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Starting A Blog? Here are 5 Things You Should Know

Starting A Blog? Here are 5 Things You Should Know

Starting a blog is incredibly easy. You sign up for one of the free blogging platforms, pick a background design, and you’re up and running, right? That works just fine if you’re blogging for your friends and family, but if your goal is to build your business or your personal brand, then you have a different set of objective. These five tips will help you get a professional blog off the ground on the right foot.

1. Research The Market

When you start a business, you research your niche and make sure that you have an original position to take. When you start a blog, you do the same thing. You need to have something new to say to those who are eventually going to follow you, which they can’t find anywhere else. If your selling point is your unique perspective, be prepared for it to take some time to demonstrate that as a value. I’d recommend all newbies to read Jeff Goins post on ins and outs of basics of blogging.

You should be able to articulate the blogs that your customers will also be reading, how they are differentiated from each other, and how your blog will be differentiated from them.

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2. Decide What Your Blog’s Job Is

What is your blog going to do? Just like any other piece of content on the web, it needs to have a clear purpose that informs what you choose to post and share. A blog for a business might decide, for example, to use its blog to answer frequently asked question, share videos and photos of a product and service being used in real time, or create informational posts about the topic at hand.

Ask yourself why you want to start a blog; this is where it all begins. When a blog is being used to build a personal brand, its job is a little more fluid. Usually, you will be presenting an idealized version of yourself to the world. You will use your blog to talk about the things you’re trying to influence. Here is another good post by Ann Smarty that answers the most commonly asked questions and one of the topics is what you want to achieve with blogging.

Someone promoting a lifestyle brand might share their favorite fashion items and stories from the most recent round of designer shows, while someone who is building a career as a life coach might share organizational tips and their favorite planners.

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3. Plan Posts Ahead Of Time

When you’re deciding what your blog’s job is, brainstorm different topics that you want to talk about. Determine how often you want to post. Once a week is considered a bare minimum, and more than once a day generally is overkill.

Once you know how often you’re going to post, start building yourself an editorial calendar. Some blogging tools offer plugins that can help with this, but many people use either a paper or digital calendar. Digital is particularly helpful because you can use the “notes” section of the “event” entry to add links to thinks you want to talk about or images you plan on using.

You can also build drafts of future posts and keep a calendar of what you want to talk about when so you know what to expand on and edit. Here are some good tips from Lory Linn Smith on how to plan and come up with blog topic ideas.

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The important thing here is that you should not get caught without anything to say. By building your blog out instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, you’re building good habits that will help you successfully maintain your blog over time.

4. Build Up Content Before You Promote

Creating a new blog is exciting, and you may want to promote it the very second you have anything posted. Resist the temptation. At a bare minimum, you should have a solid About page, any FAQ pages, and four or five posts in place before you start sharing links and encouraging your friends and family to like your page. The WP Millionaire put up a good guide on standard pages all blogs should have.

Why? Because you are competing with everything else on the Internet for your customers’ attention. If you want to make an impact on their awareness, you need to have enough content available for them to look through and understand who you are. A single blog post isn’t enough to make an impression.

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5. Have A Comment Section Or Not?

A comment section used to be an absolute given, but in recent years, many popular blogs have chosen to shut down their comments sections, citing abuse and harassment occurring. While this may not be an issue when you have a handful of followers, as the numbers increase, you will need to consider what best to do. Here is a good post by Fizzle that covers the pros and cons of blog comments by listing two different opinions from popular bloggers.

If you rarely get comments, it may not be a problem at all. If you get many comments, and you see industry relevant conversations occurring in the comments, it may be best to take a careful moderation approach, but let comments exist. If you find that you regularly see abusive comments, and they aren’t adding to the conversation, just shutting off the comments might save you time.

Running a blog can be an excellent way to learn about writing for an audience, developing themes and persuasive essay writing. What tips would you offer to someone starting up their first professional blog?

Featured photo credit: marragem via flickr.com

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Margarita Hakobyan

MBA from the University of Utah

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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