look into some writing tools like Grammarly and The Hemingway App. They can at least propose some canned suggestions. Anything helps.
Lastly, where the Hell do you post this stuff? Well, the simple answer would be to go the route I initially went. I started my own blog. My mom is my biggest fan though. But I own the content and I am free to write what I want. I also use LinkedIn articles to post things that I want to share professionally. There have been times though when I got published on the American Heart Association or our local farm co-op blogs in addition to Readers Digest or the Columbus Dispatch in interview format on topics I was qualified to speak about. If you don’t have any of those things, then simply create a Word document and post that to a team channel. It might be Slack, Microsoft Teams or even Reddit.
Be creative. Find your home base, think of your idea, spend some time formalizing and whittling it down. Less is more when it comes to words, use pictures, tag things strategically, spend some time on searchability, be approachable and avoid putting yourself (or your idea) on a pedestal. Keep writing. Embrace failure but let each one give you the gift of a lesson.
But, most importantly, have fun.