I try to read as many other blogs as I can.

I even try to read the generic ones that offer “the 10 things you must do” or the “seven steps to success.” They are annoying and lack originality at times, which makes it frustrating to even consider the advice they offer.

However the other day I was reading a blog post offering advice about writing. The post was rather bland and really just focused on the basics. But guess what… it was stuff that I wasn’t doing.

My blog is not really focused on anything, it lacks direction and thus lacks followers. For me that is fine for the time being, because I like to use it as a sandbox for my thoughts and ideas. However I also use it to perfect my writing skills, and it was tough swallowing the fact that I really wasn’t writing good content.

So how do you write good content?

I don’t know… your guess is better than mine. But I do know that if you really want to improve your writing, yourself, or your world, you have to not only listen to counterpoints, but you also must be willing to swallow your own pride and submit to legitimate criticism.

So I will continue to read those lackluster blog posts and listen to their message, and will try to be willing to accept valid points when I am heading the wrong way.

So I ask you, are you willing to submit to new ideas, criticism, and admit when you’re wrong? Or do you get in the way of making yourself better?

My blog  just turned 40.

Like most that experience age 40, my blog is questioning itself in a weird mesh of reflection and bewilderment.

“How has there already been 40 posts?”

“Ugh, those paragraphs aren’t as tight as they used to be.” 

“Have I, after 40 posts, been successful?”

The interesting thing is that I feel a forty-year old would come to terms with the above comments much like I am coming to terms with this blog. A lot has happened over the time period of those 40 posts. The writing may not be as ambitious or written with the same intellectual vigor, but it has developed a tone; it now has structure. And yes it has been successful. It may not have won any awards, but it has carried a message, and has been received well by people.

So… am I supposed to buy a Corvette now or something?

Well, my blog is 40, not me, so I think the Corvette will have to wait. But in the meantime I do have some ideas for what I am going to do:

       1.     I am going to write to an audience, an audience that will listen.

When I started this blog it was intended to demonstrate that I was familiar to blogging, and meant to be a device to help me develop my writing skills. But I got tired of writing to some mythical job recruiter, and I decided to focus on writing to people who can identify with me. I will continue to offer this blog as a tool to recent graduates, employment seekers, and emerging communications professionals.

       2.     I am going to tell a story.

As I look back on some of my past writing, I realize that my best posts reveal something to the reader, and give them something that they can feel. A persuasive argument has no emotion, but an inspiring story can be quite persuasive and can hit people in the gut, where it really counts.

       3.     I am going to continue to strive for excellence.

While I feel I have made great strides in my writing, I want more. I want to engage a readership. I want to see a conversation take place via comments sparked by a thought-provoking post. I want people to tweet about my posts; to ignite conversations of their own. I want my pursuit of betterment to make other people better.

I do realize that those are some pretty lofty goals. But how else do you achieve greatness other than by setting the bar high?

I am fortunate though, to know what I need to do to achieve those goals: Listen. I will listen to criticism, I will listen to advice, and I will listen to my audience to make my online presence, worth something to others.

There is one more thing that I will try do start doing more frequently; leave with a call-to-action. So I say this to you: write. Write with everything you got. Put your head down on a piece of paper; punch out your thoughts on a keyboard. And if you are already doing that, great. Show me what you got. Share your writing with me, as I share with you. So that by the time you and I turn 40, our achievements will allow us to afford that Corvette.

If you are in the professional communications field and are worth your salt, you “know your audience.”

You have probably heard that phrase so much that you instinctively nod at the words like one of Pavlov’s dogs. But it isn’t the phrase you need to be worrying about, the thing you should concern yourself with is what that means.

Can you define what it is to know your audience?

What does that mean? Does that mean you know what kind of coffee they drink in the morning? Does that mean you know if they prefer flip-flops or running shoes?

Knowing your audience is a phenomena that extends beyond their superficial preferences. It is something that sticks to their soul. It is not knowing that they like a bold blend of coffee with two french vanilla creamers, it is knowing that they like that because that is what their grandmother drank when she visited every Thursday morning.

Being able to hit the audience on a sensory level creates a bond between you and them. It provides your audience with that feeling “it just feels right.” Whether you are trying to persuade in a political argument or just trying to get hired, it is understanding that feeling your audience gets that is key. You need to know why that person is not in favor of gun control, or why that employer is excited when you said you prefer Linux over Microsoft.

Next time you are communicating with an audience of any kind, remember that you need to be able to do more than just picture that person in your head; their quirks and idiosyncracies. You need to know why they have those ins-and-outs so that you can connect on a completely different level.

I know you aren’t listening.

It’s not that you don’t want to, it is that you are physically incapable of doing so. If you aren’t on Twitter then obviously you are out of the question. But what if you are on Twitter? What if you claim to be engaged? Whether it be your personal Twitter handle, or the one you manage for work, I can tell you why you aren’t listening.

I consider myself actively engaged within my subset of the Twitter community. I can validate that claim because I tweet, re-tweet, and engage with new people whenever I get the chance.

I guess you do that too, don’t you.

But do you use Twitter lists? How many hashtags do you follow? Have you set up a Seesmic, Hootsuite, or TweetDeck account?

The reason I know you don’t listen is because there is just too much information flowing your way to comprehend it all. I follow over 800 people on Twitter, however I only actively engage with about half of that number. That group of 400 or so are categorized into about 15 different lists, and about 6 different hashtags. I do the same with my Google Reader account; sorting my 70+ RSS feeds into about 8 different folders.

I am not saying that I listen the I possibly can, nor am saying that there is a “best” way to do so. But I want to highlight the capabilities technology offers us that enable us to listen and listen more efficiently. Because the bottom line is that there are some brilliant people out there talking about brilliant ideas, and I would hate to be the one to miss out because I didn’t hear about it.

Did you just graduate? …five months ago? or fifteen months ago?

So I am guessing you want a job. Well there are some things I would like you to consider, I am going to start with a cake analogy:

So we all know that cake is delicious. There are all kinds of cake, and cake can make just about any occasion better. And who makes the best cake? (Just answer that one in your head, it could be your Grandma, Aunt, Neighbor, or Person A.)

Well guess what, jobs are like cake, except YOU are the cook. Which means it is a little tougher to acquire said cake. And if you are anything like me, you have never really made a cake from scratch, so that can make it even tougher to enjoy cake.

But I do know that there are steps to making a cake, and I do know that there are people out there who have made some damn good cakes. I know there are some essential ingredients, and I also know that cake doesn’t just appear (although that would be nice).

Well guess what, all of the above applies to getting a job as well. There are people who know how to get a good job. There are certain ingredients that are necessary to getting any job. And jobs definitely do not just appear out of nowhere.

The best cakes are made from cooks that put meticulous amounts of effort into making their cake. They obsess over every step of the process, they always look for new recipes, and they always take a step back and sample their own work; they are their own toughest critics.

So I say to you, you can have your cake and eat it to. But you need to do your research; talk to people who have done it before. You need to know the ingredients; what people are looking for and how you fulfill those needs. You need to obsess over every step of the process, and understand that it is a process. And know that you have to be your toughest critic; always look for new strategies, and always look for what might be able to make your recipe better.

Baking a cake is hard, but finally landing that job you wanted tastes amazing.

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