Anyone who's spent time trying to find a job in the past five to 10 years is no stranger to the fact that the job market can be tough. The surge of millennials entering the workforce, many of whom have graduate degrees, has made the employment search even more competitive, and successful job-seekers will need every advantage they can get to put themselves in the best position for getting hired.
You may even have your own "job-seeker's toolkit" - a collection of resources you need to locate and land that dream job. A resume, cover letter and portfolio are all standard by now, but there's another element that your toolkit may be missing: a personal website.
That's right - websites aren't just for graphic designers anymore. Whether you run your own business, work as a freelancer or even are preparing to graduate and enter the workforce for the first time, having a dedicated "home" on the Web where you can park all your relevant achievements and projects - and where prospective employers can find you and your portfolio easily - is a must. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Why a website?
You may be thinking, "do I really need a personal website for the work that I do?" Regardless of what field you work in, the answer is most likely, "yes." This is because searching for and finding the right job is a two-way street. According to Forbes, some 80 percent of available job openings are never publicly listed on job boards. This means that regardless of how savvy a Googler you are, there's a better-than-average chance your dream position will fly right under your radar, simply because it's not on the Web in the first place.
The other implication of this statistic is that much of the recruiting work is done by companies themselves, and this is where having a website available can give you an edge. After all, recruiters can't reach out to you if they don't know you exist. Creating a website that is easy to find and clearly shows off your skills and experience is quickly becoming a must-have.
Clearly define your mission statement
In the age of the Internet, attention spans are at an all-time low, and that goes for recruiters and hiring managers as well. At most, you have a handful of seconds to make an impression, get your point across or show off your portfolio. This means it's important to forego quirky design choices in favor of straightforward messaging and clear navigation. If possible, put all your relevant information, such as experience, mission statement or recent portfolio work on the front page of your site so that prospective employers don't have to go digging for it. The further away from the front page you keep your necessary information, the less likely it is that a recruiter will ever see it.
Choose a professional photo
We get it - a personal site is a place for you to showcase your talents, but also your personality. You may be tempted to do this by using a fun Facebook picture of you from that party the other week, but resist this urge. Employers want to see your personality, true, but they also want candidates who are consummate professionals. This means that your site should feature a professional-looking photo, such as a headshot, and not a picture of you at a house party holding a beer and wearing a lei.
"The days of needing to be a wiz-kid Web designer to have a decent looking site are over."
Spruce it up
You've heard your entire life that first impressions are everything. You wouldn't show up for a job interview in jeans and a T-shirt, so why would you leave your website looking equally plain and unprofessional? Fortunately, the days of needing to be a wiz-kid Web designer to have a decent looking site are over. There are a variety of free content management platforms that come with a huge number of free themes built-in. Sites like WordPress are ideal for professional-looking sites that are easy to set up and free to maintain, so you're out of excuses.
Get a domain
Of course it's worth noting that while sites like WordPress are great for helping you create and maintain a good site, you shouldn't use them right out of the box all of the time. One major issue that arises in this regard is your domain name. Common wisdom states that you need a domain that is easy to remember and that people will automatically associate with you and your brand. Having your site registered to a "yourname.wordpress.com" URL not only makes it more difficult to navigate to your site, but it also looks unprofessional. Fortunately, domains are cheap to register depending on which service you use - usually around $10 for a year. Additionally, popular sites like WordPress or Tumblr are built to accommodate custom domains so you can still use your user-friendly content management system with your custom domain.
This content brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.