A reader wrote me yesterday and asked the following:
I realize that in order to be a fully competitive job seeker I need to have an online presence and I’ve purchased a domain for what I hope to be “hub & spoke” for digital presence. Outside of that, I would like to have a blog but wrestle with what I’m supposed to write about as I am still trying to figure out what it is I want to do. Also, I feel that an industry specific blog can get boring (for me) to continue posting on a consistent basis. What would you recommend in my case, wait until I have more clarity on a potential career choice….or begin to experiment with posts (still professional) to get it started/get writing samples out there?
I’ve spoken on the value of having a blog before, and my view has shifted a bit since then. I also thought this was a good opportunity to cover the basics on this overall topic of online presence. So delve into it I shall.
The importance of having a blog varies by industry. If you’re a writer, journalist, or in some other field that relies heavily on writing or demonstrated online presence (social media monster), then yes, a blog would be helpful to showcase your skill and be a repository for writing samples and related interests. On IARJ, you’ll see quick posts with links to articles I’ve written elsewhere. Given the nature of my primary topic, I partially use my site to showcase my knowledge and build my credibility. I’d like to do more public speaking and get more writing opportunities, so it makes sense.
However, in most cases, this is not a requirement. If you’re just beginning to build your online presence, you should start first with your LinkedIn page. Make sure that you treat it as your résumé on steroids and that the content matches what you’re submitting to employers. When recruiters or hiring managers search your name, your LinkedIn page is likely to be one of the first things that shows up. And when it comes to online presence, that’s what they will think to check before anything else.
If you’re on Twitter and use your real name, make sure your bio reflects who you are and what you’re about, and think before you tweet. Be yourself, but just know that it’s possible a potential employer may find you and take a look at what you’re discussing and how you’re interacting.
Facebook? Just update your privacy settings. You’re under no obligation to allow access to your profile, but if you want to use it as a marketing tool, the same rules of Twitter apply. Honestly, I don’t know the percentage of employers trying to access candidates Facebook pages, but I’ll just say I haven’t seen a hiring manager put emphasis on it in the eight years I’ve been working. Cool out with crazy pictures and negativity and you should be good. Those are two of the biggest blunders that get candidates bodied.
I would recommend setting up an about.me page. You can check out mine here. The great thing about this site is you can create a profile that encompasses everything about you (hence the name) that you’d like to share, including links to the places you’re active online. It’s quick, simple, and requires minimal maintenance.
Lastly, you should buy your name as a domain name (Which it sounds like the reader did. Kudos and sh*t) and park it so no one else can use it. But if you still feel compelled to set up a site, you can buy a cheap WordPress theme and create a static one with an about page, your résumé, and whatever you think will better position you should an employer come across it when they search your name on google. Maybe a community service page with pictures of you giving back, or a speaker page if you’ve done a lot of paneling and workshopping. That’s a great image to project, and that’s really the goal of all this; to control what people find and tell your most effective story across mediums.
But please, don’t stress yourself out trying to create a blog and write regularly about your desired field in hopes that a potential employer sees it. It could do more harm than good if you’re not a strong writer and you’re prone to overlooking typos, or if you’re inconsistent in how regularly you post, or you respond aggressively to criticism. Blogging is not for the weak of heart.