Here’s a news flash – the economy is a little rough these days. With the unemployment rate creeping up, it’s a time when you need to be clear about what you can bring to a prospective employer or client and, above all, to stand out from the competition. Fortunately, it’s cheaper and easier than ever to make yourself “present with authority.”
One of my new year’s resolutions was to get my online identity sorted out, which means making the most of the available tools and delivering a consistent message. After taking inventory of the various professional sites to which I belong (e.g. LinkedIn, VisualCV), I decided that I needed an aggregator to take charge and deliver my message, my way, in my style. I had registered my own name as a domain many years ago but not done anything with it, and so I decided to use WordPress to tell my professional story.
What Are the Benefits?
If you think about your career as a product that you’re selling, wouldn’t it make perfect sense to have a web site? Of course it does, and you want your personal brand to have the same benefits:
- More and more, clients and employers are performing online searches to learn more about the people with which they are considering to engage. Having a search engine friendly web site makes it more likely they will find you.
- Indexing your experience through the use of keywords makes it easy for people to zero in on the skills and/or expertise in which they’re interested (more about that later).
- Multimedia capabilities (i.e. images, video, presentations, links) make it easier for you to tell your story in a vivid and interesting way.
- You can use specialized links to direct people to specific content areas of your profile.
- While this practice may soon be common place, for the moment at least it will help you to stand out from the crowd.
Laying the Groundwork
The first decision is your domain name. One option is to use Blogger or WordPress (e.g. jondipietro.wordpress.com), which is free. However, for the few dollars a year it costs you are far better off registering your own domain name; preferably your first and last names if available. This article will discuss building your online resume using WordPress on your own hosted site. Once the basic WordPress installation is in place, the first thing you’ll want to do is to find a clean, professional theme and install it. There are a number of plugins that I install on every WordPress site right out of the gate:
- Add to Any Sharing and Subscribing buttons: Makes it easy for visitors to share, save, bookmark, and/or subscribe to your site.
- All in One SEO Pack: Provides a bunch of handy tools to make your site more search engine friendly.
- Contact Form 7: Create customized forms for visitors to send you messages.
- Exclude Pages from Navigation: Allows you to easily build landing pages.
- FeedBurner FeedSmith: Synchs your blog with FeedBurner.
- Google Analytics for WordPress: Installs the Google Analytics script on your site so you can track traffic.
- Google XML Sitemaps: Creates the XML site map files that makes it easier for Google to discover pages on your site.
- Simple Tags: Makes it really easy to manage the tags that you’ll use to mark your areas of expertise.
- SlideShare: Allows you to embed SlideShare presentations.
- Social Links: Display buttons with links to your social networking sites in the sidebar.
- WordPress Database Backup: Ounce of prevention, and all that…
- WP-Mail-SMTP: Reconfigures the wp_mail() function to use SMTP instead of mail().
Turn the Page
Now it’s time to set up the pages. I decided on the following site map:
- About Me
- Work History
- Social Networks
- Contact Me
The tricky thing about this is that, by default, WordPress publishes blog articles to the front page of the site. In order to implement my strategy, it’s important to change that. You can do this on the Reading Settings page by selecting “Home” for your front page and “Experience” as the posts page.
Next, you’ll need to populate the Home, About Me, Work Experience, and Skills pages. The Home page functions as a sort of generic cover letter, while the other pages represent the customary sections of a resume. However, you have the freedom to be a little more creative and verbose in this environment than on a paper resume.
What you don’t see in the site map (or in the menu) is my social networking landing page. Another benefit of having your own web site is the ability to create landing pages from other sites that allow you to customize messages and, again, tell your story. For example, Twitter provides very little space to customize your profile but they do allow you to enter a web site URL that you can point to a customized landing page. This is where the “Exclude Pages from Navigation Menu” plugin comes in handy.
Rubber Meets Road
The power of this approach now takes shape as you create blog posts to describe specific projects, publications, and experiences. The key is carefully selected categories and liberal use of tags for the posts. This will allow employers and/or clients to quickly zero in on the topics in which they are interested. And since you’re making it easy to find the information they’re looking for, you can feel free to include lots of details, making them as interactive as possible. You’ll want to include the Simple Tags tag could widget in the sidebar.
The categories are also important and you can use them to organize your pages and posts at a higher level than the tags. How and where the categories are displayed is somewhat dependent upon your theme. Some themes display them as menu items while others are displayed in the sidebar and is a matter of your personal preference.
Shout It Out Loud
Once your online resume is good to go, you can send out customized links to direct people straight to a particular area of interest. For example, if I’m looking to secure a consulting contract for VB.NET development, I could send the following in an email:
“Please see the VB.NET projects listed on my online resume.”
The “VB.NET” link is yourblogURL.com/tag/vbnet, which will automatically display a list of all pages or posts that were tagged with the VB.NET keyword. You can begin to see how easy it is to send customized links to employers and clients that zoom right in to the areas on which you want them focused.
As I mentioned, I didn’t initially set out to create an online resume but once I started putting the idea together it became clear how compelling and useful this approach can be. But I’m interested to hear about other creative ideas for leveraging this medium, so leave some comments. Oh, and feel free to share a link to your own online resume.