As the economy continues on it's somewhat flat course, there are a number of data professionals who are out of work, or finding it more difficult to find their next role.
A couple of people I know recently asked me how to give themselves an edge when looking for a new role - and my answer was simple - start a blog. I view it as one type of continuous professional development. The reasons to write about the things that you enjoy are many; here are a few:
You dedicate time to it
If you have a family, or simply a long commute, it can be difficult to find time outside the normal working day to allow you to explore areas of technology that you don't get to play with as part of your day job. I think this is essential to improving - not all learning can be as a result of your job, and often blogging allows me to explore something that interests me.
Don't be over ambitious by trying to write too frequently at first - you can always write more. Take some time to get used to writing. I usually only do one post a month, but that's right for me. I also write occasional articles on other sites, and contribute via forums etc.
You learn something more when you write about it
To fully explain something, you need to think about it. All too often we only get time to scratch the surface of topics at the periphery of our focus, but sitting down and writing something detailed about it can force you to go into more detail about what's going on, and explore how to use it properly.
You build an on-line presence.
Troy Hunt recently wrote an article about the ghost coder, and I think his point is a good one - the best way to get a positive interview experience is to have the battle half-won before you go in. My preferred way to do this is to allow those interviewing you to get to know how you think, and how you approach problems through your writing.
Of course, there are other ways to build an on-line presence - forums, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. - and I use those too - but your blog is the presence that you can control the topic of most closely, so can most steer to your chosen direction.
There are of course some difficulties - choosing a topic, for one. Perhaps set yourself a project, and blog about your progress. Perhaps learn something online, and blog about it - that will tell you if you've learned it properly, and give you an opportunity to cement your new knowledge. You could take part in a T-SQL Tuesday, which was started a few years ago by Adam Machanic to provide a topic for lots of SQL bloggers to take part in, or perhaps pick up a forum or twitter discussion to blog about in more detail. Perhaps you will simply pick something that occurs to you whilst you're going about your day.
Whether you choose to take me up on the blog idea, or contribute to the community another way, it is something I find to be quite rewarding and hope that you do too.