Whether you’re a new graduate, or simply someone looking to make a career change, you’re going to have to promote yourself. It’s not enough to send a few resumes in response to job listings anymore. You need to sell...even if you hate selling.
Luckily, selling yourself in the world today does not require Don Draper-esque skills. Most of it takes place online. Or at least until you manage to finagle a face-to-face meeting. So, until that time, you have to know how to work the system in your favour. Where to begin?
Utilize Social Media...the Right Way
Facebook and Twitter can be used to professionally promote yourself online, but be aware that many companies now actively go looking for your social media profiles. Make sure what they find is professional, complimentary, and shows you off in a positive light. There are far too many horror stories of people losing job opportunities (or getting fired from their current position) because of something they said or posted online. Is it fair? Probably not, but it is the reality. No matter how much you think your social media profiles are private, stuff can fall through the cracks. When actively looking for a job, assume that every potential employer is going to Google you, and act accordingly. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read or see something, don’t post it.
Get Visual With It
With so many options out there, you really can be choosy. Depending on your field or desired industry, some online services are better suited for you than others. If you work (or are looking for work) in a visual industry - such as graphic designers, fashion designers, chefs, or interior decorators - consider creating an online portfolio on one (or more) of the visual platforms. A well-curated account on Pinterest, Instagram, or tumblr may be the perfect vehicle for you to showcase your talent. These services are all visually driven, free, easy to set-up, and require very little prior knowledge before getting started.
Professional Portfolio Options
For those of you looking in the world of business (or anything else less visual), you may want to consider creating a personal blog/website. It seems like everyone and their dog has one these days, but they really can be useful during your job search.
The two main players are Blogger and Wordpress, and while both are adequate choices, Wordpress is perhaps the more professional of the two. The learning curve, if you have never posted online before, is actually not bad, and most people can be up and running relatively quickly.
First and foremost, realize that there is both wordpress.com (which provides free blogging platforms) and wordpress.org (which provides the content management software and nothing else). The free wordpress.com service is fine for a hobby blog, but if you want your professional portfolio to really sing, you’re going to have to spend a little bit of money on it, and you’ll definitely want to use wordpress.org.
Why? Well, for starters, you can control your domain name. With a free wordpress.com blog, your URL will be something along the lines of www.[your domain name].wordpress.com. It’s not horrible, but it doesn’t exactly scream professional, either.
When you use wordpress.org, you need to register a domain name, but you’re limited to only your imagination and what is available. There are a number of services that will register a domain name for you for roughly $9/year (although it is possible to find registration sales from time to time). Some good places to check out include:
As a rule of thumb, don’t try and get too creative with the name. Your best bet is simply your name as a dot com address (so mine would be bryanjohnston.com). If that’s not available, try looking at various other extensions, like dot net, dot org, dot ca, and so forth. Some people like to add a little something extra to their name - such as the desired job or industry - but that’s really a personal preference. Using your actually name makes you appear as the professional that you are, and it has the added bonus of making it easier for people to find you online.
In addition to a domain name, your wordpress.org account also requires hosting - someplace to store the webpages and material on the internet. The good news is that this service is cheaper than ever before, and the better news is that many hosting companies provide a free domain name registration as part of the service. Check before registering with another source. Some of the best hosting companies include:
Just Host http://www.justhost.com/ ($2.95/month special offer)
iPage http://www.ipage.com/ipage/index.html (from $7.50/month)
Bluehost http://www.bluehost.com/ ($4.95/month)
While all three are reliable and affordable, Bluehost is perhaps the industry leader and worth considering first.
What’s the Theme?
The last thing that you need is a theme, or what your website will look like and be structured. There are many free choices available from wordpress.org. Do some browsing and select one that appeals to your sensibilities.
Last but not least, you should install a few important plugins. A plugin is a tool or tweak to your wordpress functionality, and there are literally thousands of them. As a general rule, you’ll want to limit them to a relatively low number.
That said, a few of them definitely fall under the essential umbrella:
- Akismet - helps to keep spam from appearing on your website (and it really works!)
- Wordpress SEO by Yoast - helps to optimize your pages to be found by the search engines
- W3 Total Cache - helps to improve user experience and page speed
Outside of those three, there may be others you decide you need or want. Installing and using plugins is very straightforward. Just follow the instructions, and remember to try and keep the number down.
Once your domain name is registered, you have your hosting account, you’ve selected a theme and installed some plugins, you’re ready to start posting. What you include is up to you, but a good professional online portfolio should include the following:
- Your (up-to-date) C.V.
- Your contact details, and a convenient way to contact you via the website (set up a contact form)
- Work Samples, if appropriate (writers, designers, artists, artisan bakers)
- Testimonials, if appropriate (what are people saying about you?)
- A blog in order to generate traffic and a reason for people to come to your website. Provide useful, insightful articles about your industry, and present yourself as an expert
Once you have a few social media accounts under your belt, be sure and connect them to each other, creating your own private little network. And when you share something, share it across that network to reach as many people (and potential employers) as possible.
A Word on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is for professional networking. What Facebook is to adolescents and teenagers, LinkedIn is to the working world. It allows you to connect with people in your industry, join groups related to that industry, follow the movers and shakers...basically to virtually mingle with the people and corporations that matter. If you’re not on LinkedIn yet, get on it.
When creating your profile, remember to keep it professional and succinct. Highlight your experience and skills. Utilize keywords to help people find you.
LinkedIn has a free account, as well as several paid membership options. These include Business, Business Plus, Executive, Recruiter accounts, Sales accounts, and Job Seeker accounts. The last one is obviously of special interest if you’re currently seeking employment, as the number of professionals - across multiple industries - that are finding work, and companies that are posting positions, via LinkedIn continues to rise each year. It’s definitely worth looking at as an investment in yourself (costs between $20.95-$50.95/month, depending on the package).
No matter how you decide to do it, taking the time to properly promote yourself online is not only a good idea, it’s becoming increasingly necessary in the competitive, dog-eat-dog world we call home.
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Photo courtesy of garryknight
Creative Commons License