The year was 2007. There I was, a bright eyed college sophomore, dreaming of my nearing graduation and what life would be like in the real world a few years from then.
At the time, I was pretty proud of myself. I was completing my degree in Marketing and already had a great job working with Dell as a Marketing Rep.
And I lucked out. My boss wasn’t just a boss, he was a mentor. That particular evening, he had pulled the two other reps and myself together for some sushi and a chat about our futures.
After all, we were excited to be working with such a leader in the industry (at the time) and had naive hopes that our careers were going to launch themselves on auto pilot. That surely we had positioned ourselves for a stellar career much more effectively than our peers working at the Starbucks equivalent of college jobs.
But I soon learned I wasn’t as prepared as I had thought. The economy was starting to tank and Dell wouldn’t likely to be hiring college grads for any Marketing positions in the coming years. And the same could be said of several other companies I had my sights on.
My graduating class of 2009 would have to compete much much harder for the few entry level jobs that were available. But Mike my boss, had some advice for doing just that.
What he shared that night has stuck with me for years to come. If there was one message he helped drill into our adolescent minds that evening, it was to own your brand online.
He mentioned how he checked Google to see what shows up when his name is searched and what he does to help make sure he’s in the top 10 results. He shared how it’s imperative to own your domain name, the most valuable real estate for your personal brand. And then how to set up a simple site to represent your brand.
I’d like to say I went home and bought my domain that night…but I didn’t. I waited six years before I really took his advice to heart. Luckily, the only other Bryce Christiansen’s online at the time were a highschool football player and an Associate Professor of English at SUU, both of which had thankfully not registered their names before me. Had my name been something more common, say John Smith or Amy Jones I’m positive my luck would have been much worse.
Now this is all nice anecdotal evidence for why you should build a personal website but there’s plenty of data to back this as well.
Jacquelyn Smith, the careers writer for Forbes reported earlier on a survey that mentioned, “56% of all hiring managers are more impressed by a candidate’s personal website than any other personal branding tool – however, only 7% of job seekers actually have a personal website.”
That’s an interesting stat, but it means so much more when you consider how much competition is really out there.
The number of applicants per job varies but here’s what a few sites have published.
InterviewSuccessFormula.com found that the average number of applicants for a given job is 118 per position.
For some simple jobs, the competition may be a bit lower.
For instance, Good Humor, for their ice cream making positions, saw an average of 44 applicants.
But that’s still incredibly high.
To put this in perspective, you would have been three times more likely to get into Harvard than to have landed the entry level position at Good Humor. That’s Harvard’s 5% acceptance rate compared to Good Humor’s 2%. Crazy huh?
And if you’re looking for a job in a more competitive market? Astronaut Chris Hadfield shared in his book, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”, that he competed with 5,323 other applicants to get his job.
So it makes you think. How lucky were you to land your current job? And, how would you like to improve those odds drastically?
The answer. Build a personal website.
According to a suvery of 100 executive recruiters, 77% of employers use search engines to learn about candidates. Of those researching candidates online, 35% eliminated a candidate from consideration based on information they uncovered online.
One of the best ways to control what shows up when you’re Googled is to own your name’s domain (yourname.com) and have a personal website tailored to you as a professional.
Without much work or time, you’ll see that site quickly climb up the search pages and claim that coveted first position…knocking those beer keg headstand photos of you back another page.
2. The Age of Experts
Sam Grobart from Bloomberg Businessweek wrote a controversial headline and opinion last year regarding personal websites. “For Most Job Seekers, Personal Websites Are a Waste of Time.”
There he stated…
“I’m not talking about freelancers or plumbers or other individual service providers. Obviously, in those cases, you are your business and you need a site to advertise what you do. But if you’re a salaried, full-time staffer in, say, pharmaceutical sales, what exactly are you going to show on your site? The pills you carried around in your roller bag?”
How short sighted.
I could make a case for almost any career professional on how they could benefit from a personal website.
The pharmaceutical sales rep? Why not blog about how to sell in the medical industry? After all, there are only a quarter million people who sell more than $200 billion in drugs in the US alone. Do you think there could be any advantage in positioning yourself as a thought leader in that industry?
Why not share your resume on your site? Make an about page that tells your story. Why not get creative and show a timeline of your biggest career achievements, sales, or big wins?
Employers are much more attracted to someone that is passionate about their industry, showing thought leadership, and participating in the discussions happening around them than those who are doing the bare minimum.
Say you’re competing for a job. They’ve narrowed it down to two candidates, you and one other guy. The two of you are dead even on your skills, background, culture fit, and education. But one of you has a personal website with a blog full of content related to your industry. Some of those articles have appeared on Business Insider, Forbes, or other sites as well. Who do you think they’ll hire?
3. Telling YOUR Story
After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. – Philip Pullman
Resumes are limiting in how well you can really express the story of your career. Yet stories are how we win jobs.
Think about it. What’s the first question you hear in an interview?
“So, tell me a little about yourself.”
Even after reading your resume, this question still comes up in almost every interview.
Obviously, a resume doesn’t really express your story efficiently enough. But a website…?
The possibilities are endless. You can create a video, like many Youtuber’s have done.
Or if you prefer writing, you can tell an impressive narrative using these five storytelling beats.
4. Your Body of Work
There are many estimates for the number of careers an average employee will go through in a lifetime, but seven seems to be the most widely cited number, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Now imagine how many projects, achievements, and recognitions you’ll accumulate over the course of your 40+ year work life.
For most of us, the work we do comes and goes unnoticed, like a grain of sand on an endless beach.
But what if you could start collecting your projects and show them off to prospective hiring managers, clients, or a stranger thousands of miles away who’s struggled with a similar problem?
I know not all work related projects are up for grabs to share with the general public, but you’ve probably done some things that are mentionable.
Maybe you helped create an infographic for your company’s product launch? Maybe you were a wiz at using web analytics and found trends that helped the company make better decisions? Maybe you created an industry report that helped you raise venture capital?
Anytime you’ve had a breakthrough or generated remarkable results, it’s worth capturing. Maybe you can visually share it on your site as an example of your work. Or you might blog about how you tackled a challenge and landed exceptional results, leaving out any sensitive details or information.
Next time you’re in an interview you’ll be showing, not just telling.
5. Reputation and Recognition
Recognition is hard to demonstrate on a resume. There really isn’t an obvious place to share the awards you’ve received, the places that published your articles, or the recommendations from past managers and coworkers.
But a personal website, on the other hand, makes it simple and easy.
Your reputation doesn’t have to be a secret. You’ve all done amazing things you deserve to be proud of. Why not make it easy for others to know what makes you so valuable?
One of the best reasons to have a personal website is for your own job security.
A website gives you options if anything unexpected were to happen with your job.
Need to freelance as you look for a new job? You’ve already got a website, just add a services page and you’re good to go.
Trying to interview at some of the more competitive companies? Make a customized landing page for each employer you’re targeting, showcasing the work you’ve done that would make you a good fit for their company. Add a QR code to your resume to make it easy for them to find your page. I guarantee you’ll leave an impression.
Whatever path the unexpected hurdles bring your way, having a personal website already in place will make that transition much smoother.
How Do I Make a Website If I’ve Never Done It Before?
Making a beautiful personal website is easier than ever. No need for programming or HTML anymore.
If you can use a word processor and follow basic set up instructions; you’ll have all the skills necessary to create your own personal website.
I recommend using WordPress and following one of the many tutorials provided online.
I find there’s four parts to getting your own personal website started.
1. Find a WordPress Theme for Your Site
I usually start with finding a theme since it gives you a good idea of how your site might look when you are done building it.
2. Buy a Domain and Hosting
If you are new to building a website I recommend buying your domain and hosting from the same place such as GoDaddy.
Most of the popular domain registrars and hosting companies have a simple to follow set up for buying your domain, hosting, and installing WordPress. Just read the prompts and say yes to installing WordPress when it asks. You can also always call the registrar and hosting company and they’ll walk you through the process as well.
3. Install WordPress
After you buy your domain and hosting most of the time you will be prompted to install WordPress. If for any reason you were not, I would recommend calling your hosting company and asking them to help you install it.
4. Install Your Theme and Import Dummy Content
Once WordPress is installed you can login and install the theme you decided on in the first step.
Simply, go to Appearance, Themes and select “Add New.” Then select the zip file you downloaded when you bought your theme.
One last thing I also recommend is to import the “dummy content” that you saw when you previewed the theme. This will help you see how they set up some of the fancier layouts and will make it easy for you to simply substitute your own content in the placeholders they’ve already created.
Usually your theme’s documentation will show you how to do this. Every theme is different but again, if you ever get stuck reach out to support. They are there to help you.
If you’d like a bit more hand holding I’ve written my own eBook on the topic which you can find here.