It’s well known that hiring managers review the online profiles of candidates in addition to studying their application materials. Even the best-written resume and cover letter do not provide the amount of information on a jobseeker that recruiters want to know. If you are in a career search, you need to know the best way to present yourself online. Many think setting up a LinkedIn profile is enough – and it’s certainly easy to do. But personal websites (also known as online portfolios) can be a powerful way of presenting a more complete picture of your experience and your personality, on your terms. Also, they can work for professionals in just about any field. Before you consider launching a personal website, however, study these five pointers on how to do it right.
“Think of a personal website as a resume on steroids,” says Teena Rose, President and CEO of Resume to Referral, a resume writing firm in Springfield, Ohio. “A personal website can serve a multitude of purposes -- one being a visual representation that chronicles key client projects,” she adds.
You can include the same stock details that are on your resume, such as education, technical skills and work history, but an online portfolio adds an layer that lets you introduce visual representations of what you have or can do. For example, a marketing executive could include photographs from an event that involved an employer, or client product or program. A software engineer might feature an infographic on his website that gives a visual spin on his coding and app development skills. An audio production engineer could add links to media channels so individuals could watch or listen to programs she has produced.
Rose believes that all professionals can benefit from a personal website, although they are particularly useful for photographers, game developers, artists and graphic designers. “It’s important for personal websites to focus heavily on whatever the candidate has done in their career that’s transferrable and relevant to their current job target,” she says.
Certain career fields that aren’t “sexy” and therefore don’t have the same opportunities for portfolio details as more creative career fields. This doesn’t mean a mechanical engineer or a supply chain manager couldn’t benefit from a personal website, though. Professionals in less or non-creative career fields can leverage a personal website differently, yet just as effectively.
Here’s how. Assume you are a supply chain manager looking for your next job. Rose would advise you to add flesh to your online portfolio by detailing various cost-saving initiatives taken during your most recent position. Detail those major change management strategies you’ve implemented with specific employers. This way, potential new employers can get an idea of what you can accomplish in their companies, based on what you’ve done previously.
Similarly, if you’re a mechanical engineer, you could highlight one or two high-profile projects you’ve worked on that might be of interest to a potential employer. Depending upon your specialty, you could offer a deep-dive into important project specs — or if you’re targeting a management role, you could provide some broad-stroke details on your experience with project budgets and timelines.
Even entry-level jobseekers without much paid experience can find ways to create a personal website that works for them. For example, if you’re a new graduate targeting a photography career, consider pulling in one or two pro bono projects to provide the basis for an online portfolio. You could show off professional photos you took at a friend’s wedding. This goes a long way to giving potential new clients or employers a taste of what you have to offer.
You may well ask why you need a personal website if you can show qualifications and portfolio items on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. “Although a very robust tool for building an online presence, LinkedIn does have limitations,” declares Rose. “Its users only have so much control over what their profile includes, and how that information is presented.” Facebook and Twitter also have these creative limitations. Since you design a website yourself, you can organize the material the way you want it. For instance, a page can offer a mix of portfolio items and quotations from clients or former bosses for an extra punch. Or you can provide photos of yourself in different settings – meeting with clients, offering a presentation, participating in a volunteer project – to make yourself seem more “real” to a recruiter.
Rose cautions that jobseekers should take certain precautious when building and promoting a personal website. “Be sure to comply with all non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements you have with current and former employers. Also, seek permission from employers when promoting or outlining on your personal website the details of privileged company happenings that you support or manage,” the career coach advises.
In addition to setting up an online portfolio, some jobseekers launch a blog in order to establish their authority on a topic and attract more attention from hiring managers. In a survey conducted by Branded.me, 61 percent of respondents said that they received a job offer because of their blogs. Rose notes that blogs offer a continuous flow of new content and therefore can raise your website and blog in search results, which in turn attracts new employment opportunities and industry alliances. However, she stresses that it’s only worth blogging if you do it correctly: “You have to dedicate yourself to content writing and editing, source verification, and so on. It can be time consuming!” Blogging is not for everyone as it “may prove too difficult for individuals for whom writing doesn’t come naturally,” she adds.
It goes without saying that establishing a personal website takes work. It also costs money if you want a personalized domain name. Depending on how on how competitive the market is for jobseekers in your field and location, however, it may be just the thing you need to set you apart from the crowd and get you noticed.
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