No matter what profession you are in, your digital footprint is now part of your identity. In any process of the job hunt, employers recruiters, and colleagues are going to look you up to gauge your quality.

We all know by now to not put anything compromising online. But that’s no longer enough - job seekers must take control of their online footprint to stand out as a candidate. That means more than just having a LinkedIn page, it means treating your online presence as a proper personal brand. How does one do that?

1. Content is king

The first thing you can do to improve your online brand is have a personal website. Regardless of your career, there is value in showing your work online. If you are an aspiring developer or designer, you can put a portfolio of your previous projects. If you’re in a specific vertical, you can blog to establish yourself as a knowledge leader. Even just listing your work experience and ways to get in touch with you can be hugely beneficial. This immediately allows you to take control of your presence and show yourself in the best possible light. In terms of hosting, Wix and Wordpress are the best ways to get started fast. If you are more tech savvy, GitHub Pages is a great way to serve up your own layout and content.

Once you have a page in place, the next step is to consider the three pieces of content that you want people to see first. The first one should be your most impressive work - your crown jewel. If you don’t have anything like that easily available, this is a great chance to create one. Ask yourself: “what’s the first thing I need my audience to know about me?” This is a question you may not have asked of yourself, and can be valuable is discovering your personal brand. Use the other two pieces to demonstrate your competence and skills. This is a good time to ask another crucial question: “does my portfolio match my skills?” If you’re a designer who is great with iconography, but your top portfolio pieces only show illustrative work, it might be time to look at a new side project.


2. Know your audience

With whatever you put on your personal website, always keep in mind who will be reading it. For most people, this will be 40% employers you engage with, 40% your peers, and 20% other people, such as those who search for you. Most personal websites ignore at least one of these audiences. This is evident because they either put sensitive information such as their address, forget to include a personal synopsis, or eschew SEO-friendly practices such as post tags.

If you’re struggling to define your audience, do a quick brain dump of 2 career peers, 4 employers, and 4 friends that you’d like to view your content. That can serve as your de facto audience as you write. To get inspiration for how to write to that audience, it can be helpful to look at other people who you admire.

For any audience, here’s a quick crib sheet of what to include and what not to include:

What information TO include:

  • Name, as you want to use it
  • Email address (or contact form)
  • Links to relevant social media

What information NOT to include:

  • Address
  • Birthday
  • Mother’s Maiden Name
  • Any government-issued number
  • Phone number, unless business
  • Any information you use in a secret question
  • Memes

3. Optimize

There are a wealth of optimization tools available today to improve and automate your personal branding. You can use Google Analytics to monitor your traffic sources and generate reports on your audience, use Hootsuite or Buffer to automate your social media presence and integrate it with your website, and use BrandYourself to manage your SEO.

The idea here is to run your personal brand like a business, but instead of seeking profit, you get to define your own goals. Are you looking for the best possible job opportunities? Thought leadership? A chance to speak with experts in your field? When you define them, you’ll quickly see how the numbers and opportunities in the tools above feed into those goals

In this competitive job landscape, everyone is looking for an edge. Your digital presence could be the advantage that tips you over, or it could be the edge that someone else has over you. You don’t have to be a digital wizard to bring it to life. You just need to know where to start.

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