Have you ever wondered whether you, too, should join the exclusive little club of 200+ million people who currently throw a bunch of their thoughts and musings up on the web, hoping somebody will actually read them?  In other words, have you ever considered writing your own blog?

At a recent networking event hosted by Career Horizons, our special guest, Blaine Millet of Social Media for Executives, expressed his view that almost every professional today should consider starting a blog.  He went on to make a very passionate and convincing case about how blogs are truly the hub of the social media universe — and that they are the most important tool that companies, as well as individual professionals, can use to promote their brand and drive meaningful dialogue with potential contacts/customers.  In addition, he specifically recommended that novice bloggers consider using the Google-owned Blogger.com interface, since the site offers many useful features, for free, and is also far and away (at least in Blaine’s opinion) the easiest blogging platform to master.

My thoughts on the matter, looking at the issue from the “career management” side of the fence?  I’m largely in agreement with Blaine’s assessment that most career-minded professionals today should think hard about launching a blog.  I still don’t think this step is for everybody, however.  Blogging could easily become a distraction that sucks time away from more urgent job hunting activities, and one’s personal blog could also make an “underwhelming” impression on potential employers if not executed well, or correctly.  Don’t forget, too, that whatever you slap up on the web is likely to stick around — with your name on it — for decades to come.  I suspect that there are quite a few members of Generation Y sweating bullets right now, in fact, praying that potential employers don’t find that embarrassing post they wrote about flatulence or that old picture of them on Facebook, operating a beer bong.

Still weighing the pros/cons of launching a blog?  Here are a few of the characteristics I think most successful bloggers tend to possess:

1) You should love to write; if writing isn’t your cup of tea or you don’t derive much enjoyment from it, authoring a blog could easily become a painful chore, once the initial excitement wears off.  So if you’re already struggling with the written aspects of job hunting (e.g. you find the process of composing cover letters to be about as fun as getting a root canal) there may be better options for promoting your brand out there.

2) You should have lots of interesting things to say; since we’re already approaching an “infinite number of monkeys” point in terms of how MUCH information is out there on the web at large, as well as the blogosphere, it probably doesn’t make much sense to publish a stream of shopworn material that’s already been written about before.  You’ll need to be bursting with fresh ideas and opinions that you just can’t wait to share with the world.  Ideally, this material will be interesting to other people besides yourself, but honestly, even if it’s just stuff YOU find fascinating, that’s a perfectly good place to start!

3) You should focus on a specific subject; while I reckon there are a few “stream of consciousness” blogs out there that attract steady readership, the most successful blogs are laser-focused and deal with a highly specialized occupational niche, industry segment, or business topic.  So before launching your blog, decide what niche of the business world you want to focus on and think hard about how you can bring a unique, refreshing, or humorous point-of-view to the subject at hand.

4) You should commit to writing a new blog post at least weekly; while Blaine suggested that people post blog entries at least three times per week, I personally think a lower frequency can be just fine, too.  I personally follow a few bloggers whose output is pretty anemic and it doesn’t bother me at all, as long as what they have to say, every now and then, is compelling.  Trust me on this, however.  You’ll start off thinking that writing three postings a week is going to be a piece of cake — but before you know it the honeymoon will pass, you’ll find the days flying by, and will (most likely) find yourself falling farther and farther behind this goal as “real life” gets in the way!  Just comes with the territory…

5) You should have thick skin; inevitably, the best blogs end up attracting a lot of eyeballs and associated reader comments, not all of which will be positive ones.  If you’re therefore not prepared to have your opinions challenged, or to stand your ground around some of the bold, captivating, and audacious opinions you’ve shared (see point #2 above), you may not find the “blogging experience” to be as uplifting as you’d originally hoped!

These are just a few assorted things I’d recommend you think about if you’re considering taking the plunge into the blogging pool.  All warnings aside, however, you can’t really go wrong by giving the process a try, just as long as you avoid saying anything that you might later regret or that could be used against you in a court of law.  And if we go back to the career-related benefits of blogging, for a second, I’d emphasize that one of the most valuable benefits of writing a blog (at least for me) is the structured way in which it forces you to focus your thoughts and improve your storytelling abilities.  Even if your blog never fully takes flight, there’s a ton of value to be gained simply by sitting down, gathering your thoughts, and putting pen to paper (so to speak) in order to express your point-of-view in a concise, compelling way.  Blog or no blog, this may turn out to be the best interview preparation step you ever engage in!