Tools of the Job Trade: The Personal Website

For many, there was a time — not so very long ago — when there was only one requirement in the job hunt: a simple, one-page resume; written carefully, formatted purposefully, and printed professionally on quality-grade, off-white cardstock.

While many companies still accept and expect resumes, there are myriad of new and arguably better options available. With hundreds (if not thousands) of viable job-seekers applying for every coveted position available these days, we’re all understandably looking for new ways to stand out.

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A personal website is one of those stand-out options. It’s perfect for highlighting your brand: the skills and experience (alongside the unique personality) that makes you, well, you. Personal websites and blogs allow you the opportunity to convey both your skills and experience, as well as your creativity, personality, and relevant industry knowledge in one put-together package.

Yet, it can also be a little intimidating. You might wonder where to start or what to include — and many of us have little to no coding skills to speak of or the large budget required to hire someone who does. But creating your own website doesn’t need to be scary or expensive. Although basic websites have been around longer than most social media networks, they’ve only recently become easier to create, manage, and maintain on a small budget with an IT team of one — you.

Here’s how to make a personal website that stands out from the rest:

1. Consider Your Audience
Unlike a resume, a personal website rarely has one specific recipient (and can’t be easily tailored for everyone who sees it). That being said, it’s important to consider who it is you’re generally trying to reach — and what is you’re trying to communicate about yourself — before you begin building your home on the Web.

In marketing, this is called identifying your target audience. Ask yourself: What do they talk about? What do they read? What questions might they have about you?

Knowing this information will help you determine what you should and should not include on your site. For instance, if you’re looking to appeal to a more creative audience, you might pay closer attention to the visual aesthetic of your site. Or, if you know that your target audience appreciates dynamic case studies, you can post one once a month on your blog.

Everything on your site should be something that your target audience (whether that be a potential employer or a potential client) would be looking to see.

2. Choose Your Digital Home
Where your website lives depends entirely upon how much time (and money) you’d like to put into it. There are options ranging from user-friendly and affordable to advanced and expensive. And the home that you choose for your website is entirely up to you!

Explore the different options available. If you’re interested in extensive personalization, consider WordPress or even simpler options like Squarespace and Weebly. If you’d like something with templates that are built for you and easy-to-use, consider designs on sites like Tumblr.

Even the more robust website platforms (like WordPress) have pre-designed themes that you can purchase for relatively cheap and tweak on your own. Do your research and consider the pros and cons of each, picking a platform that works best for your skill and investment level.

3. Include The Basics
Much like with your resume, you’ll want to include basic information as well as a few unique aspects about yourself. Most websites include an “About the Company” page and your personal website (and personal brand) should be no different. Include details about where you’ve worked, the projects and campaigns you’ve managed, your aspirations, interests, and more.

The great thing about a personal website is that it’s not a resume — you have the ability and the space to be more creative and tell your professional story.

Try not to bullet-point everything, though. The great thing about a personal website is that it’s not a resume — you have the ability and the space to be more creative and tell your professional story. (Plus, if you want, you can link to a PDF of the actual document or to your LinkedIn page). Get creative with your copy, outlining who you are, where you’ve worked, and what you’ve accomplished. Also include blog posts, links to places you’ve been published, portfolio work, and testimonials from past clients, employers, vendors and more, to round out your story.

4. Stay Up-To-Date
It’s important to keep your online information fresh and updated. One smart way to do this is by posting regularly on your site. You might blog about trends in your industry, the results of your latest work project, or your thoughts on a recent news story.

Again, consider your target audience: What information would they like to see from you? What updates would they be interested in reading? What original content might show them that you’re the right person for the job? That’s what you need to write.

Your personal website is the perfect place to easily update your accomplishments and showcase your thought leadership. It allows you to become a go-to resource for readers (and future employers) in your industry.

5. Share The Love Link
While it’s great to have a personal website, it does you little to no good if nobody knows it exists! Include the link to your personal website on your resume, on your social media profiles, on LinkedIn, and in your email signature. Share the link with your family and friends and include it on your business cards. Don’t be shy about promoting yourself — and all of your hard work, too!

Having a personal website not only gives you a favorable home on the Internet (for when the hiring manager inevitably Googles your name), but it also adds a touch of your personality. For the self-starter who loves to learn and share information within their industry, a personal website is the creative option that will help you stand out from the pack.

Last up in this series: how to successfully develop your LinkedIn profile!

Images via Morgan Ashley Photography


Jenna is a writer, editor, and denizen of any bookstore's self-help section. She is the editor of Career Contessa's CC Daily blog, and her writing has been featured on Salon, Thought Catalog, The Everygirl, The Muse, and more. She lives and writes in Pasadena, California.

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  • Kaitlin King March 30, 2015

    So happy to have found this article! Personal websites can seem awkward if you’re not sure what direction to chose, especially when you’re looking to do a career transition, have side projects in addition to a full-time career, and/or feel you don’t have much to show. I appreciate the guidance, Jenna, and I’m very glad to have found you here as well! 🙂

  • Brooke March 11, 2015

    For some reason I hadn’t originally thought to put my blog on my resume, but not that I’ve invested so much time in and have changed it to look more professional, I see the benefits it has. I would recommend being careful about what you write because you don’t want anyone, especially possible employers, to get the wrong idea. However, it can be a great way to show your skills, knowledge, experience, and what you are passionate about. I don’t like being stereotyped because of my job experiences, and my blog is a great way to branch out from that.

    • Jenna Arak March 11, 2015

      Hi Brooke, I completely agree! I’d recommend being careful about *anything* you write online—on your blog, on social media, or otherwise—but it’s absolutely smart to include your blog or website on your resume. What’s the point of having it if not to share it with the audience you’re hoping to reach? 🙂

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