Before the Internet, kids who wanted to earn money during summer would either set up a lemonade stand, ply a paper route, or offer lawn mowing services. Those who were at least 18 years of age would work at the local fast-food restaurant or grocery store.
After graduating from college, scouring the classifieds for available jobs and handing out resumes door-to-door was the rite of passage for students looking to land their first paycheck.
Today’s generation can do all of that – set up a business, find work, and connect with recruiters – with a personal website.
Getting Personal: Why Businesses Are Focusing On “Who” Not Just “What”
Social media has gotten bigger over the years and will only continue to grow in prominence as more businesses and consumers rely on it for information and as an expansive platform for sharing content.
The popularity of social media is one reason many Human Resources departments use it as a tool for finding and vetting potential employees. According to a study conducted by The Harris Poll, 71% of HR decision-makers include social media checks as part of their applicant screening process.
Why? Because recruiters have long realized that the resume itself is not enough to qualify job applicants.
The resume summarizes the technical and fundamental qualifications of the applicant – the information that says “What” you can do. Its glaring flaw is that the resume doesn’t give the recruiter a clue of the applicant’s personality – “Who” you are.
Without having a reliable basis for determining the behavioral traits of the applicant, the company could end up hiring a talented troublemaker.
6 Reasons Why A Student Should Have A Personal Website
The problem with social media is that it gives us a false sense of security and entitlement.
We think that just because we have our own space on the Internet and share content from behind a computer screen, we can post anything we want and get away with it.
What you don’t know is that the HR Officer from the company you recently applied to is checking out your social media profile and evaluating the types of content you’ve posted.
Because social media accounts are “personal” in nature, the HR Officer will assume that the opinions and ideas you expressed on your page represent who you are as a person.
Of course, you want to be authentic. You have the right to express your opinions and it’s not realistic to expect that everyone will agree with you. That said, HR professionals are people too. They can be put off by some opinions.
How do you balance personal sentiments with professional expectations?
The best solution is to have a personal website.
1. Share Your Story
Once you post content on social media, it’s there forever.
Unfortunately, you had no idea that a few years later, you would be applying to one of the most prestigious companies in the world.
On the Internet, the past and the future often collide. Your actions in the past can catch up with you – especially if HR is skillful with Google searches.
But no one in this world is 100% innocent. Even HR professionals have had their share of misadventures in the past – and the present. They can be forgiving and understanding of your misdeeds or acts of misbehavior if they can have a good perspective of who you are.
Your personal website allows you the opportunity to share your story and control the narrative.
An unflattering photo or a polarizing, incendiary post from the past can easily be offset by warm, endearing, and thoughtful prose about your beginnings, experiences, and ambitions.
Create an impressive About Me page by writing a brief background that includes snippets about your interests, beliefs, and passions. Share your purpose – the “why” that makes you get up every morning to seize the day.
Include a professionally done profile picture and a few snapshots of your private life – ones that best represent your personality.
2. Create a Professional Impression
Having a LinkedIn profile is a smart idea. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, LinkedIn focuses more on the professional side of the community members. People in the HR industry make it a part of their daily routine to scour LinkedIn for talent.
A personal website will not just complement your LinkedIn profile but add more value to it because it gives you a platform to show recruiters and HR professionals what YOU can do.
This is YOUR website. Recruiters and HR professionals who visit your personal website won’t be distracted by the qualifications of other talented students. With a personal website, the focus will just be on you!
Also, having a personal website would improve your brand. Recruiters will view you as someone who’s mature beyond his years. You’ll be perceived as a person who’s invested in his career.
For sure, having a personalized domain email is more impressive than transmitting resumes from Yahoo mail or Gmail.
In your LinkedIn profile, make sure to include a link to your personal website. Do the same thing on your other social media pages.
3. Highlight Your Skills
Are you thinking about pursuing a career as a web developer? How about as a fashion designer? Maybe you’re thinking of a career in finance as a trader, market researcher, or bank officer.
Highlight your relevant skills on your personal website. Give potential employers a preview of what you’re capable of doing in your chosen career.
Include a portfolio page where you can display your finished projects in web design. If you have an eye for style, your portfolio page can show some of your best sketches and the dresses which you designed for your friends.
If you want to impress potential employers with your knowledge of business and finance, share your opinions, thoughts, and ideas on your personal website’s blog page – and post them on social media.
You can also include a “What I Do” web page where you can list down the skills you’ve acquired through formal education or training. Upload photos of your certificates, licenses, citations, and awards.
Did you work as an apprentice for a well-known and reputable company or leader in the industry? Did you attend or participate in the industry’s foremost tradeshow or seminar? Share your experiences and include photos with key resource persons and influencers.
4. Shine the Spotlight on Your Achievements
If you’re fresh out of college, the odds might be stacked against you when you’re looking for your first job. Many companies tend to put a premium on experience because it saves time and money in training and orientation.
However, you can tilt the balance to your favor – slightly – by shining the spotlight on your achievements.
What types of achievements will impress recruiters?
- Honors; being a consistent Dean’s Lister.
- Membership and active participation in the student council.
- Academic/athletic competitions won.
- Citations for socio-civic activities.
- Competitions won in your area of specialization.
- The newspaper write-ups about your accomplishments.
Don’t just post images. Write about these achievements.
What did it take to become an honor student or a consistent Dean’s Lister? How did you win the position in the school’s student council and what were your contributions? Why did you decide to take a more active role in socio-civic organizations?
Sharing your achievements isn’t bragging. It’s the truth. You want recruiters to know that even without the requisite work experience, you’re made of the “right stuff” – an untapped vessel of talent!
5. Generate Income
Recruiters aren’t the only ones who might visit your website.
People who come across your URL in the search results or social media posts might decide to see what you’re all about.
If they’re impressed with what they’ve seen and read on your personal website, they might contact you for a possible job, collaboration, or project.
For example, an entrepreneur might prefer an entry-level web designer because he has a limited budget.
If he comes across your personal website and is impressed by your portfolio of website designs, he might just contact you via email or phone to find out if you’re willing to take on his web design project.
If you have tangible products to sell such as personalized jewelry, scented candles, or baked goods, you can set up a simple online store on your website by installing WooCommerce.
The final way you can generate income from your personal website is through ad placements. Assuming you’ve consistently worked on enhancing your online presence to drive more traffic to your website, some businesses might pay for ad space.
6. Build Your Personal Brand
The question of “How should my personal website look?” can be answered by another question:
“How do I want potential recruiters and clients to perceive me?”
Your website design should factor in elements that best represent who you are. If you’re simple and straightforward, a website that makes use of white spaces with only 1 or 2 other colors to act as contrast is an elegant way of describing your personality.
Having well-organized pages where menus are easily found plus ease of navigation will show the recruiter that you’re someone who is organized, values time, and places importance on effective communication.
Then, of course, your personal website’s contents.
- Write in a manner that’s conversational. How would you interact with your website visitors if you met them in person?
- Avoid using technical jargon and complicated language. Recruiters or prospects won’t be impressed. Instead, they might get infuriated.
- Review your web copy repeatedly for errors in spelling and grammar. Run web copy and content through a spelling/grammar checker such as Grammarly.
In terms of functionality, your personal website must be mobile responsive, accessible by multiple browsers, have impressive download speed, and be fortified by security features, especially Security Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates.
Without SSL certificates, the recruiter might have second thoughts about exploring your personal website because of the “Not Secure” warning or slashed padlock icon that precedes your URL.
A personal website will give you a big advantage over other fresh graduates out to land their first job. Likewise, it will close the gap between you and more experienced job seekers.
Over the last few years, recruiters have shifted their focus toward soft skills or the behavioral/personality traits that clearly define who the applicant is. For sure, businesses are on the lookout for the best talent in the job market but would prefer those who best fit their organizational culture.
Social media is an effective way of evaluating personalities but with a personal website – you control the narrative, the means to explore more possibilities and have the attention of recruiters and prospective clients all to yourself.
In a future article, we’ll discuss the design process for a personal website. But if we got you interested – give us a call or drop us an email and we’ll get you started.
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