Your digital footprint becomes a combination of your résumé, calling card and reputation (often via testimonials). When it comes to your personal information surfacing in search results, you have only two options: leave it to chance and hope for the best, or take control of it and own the process.
I hope you picked the second one — because here are some concrete ideas and suggestions to craft your personal brand and portfolio online. These tips will help you regardless of whether you already have a job or are seeking your first. What you do today will impact your career when you graduate, or consider a move or job change.
When should you create your online portfolio in preparation for your dream career?
The best time is as soon as you enter college or decide you’re going to start hunting for a job. The next best time? Today!
We traditionally think about SEO as bringing more traffic to a website, generating leads and making sales, or earning a business more money. But search also plays an important role in recruiting and hiring employees. Job seekers can seize this opportunity to advance their career.
Search engines have never been more important in the recruiting process than they are now. Smart candidates are keenly aware that they can take charge of what headhunters will find about them from an online search.
Recruiters use search engines and social media to research a candidate’s credentials before a job interview.
Will they be able to find your website? That depends on how well you have optimized it to rank well on Google for relevant keywords.
What will they learn about you? Will this information leave them impressed — or will it scare them away? You have some control over the kind of information that shows up.
What will this do for your job prospects? The right online profile will jumpstart your career, boost your success, and land you a job… but the wrong one may hurt your career prospects.
The Need To Differentiate
As a student, you invested effort, time and energy into getting good grades in the hopes that it would help you land your dream job. And grades do matter — they can help ensure that your CV makes it into the right pile, along with other applications from candidates like you.
But you still must differentiate yourself from the competition to win the job. This means being distinctive, showcasing your unique skills and talents, and finding a way to get on the radar of future employers and headhunters. In fact, if you get this right, you might start getting job offers — without even applying for the position!
Are you excited about the potential here? Great. So let’s begin…
Type your name into Google. What do you find?
Do the results make you professional? Do you stand out from the crowd?
When I’m hiring and research a potential candidate, I perform two simple searches: their full name (“Trond Lyngbø”) and their full name plus relevant topic (“Trond Lyngbø SEO”). The latter search query shows me web pages where the person is mentioned together with their area of expertise.
If you’re applying for a job at an SEO firm and there are zero results for “[your name] seo,” then you have a weak online profile. You are definitely not a recognized authority in the field. And even if you actually do have some skill, you give the initial impression that you’re not interested in displaying it.
In a competitive job market, this is not a good thing.
Make Googling yourself a regular routine. Watch your reputation. Be in control of what is displayed. Build your personal brand in a solid, consistent way that will jumpstart your career.
Start Early & Keep Building Your Profile
As soon as you decide what you want to become, start working on your online profile. View it with a long-term perspective, and keep steadily adding to it over time.
What position do you aspire to in 3 to 5 years from now?
In which subject area or topic will you be regarded an expert?
How can you establish authority in that area?
Which books or courses will give you a leg up that ladder?
What can you do today to start on that journey?
You can’t establish a personal brand overnight. It takes time, and it requires hard work. So don’t wait until you finish studying.
Begin Building Your Authority Through Blogging
Get your own domain name. Build a blog. Pick your topic(s). Decide what you want to be known for. Become a trusted authority on that topic.
Standing out from the crowd by being unique is easy when you share impressive information on your area of specialization. This means creating well researched and valuable content.
When starting a blog, I recommend that you take some time to consider your audience. Aside from potential employers, who are you writing for? And how will your blog provide value to this audience in a way that showcases your expertise?
Analyze your audience by topic, market, and competition by doing keyword research and digging deep. Tools like Google Keyword Tool, Google Trends, Keywordtool.io and Buzzsumo can help identify popular content and suggest questions and needs that you can solve.
As you begin to plan out and develop your blog content, ask yourself the following questions:
How will this audience benefit from you?
What are their most pressing problems and burning desires?
What is the reason they landed on your site?
What did they intend to do next? Why?
What will be your role and function in helping them along their journey?
Where can you add value?
What else are they getting of value from other online sources — and how can you do better?
By addressing these questions, your content will become more helpful.
Additionally, SEO tools like MOZ or SEMrush can help optimize your blog and content so that it ranks on specific keywords. These tools can also help you study your competition and discover what works for them.
Strive For Quality
Focus on delivering high quality content. Nothing less than remarkable content is good enough in a world drowning under a deluge of mediocre articles and short-lived news tidbits. When you put time and effort into creating something that’s hard to copy or outdo, it will stand out and get you noticed.
Quantity is not as important as quality. One great article is better than 10 mediocre ones. What you publish is more important than how often you do. Reaching the right readers matters more than how many consume your content.
Stay narrowly focused on your topic. Become very good at one or two things. That’s better than being a “jack of all trades, master of none”!
Use an editorial calendar, and stick to it! Plan and schedule your blog posts. Set due dates and publish dates for each piece of content. You already know popular and relevant keywords about your topic and you’ve researched your audience and competition. Using a content calendar will make you better organized.
Your eventual goal for all this hard work and discipline should be to:
Jumpstart your career with a strong personal brand
Target people who will read your resume and research your background
Leave a strong first impression (because it really matters)
Give a clear and complete picture of your skills, talent and experience
How you communicate and behave online will shape others’ impressions of you. When you make thoughtless remarks or lack empathy in your online interactions, the rudeness and bad behavior can lead a potential recruiter to consider you an unsuitable candidate for a position. Be a leader, not a digital troll!
Who Can Benefit From This System?
We’ve discussed how students and recent graduates entering the workforce for the first time can benefit from this strategic use of SEO to secure their dream job.
But this strategy does not only apply to students. It’s also an opportunity for people who don’t fit into a traditional education system, or have never received a formal education, or have lost their job. It’s a smart and effective way to get back to work again, even when jobs are scarce in a tough economy and brutal job market.
It’s also ideal for people looking for a new job outside their organization. People frequently jump from one job to another in search of promotion opportunities, higher income, or to otherwise take a step forward in their career. If you want a change because you no longer enjoy or thrive in your job, can’t get along with colleagues, or feel trapped, you can follow this approach.
In fact, even entrepreneurs who dream of someday going solo can kick off their plans with this strategy! If you are driven by a strong entrepreneurial spirit, start implementing these tips today. Learn how SEO data, analytics, content marketing and social media can pave a path to get your idea discovered, attract partners, and even secure funding for your venture.
To put the steps in this strategy into a nutshell:
Build your personal brand.
Become a trusted advisor.
Be known as a reliable source of high quality information.
Be consistent. Stick to your topic(s).
Think like a brand, but act as a human.
Network actively, offline and online. Don’t wait until you need to.
None of this is new or groundbreaking. It’s just conventional SEO knowledge, with a twist that tailors it to your career growth and planning.
I hope you found these ideas helpful. If you have any specific questions about implementation or strategy planning, please leave a comment below and we’ll discuss it in greater depth and detail.