To Blog or Not to Blog

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Visibility and Web-savvy are useful when job-hunting. So, should you merge those goals by starting your own financial Web site or blog? In most situations, experts say no.

"I do not see candidates at this point generating their own Web pages, although I think that is coming," says Joe Ziccardi, chief executive of Cromwell Partners, an executive search firm active in financial services. For a trader, chief financial officer or financial analyst, Ziccardi says, "There is a very low likelihood at this time that you need to have your own Web page."

Still, many a guru in both branding and career management urge just about everyone to become an active member of the blogosphere. They argue that professionally focused personal sites can help candidates showcase their expertise, avoid being digitally invisible or "un-Googleable," and drown out potentially negative information ("digital dirt") that search engines turn up.

Self-employed professionals have more to gain from this kind of visibility than those in full-time jobs, observes Vicky Oliver, author of books on job hunting and marketing. A digital presence also can help career changers and recent graduates demonstrate interest and knowledge in a field they are breaking into.

High Quality is Vital

If you do decide you want a blog or other Web site, remember that maintaining high quality is essential. "Each of us needs to now become the steward of our own PR and be careful of what we are saying in the public domain," says New York career coach Phyllis Rosen. Moreover, candidates who work in a financial institution need to determine whether it's feasible to launch a site in their name without running afoul of their employer.

For starters, you'll benefit only if your site's content is sophisticated enough to be taken seriously by fellow professionals in the same field. That is a tough standard to meet, especially for a candidate just out of business school with little experience, says Rosen.

Beyond demonstrating professional-level knowledge, she says a Web site must satisfy three further conditions if it's to succeed as a career tool: It must show you can write well, perform thorough research, and think and connect the dots in strategic ways.

Self-descriptive material, such as a portfolio manager's investment style, strategy and accomplishments, is fine for a personal Web site, says Sandy Gross, managing partner of Pinetum Partners, a retained search firm serving the hedge fund industry. As for showcasing actual work product, she recommends candidates limit themselves to work they previously published in a credible, copyrighted medium, such as an academic or professional journal.

How Blogging May Backfire

Blogs present additional challenges. Unlike regular Web sites, readers of blogs often expect new content to appear on a daily (or still more frequent) basis. That raises the stakes for both time management and quality control.

Web "usability" expert Jakob Nielsen has argued in favor of "writing thorough articles ... published on a regular schedule," while warning against posting numerous short comments in blog discussions. Critiquing the high-frequency approach, Nielsen wrote, "Even if you're the world's top expert, your worst posting will be below average, which will negatively impact on your brand equity."

On top of that, recruiter Ziccardi warns: "If you start blogging, you could put yourself in harm's way in terms of your current job." He notes that finance is highly regulated, and Wall Street employers strictly control who may give speeches, talk to the media, or represent the company in public settings.

Apart from compliance issues, a firm might worry about loyalty and possible leakage of proprietary information through an employee's site.

"People have to be very careful when they self-brand," says Ziccardi. "You don't want to give (your present employer) the impression that you're out on the market, saying, 'Hey, make me an offer.'"

Within the hedge fund sector, Gross says a culture of exclusivity and privacy makes it unwise for candidates to discuss their models on a public blog or Web site. "Why put your ideas out there like this? Hedge funds are so private, it's like an oxymoron," she says.

Do you blog? Has your Web site helped in a job search? Post a comment below.

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