Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 40 million people in the United States have filed for unemployment benefits. That means a lot of people are on the job search right now. And it’s a particularly hard time to be looking for a job.
Positions are competitive. Networking options are limited. And many people are trying to balance a job search with childcare duties, fears of illness, and the many mental and emotional distractions that come from living in such uncertain times.
Finding a new job is hard in the best of times. But anything you can do right now to stand out and set yourself apart from other candidates is likely to work to your advantage. One tactic worth considering is to make a personal website you can use to represent yourself in the professional world.
Why Make a Personal Website for Your Job Search?
Making a personal website requires a (small) upfront investment in time and money. When you have a lot of competing distractions, you want to know it’s a tactic worth your time. There are a few reasons it’s a move worth considering for those looking for work.
It’s a way to demonstrate initiative and creativity.
When a hiring manager is faced with a stack of applications from attractive candidates, how do you think they start the process of narrowing them down? At least some of them will turn to Google.
If you’ve put together a website that demonstrates your skills and shows some of your creativity, you’re showing them that you have that extra bit of initiative that makes you worth considering.
It helps you raise your personal profile.
In the age of social media, most people now have some kind of profile online.
Creating a website gives you a chance to build more of one—and specifically create one designed at presenting yourself professionally. It gives potential employers one more place to find and learn about you, and you one more way to promote yourself.
It shows you understand branding.
However you may feel about the idea of having a personal brand (it’s OK to feel a little weird about it), it’s a part of life in 2020. The way you look to people online is part of how you’ll be perceived in the professional world.
By creating a website that puts forward a version of yourself that matches the kind of job you want, you’re showing potential employers that you know how personal branding works and how to present yourself in a way that fits their company.
It gives you control over how you present yourself.
On your own website, you control how you talk about yourself. You decide which work samples to include. And you get to choose the keywords, colors, and images that feel the most you.
You can’t control everything about how a hiring manager or potential client will perceive you, but by creating your own website, you can take some control over the narrative.
It’s easier today than it’s ever been.
A few years ago, the idea of building a website just to promote yourself felt out of reach for most people.
But now, it’s possible for just about anybody to pull off. You don’t have to know web design or coding to build a personal website. All you need is access to an intuitive website builder, and enough time to put together a website that represents you in a professional and accurate way. It’s a job you can potentially check off your to-do list within a matter of hours.
How to Make a Personal Website
Now that you’re on board with the why, here are ten steps to help ensure you create a truly useful personal website to aid you in your job search.
1. Create a strategy for your site.
Before you do anything else, take a little time to clarify what you want to accomplish with your website. Figure out the answer to questions like:
- Who’s your target audience? Put another way, what kind of companies would you most like to work with, and who’s likely to be in charge of hiring for the roles you want?
- What type of role do you want? What job titles and position types are you vying for? Knowing that will help you clarify what your website should look like and the information to include.
- How do you want to position yourself? What makes you unique? Which of your skills do you most want to highlight?
- What type of style and tone should your site have? Do you want to keep it formal and professional, or let more of your personality shine through?
- What pages should you include? A personal website can be fairly basic, but you likely want at least a home and about page. You may also want to include a separate page for each of the primary skills you have, and one devoted to your portfolio or work samples.
- Do you want a blog? Creating a blog gives you more of an opportunity to display your ideas and skills, but it means more work. Consider if the extra effort is worth it. If you’re hoping to rank in the search engines for relevant terms eventually, then a blog is important for search engine optimization (SEO). But if you hope your site will be a tool to help you find a good job in the short term, it may not be necessary.
If you could use some help visualizing what you want your site to be, spend some time looking at other websites for inspiration. Google the types of professional titles you’d like to have and see what comes up. Take notes on what you like and don’t like from other personal branding sites, and use that to help shape your own.
2. Find the right domain.
Your domain is your address on the web, it’s what someone types into the browser if they want to head directly to your website. For a personal site, you have a couple of main options for finding a good domain name:
Use your own name.
See if any version of a domain with your name is available. If your name was Jane Doe, you’d start with janedoe.com. If that’s not available, then try other variations and top-level domains like jane-doe.com, janedoe.net, janedoe.me.
Using your own name makes it more likely that your site will show up for anyone looking for you specifically, such as a potential employer that reviewed your application and wants to learn more before deciding whether to set up an interview.
Use relevant keywords.
Brainstorm some of the main keywords someone looking for a professional like you would be inclined to search. If you’re a professional interior designer, you could look for a domain that included terms like professionalinteriordesigner.com. Although something with popular keywords like that is unlikely to be available, so consider ways to get more specific like austininteriordesigner.com or colorfulinteriordesigner.com.
Admittedly, this route is harder since most domains that employ popular keywords will be taken. But it can be valuable from an SEO perspective, since you’ll be found by more people searching for the type of work you do, whether or not they know your name already.
Once you’ve found an available domain name you like, go ahead and register it. You never know when someone else will want it, so laying your claim sooner rather than later is smart.
3. Choose the platform to build your site on.
Now decide how you’ll build your site. For anyone that’s not a skilled web designer, that probably means either choosing a website builder or using WordPress.
WordPress is a popular content management system that many people and businesses build websites on, and for good reason. But it’s a bit more complicated to use than most simple website builders designed for beginners. If you want to get something basic up fast, look for a website builder that promotes being easily accessible for anyone to use.
4. Invest in web hosting.
For any website to go live on the web, it has to have web hosting. Luckily, this step is easy! All you have to do is pick your plan (and a shared hosting plan should be enough for most personal websites), and sign up.
5. Pick your keywords.
If you want a potential employer to find your website—including those who don’t know your name already—then it’s important to start thinking about SEO from day one. Even if you don’t invest in more advanced SEO tactics like link building and content marketing, it’s still worth doing some basic keyword research and making sure your web pages are optimized for the terms you choose.
Think about the words a prospective employer is likely to use for the kind of role you want to do. And use a free SEO tool to find related terms, and figure out which keywords people are searching for the most. Most website builders will include SEO features that make it easy to add your chosen keywords to the most important parts of the page for on-site optimization, such as the title tag and H1.
6. Write your website copy.
What do you want potential employers to know about you? The whole point of building a personal website for your job search is to put the best version of yourself forward to anyone than lands on the page. So choose your words carefully. Emphasize the skills and experience you have, and what makes you special.
It’s harder talking about ourselves than it is others, so if you’re feeling stuck here, talk to some close friends and colleagues about what they appreciate about you. Do you have an amazing work ethic? Do you always get things in on deadline? Do you bring creative, innovative ideas to the table?
Consider asking for testimonials or reviews from people you’ve worked with before. They add social proof to your website, which can be more powerful for a prospective employer than the words you use about yourself.
7. Select your images.
Your website will be more powerful if it includes images. If you don’t already have professional headshots, try to get some taken to add to your web design.
Admittedly, that’s harder to pull off during a pandemic, especially if you have a limited budget to work with. If you can’t hire a professional photographer at this time, see if you can find a good friend or colleague to help you take some photos to use on the site. You can do a social distancing photo shoot, if it’s not someone from your household. Having images of yourself will help to humanize you on the website.
You can round out those images with graphics or stock photos. If your website builder provides a photo library, then finding some to include will be easy:
If not, just make sure you only use images that you have the rights for. You could incur serious penalties if you use someone else’s image without permission.
8. Build your website.
Now you’re ready to create the website. If you’re using a website builder, select the template that comes closest to what you want your website to look like.
Then sub in your own copy and images for the ones in the template. You can use the drag-and-drop functionality to move things around, and add elements to the page using the website builder’s menu.
The details of how all this works will vary depending on the website builder you chose, but you can find instructions on using HostGator’s website builder here.
9. Promote your site.
Once you’ve put in the work to create a personal website that you’re proud of, let people know!
Share it on your social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Email it to colleagues you think would appreciate it. And if you really want to extend its reach, consider investing in paid promotion channels like Google Ads or social advertising.
10. Keep it updated.
You’re not done yet. Make sure you update your personal website with anything new you have to add. If you gain some new experience, whether via a course you took, freelance work, or a volunteer position, add it to your site. Revisit what you’ve written there periodically to consider if you can make it better, or expand on it. Add testimonials as they come in from colleagues you contacted.
And if you started a blog, commit to adding to it on a regular basis with new posts and insights. If you keep it fresh, it will be more useful to anyone that comes across it and increase your chances of making a good first impression.
Start Your Personal Site Today with HostGator
When you’re job hunting, there are a lot of competing tasks you feel pressure to complete. Starting a website to showcase your personal brand takes time, but it’s a fairly simple way to set yourself apart and create something to impress people in your field. And with an easy-to-use website builder, it doesn’t have to cost you much in terms of time or money.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.