Who he is: Alex Halavais, assistant professor of communications and graduate director of informatics, SUNY Buffalo
How are blogs being used in the hunt for talent?
Having a blog is almost like building a brand for yourself, so it's largely meant for that tacit process of having people scout you. If you have a medium readership of 1,000 or so people who read your blog daily, those are 1,000 more people who might think of you when a job opens up.
So should we all run home and start our own blogs?
If your ultimate aim is simply to get a new job somewhere, that's probably not the best reason to start a blog. What's most important is to attract other people in the same profession. Think, "How do I make myself part of this community?" You want to start by putting the time into having fresh, interesting, original material. Then the key is reading other people's blogs and commenting on them. When you comment, you have a link back to your own blog, and if they think what you've said is interesting, they'll keep coming back.
What about the employee-blogging horror stories, like the Google employee who got fired?
The first thing you want to do is get permission from your company, unless you choose to blog anonymously, which won't help much from the career perspective. The more dangerous aspect of blogging, though, is that once it's out there, it's out there. We haven't yet seen the person who was turned down for a job 30 years down the road because of what he put in his blog when he was 25. You cannot erase your history any longer.
Should the rule be not to write anything in a blog that you wouldn't want to reveal in a job interview?
Don't write anything in a blog you wouldn't want to see on the front page of The New York Times. It's pretty standard at this point that anyone interviewing you Googles you beforehand. But there are certain things about your private life that you probably don't want your current or new employer to know. For example, this semester I'm teaching a class on cyberpornography, and 80 of my students are blogging every day about pornography. If they make a misstep, I can definitely see where this will close off certain fields to them. When a future employer starts to put together a portfolio of you, do you really want to be typecast as your 19-year-old self?
What are some good examples of professional blogs to emulate?
Check out publicist Steve Rubel's and entrepreneur Ross Mayfield's. They both provide a high degree of transparency and a low degree of spin. When Ross writes about the loss of a major client or the challenge of a new competitor, I feel as if I am part of his company. That authenticity keeps his readers coming back.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.