What’s Your Story? How to Build Your Online Professional Brand

Employers are spending more time than ever before doing web searches to vet prospective hires and even existing employees and, for the most part, they are finding that everyone has more or less the same online presence. If there was only some way to distinguish yourself from the online throng.

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If someone types your name into a search engine, what are they going to find? 

For most of us, there would be a social medial footprint: Twitter, Facebook and maybe Instagram. What else?

For many working people, there would likely be a LinkedIn page with a brief introduction, a work history and other CV-like details. And what else? 

If you’re like most people, that’s just about it. Think about it: employers are spending more time than ever before doing web searches to vet prospective hires and even existing employees and, for the most part, they are finding that everyone has more or less the same online presence. If there was only some way to distinguish yourself from the online throng.

Fortunately, there is.

A personal website has long been mentioned by search and recruitment professionals as a valuable tool job-seeking individuals can use to create an online profile that truly rises above others.

Many people who are already active on social media may not see the advantages of creating their own personalised website, at least not at first. But the more you think about it, the more you realise that a personal website has advantages that social media just doesn’t provide.

Although Twitter and Facebook are important sources of information, when employers perform an online search, they are looking less for reasons to hire you than they are for reasons not to hire you. 

A survey by Career Builder shows that 70 percent of employers search social networks as part of the candidate vetting process, and that 57 percent found content that made them reject an applicant. The numbers reveal that while social media may not necessarily help you land you that job, it certainly can cost you the shot at a job.

The next obvious question is – how can I create a website that offers information that compels employers to offer me an interview and, possibly, a job? This is where the personal website comes becomes incredibly important.

Most search and recruitment professionals will tell you that candidates who have taken the time to build a “personal narrative” are more likely to get offered an interview. A personal narrative differs from a CV or LinkedIn profile in that it details your personal journey through the world. It’s not just where you’ve worked, it’s information about why you took certain jobs, and how you performed in those roles.

You want to cover all of the important bases: work experience; education and skills development; technical acumen; leadership experience. But most importantly, it’s a narrative, which means it’s you telling your story. So, rather than just detailing where you worked most of your life, you need to describe exactly what you did, regale people with stories about your greatest work successes, and describe all the things you learned along the way that might not show up on a CV.

These are all the valuable details that can show up on a personal website. Employers are already hip to the additional value that can come from a personal branded webpage: a 2020 survey revealed that 80 percent of employers interviewed consider a personal website an essential part of a job candidate assessment.

How and where can you build this difference-making website? Fortunately, these days there are no shortage of web hosting services – GoDaddy, Squarespace, Wix – that can help you create a compelling online site.

The basic rules of engagement for your personal website should mirror the best practices for your social network: be careful about posting controversial or offensive content; don’t let humour eclipse common sense and good taste; and make sure that you populate your site with enough relevant content that it doesn’t make you look like a sketchy shell company in some offshore tax haven.

It’s hard to put too much content into your personal website, but too little content may make you look less like a player and more like a poser. Your website must be visually compelling, up to date and professional presented. Otherwise, it could be sending the wrong signals to prospective employers.

Your online presence can make or break a job search. But a little hard work, and a personalised URL, may provide you with an advantage that helps you get to the top of the online pack.

Download our report, Build Your Online Brand: Why a Powerful, Professional Digital Presence Will Keep You Front and Center, for insights to help advance your career.

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