A blog / personals site /portfolio can be a great way to showcase who you are and what you can do. When a job applicant sends me a link to his or her personal blog or website, that is always the first thing I look at. It is a key factor in my decision whether to grant that person an interview. A blog works great for marketing professionals; a portfolio is a must for creative and design professionals; and a gitHub repository with code is important for developers.
We’ll focus on blogs in this article. If you want your blog to speak for you during your job search, it has to be good. Here’s how to make it good:
- Choose a platform that will make it easy for you to publish regularly. I recommend WordPress; it has a bit of a learning curve, but it’s a great platform. Blogger is also nice, and these days Medium has become very popular, especially for the high tech industry.
- Invest in graphics. If you think you’re good with graphic design, you can try to do it yourself, but make sure you show it to at least two critical people who will give you their honest opinion. Otherwise, here are some low-cost options for professional design:
- Go to fiverr.com. Under Graphics & Design, select Web Design & UI. You will see offers from freelancers willing to design your site for as little as five dollars. You can also use the search box to search for “WordPress,” “blog,” and so on.
- When you communicate with people on fiverr.com, you need to be prepared to specify exactly what you want, so have your WordPress site all set (even if it looks ugly) before you approach them.
- Don’t expect the best quality for these prices. If you have a design budget, you can find designers who will do an awesome job for about $80 and up on sites such as elance.com and odesk.com. As with fiverr.com, you are outsourcing, so clear communication is super important. Not all contractors on those sites have strong communication skills (particularly in English), but you can explicitly request a designer with native English skills. It might be worth investing $200 on one of these sites to work with someone whom you can communicate well with.
- You can get beautiful WordPress themes for free and some advanced themes for $35 and up. These will give you a great basic design that you can then play with and tailor to your needs.
- Buy your own domain name and hosting plan. A custom domain looks more professional than a free domain. Check out com/job-resources/ for links to domain registrars and hosting plans.
- Once you have the design of your website in place, fill it with content. Write a few blog posts. Don’t send a link to recruiters or include it in your resume or LinkedIn profile until there are at least ten blog posts.
- The blog has to appear active. It doesn’t look good if the last post is six months old. If this is the case, customize your blog to not display any dates.
- Blog about something you’re passionate about and have a lot to say about. For example, if you’re looking for a job in marketing and want to position yourself as a marketing expert, blogging about marketing is a great option, but it’s not necessary. An employer will judge your site by the quality of the writing, the design, and your brand, rather than by the actual content. It is always easier to present a great brand if you write about something that you’re passionate about, rather than trying to force yourself to write about what you think he should be writing about. What you want the interviewers to feel when they look at your blog or personal website is, “Wow, can she do this for me?”
- Not a must, but sure looks good – try to get comments on your blog and start a lively conversation around your posts. You can get help from your friends to initiate the conversation, as long as it doesn’t look fake.
- Have a great About page. Take as much time as necessary to make it great. A potential employer will definitely look at your website if you provide a link, and you can be sure he or she will go to the About page at some point. In fact, I will personally read a job applicant’s entire About page, no matter how long it is. When used wisely, the About page can give you a great advantage. It gives you a chance to share content that does not fit in a resume or cover letter: personal stuff, images of you volunteering, the names of your favorite books and blogs, and more. The hiring manager is hiring a person, not just a set of skills and qualifications, so the About page is a great opportunity.
- Spend some time on SEO. If your site ranks high on certain keywords, you might get surprising opportunities from traffic arriving through search engines.
Remember: creating a great blog takes time, it’s an investment. But so is sending a lot of resumes. A great blog can definitely take your career/job search one step forward. So get to work on your blog and feel free to put links to your blogs in the comments below!