It always shocks me when someone says, “Hey, I read your blog.”
Three people read my blog (one is my mother), but there’s a substantial number of followers that recognize me from time to time — plus sporting a goatee and wearing a lime green sweater to events help too. Thing of beauty, baby! I love lime green.
The blog is self-defense. When things aren’t going so well, it’s free marketing and takes my mind off my ever-dwindling checking account. When things are going well, it can only make things better. People do value your opinions, good or bad, and the way they value it is with their feet.
I’ve gotten work through the blog, which only happens when you have a blog.
It’s also a great way to grow a career.
Most recruiters with the best jobs are looking for some kind of verification that you know what you are doing. Social recruiting platforms like Jobvite look at all kinds of things like your social profile on the web. All kinds of things come up during web search results, and recruiters aren’t looking just for your resume. They want to see where you are on the web. Social is now an important piece of the search.
(How do I know this? I work there. Duh. CareerBuilder has me as the number #2 search result for User Experience in the United States. How?)
This list isn’t all inclusive, but also doesn’t involve looking like an idiot on Quora.
Here’s a few things I would do if I wanted to increase my influence as a User Experience professional:
Start A Twitter Feed
I run a feed on Twitter. I don’t get a ton of followers. I think it’s close to 1,700 or so. Most of them are here for my good looks and rather dry, but understood by people living north of Columbus Avenue, sense of humor.
Running a Twitter feed is much easier than writing really, really long blog posts, which I tend to do (read: this one).
Whenever you find an interesting article, tweet it. Whenever you see an interesting tweet, retweet. If you have something really funny to say, say it.
I’ve been running the gag of “Internet, definitely a fad” for the last twelve years or so. I’ve lost followers because they complained about my inane posts. I’m also the number one result on Google for it. That’s great SEO.
People will find you if you tweet interesting content. The best part: you don’t even write it. Other people will supply the content. It isn’t the amount of followers you have (geez, Ryan Seacrest has close to 3,900,000 followers, and how could he — or his producers — have anything interesting to say?), it’s the quality of followers.
Dan Saffer runs a really funny feed that occasionally has great content. He’s got a lot of UX followers.
Semantic Will is even funnier.
Jared Spool is funny in Europe. Kind of like the Hoff, except with less hair and wears glasses.
People love funny, especially when you’re talking about radio buttons and multi-select menus. It’s when they’re laughing you can stick some truth down their throat (who’s the comedian that said it?).
Start A Blog
It’s easy. Go to Dreamhost, pay the hosting, and install. Smashing Magazine has a ton of great WordPress themes that will look great yet out of context for your opinions online.
You don’t have to post all the time (I post something of substance about once a week). But it’s out there because it’s great SEO. Post something. Post anything. It could be other content. It could be something you retweeted (Even better! Free content!). It might be a short note about your dog. But blog, blog, blog.
Being able to communicate in some kind of written form is an awesome skill to have.
Coding Horror has a great blog post about programmer communication skills. I think this applies to everyone in the technical field, because it’s hard communicating ideas concisely. Writing reinforces that. It you want to move your career ahead, write a lot and learn how to express your thoughts.
Need more examples?
One of the best writers I’ve ever read is Joel Spolsky. He writes Joel On Software. His is some of the best prose I’ve ever seen on software development. He’s influenced thousands of people. He’s sold a book, which is almost exact copy of his blog (smart man!).
I’m convinced good writing is easier that public speaking, so a great way to get your ideas out there is starting a blog. Sometimes, the blog is picked up by someone cool (I’m listed in Alltop under User Interface and Social Media). Sometimes I appear on other blogs.
Go To Meetups
I hate networking.
I really, really hate networking.
Did I mention I hate networking?
I was at an event the other day, and I remembered how much I hate it because I’m not extroverted. I’ve learned how to fake it (a friend of mine called it “turning it on”), so I could at least hand out a business card shamelessly and start a conversation with someone.
There’s a number of different conversations you could start at the events: “So do you follow the school of Cooper (‘personas rock!’) or Nielsen (‘Flash is 128 percent bad’)?” You can talk about travel or even talk about projects you’re working on. The more knowledge you pass on, the more people respect you.
The more things you do selflessly (I sponsor events like UX Eye for the Developer Guy and Barcamp LA), people will also respect you.
Eventually, it will lead to great employment and consulting opportunities.
For me, it’s lead to both getting work and finding work for people that needed it. For UX consultants now, I go to meetups in San Francisco and there will be four or five companies looking for professionals to help them out.
Develop An Idea
The need to invest in your career doesn’t end in college.
Very few of us get to work on ideas that involve technology outside of our core skill set without some client blindly trusting us to do it well. The best way to do something cool — ya know — do mobile, for example, do the unthinkable.
Come up with something and get it built.
If you manage the project correctly and do something simple, you can do some really, really cool stuff without going broke. My Pick An Excuse application is an example of something that was simple, didn’t cost me a lot (relatively), and got what I needed — experience in mobile.
The idea is kind of lame, but I’ve done something thousands of other user experience professionals haven’t done: released an application on the Apple iPhone Store. It brings chuckles at events, but it also brings something else:
The application has already paid for itself.
What have you done for your career lately?