Why You Need A Website

04/08/2009

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A primer on why I have a website

In the spring of 2006 while still a student in the FSU College of Information‘s Information Technology program, my class was tasked with creating what they called an Interactive Resume (IR). An IR is essentially a website that showcases a student’s skills and experiences. It was also my first exposure to something that would make me fabulously wealthy web design. A gifted communicator and opportunist to boot, I immediately “got it” and set out to build my first real website.

My first one wasn’t too exciting, but it got the job done (smile). I build it using a free template from solucija.com. My site has seen quite a number of revisions since then, and here are a few things I’ve learned since then that might be of interest to you.

You need to be able to write (and talk) about yourself

Something I got into the habit of doing relatively early in my college career was being able to talk (and write) confidently about myself. I attribute this largely to training garnered through summer internships through the INROADS organization. Being able to speak and write about your strengths is critical, and it’s not something that many people aren’t comfortable doing.

Creating the copy for your website puts you in the awkward position of thinking about yourself from a different perspective. Many people are naturally inclined to downplay their strengths and abilities, but you must learn to objectively assess your strengths while becoming comfortable with distilling what makes you unique into a paragraph or sound bite. If you can’t do this on paper or on a website, how are you supposed to do it when you’re interviewing for a job, giving an elevator pitch to a potential client, or convincing a venture capitalist to invest $100M in your business?

You need to distinguish yourself from the crowd

Recruiters who view upwards of 50 – 100 resumes per week have seen it all. 4.0 GPAs, Rhodes Scholars, MIT graduates, and college dropouts. They have seen fancy formatting, questionable email addresses, half-hearted cover letters, and desperate applicants. Feeling inadequate yet? You shouldn’t be.

Mediocrity and underperformance don’t discriminate; focus on effectively communicating your strengths as they relate to the position you’re seeking. This is your chance to shed light on your strengths in the most favorable way possible.

A resume alone is not enough

What makes you so special? If you’re relying solely on a resume, that’s the question you have to answer. On paper. In about 10 seconds. That’s quite a task. All of your elaborate formatting, revising, quadruple-checking, and research will be dismissively tossed aside in the blink of an eye if you fail to connect with the person evaluating your resume.

I take issue with how much emphasis is placed on the resume and cover letter during recruiting and employment consideration. How on earth is a sheet of paper supposed to represent my accomplishments? That is truly a crap shoot. The beauty of having www.[yourname].com is that it piques interest. If at the top of your resume I see your name, address, email, and website, which do you think is going to be of interest to me? That’s right – your website.

You can play by your own rules

By the time I was ready to graduate and look for a job, I had forgotten enough activities and accomplishments to fill an extra page on my resume. This isn’t to say that I did so much; it’s simply to illustrate one of the problems with single-page resumes: you almost always have to exclude things!

Having a website allows you to lay out things as you’d like. You have a canvas that’s limited only by your imagination, and you can do with it what you please. You’re a graphic designer? Let’s see what you’ve got. Financial services professional? I’d like to see some spreadsheets. History major? I’d like to learn something.

In 2009, you are who Google says you are

If I want to know something about you, the first thing I’m going to do is Google you. I’m specifically going to look for whether or not you have a website. If you do, it should be near the top of the search results or at least on the front page. You’re a professional? Prove it. Subject-matter expert? I’ll be the judge of that, thanks. You’re on a sexual offender’s registry? There are compromising pictures on MySpace of you in some amazingly acrobatic acts of drunken debauchery?

This, my friend, is a problem.

Having your own website give you a measure of control regarding what’s being said about you online. I preach this to my clients time and time again – you must manage your online identity just as you do your identity in real life.

Branding, branding, branding

Those of you who know me personally were probably waiting for me to mention this one – and with good reason. The number one reason (in my mind, at least) to have your own website is so you can brand and position yourself as the person you want to be perceived as. This isn’t to say that you should represent yourself in a way that belies the way you are in real life; not at all.

One of my specialties is branding young professionals for success. I’ll do a post specifically on how best to take advantage of the web as you make approximations towards your goal, but the premise is simple: make yourself look the part. You’re not just a student; you’re a scholar. Your not just an aspiring writer; you’re an amateur blogger. You’re not a burned-out thirty-something desperately looking for a new job; you’re an experienced professional in your field looking to transition your skills into different avenues.

Paint the picture in the colors you desire, and everyone will revel in its beauty.

For the skeptics

Here are some common responses:

  • But I don’t have any pictures or controversial things online – why do I need a site?
  • I’m not a blogger and I have no interest in becoming one. Why bother?
  • I wouldn’t know the first place to start even if I did want one.
  • I’m an IT Professional and my skills speak for themselves.

My response? I don’t have one. Not really.

See, my website has paid for itself many, many, times over since I created my first one. Client referalls, compliments from strangers, people trying to get in touch with me who had misplaced my number, and a helping hand (smile) when it came to employment consideration.

So what now?

Next week, I’ll do a follow-up post on free and cheap resources you can use to get your website started. Be sure to check back or subscribe using the links below so you don’t miss it. What are your questions? Leave them in the comments!