By now, you’ve mastered the art of the résumé, perfected your LinkedIn profile, and maybe even started your own blog, so clearly you’re on the path to success. But on top of all of those awesome professional tools, should you have a personal website, too?
To Make a Site or Not to Make a Site?
Creating a personal website is becoming increasingly common among college students, especially those in more creative fields like communications, photography, film, music, or art. Collegiettes looking to show off their skills tend to be advocates of creating personal websites.
Sara*, a student at Kenyon College, has a personal website that includes a homepage with a narrative introduction, a PDF of her resume, some writing clips, her LinkedIn page, her Twitter page, and a link to email her directly.
“I purchased the domain for three years for a little under $200,” Sara said. “To be honest, I had no concept of whether or not that was a good price, I just felt I was making an investment in myself.”
Sara said her website has been extremely effective—in fact, she has already been hired because a company viewed her website! “I did not even reach out to them,” she said. “I’m graduating in just over a month and highly recommend having a website to any college senior who feels they can have one.”
Her website was designed by Emily O’Brien, a freelance web developer and graphic designer, who creates and maintains a variety of websites for clients.
“I think people in many industries can benefit from having a personal website,” “It’s a smart way to stand out in the application process—showcasing abilities and narrating your personal story in a visually dynamic, interactive way, and creating an immersive experience that the traditional résumé doesn’t provide,” says O’Brien.
But in which industries can you specifically benefit from creating a personal website? It is a great supplement for artists like designers, musicians, actors, film-makers, and photographers. They’re also beneficial for communications specialists like journalists, publicists, creative writers, novelists, poets, new media strategists, or anything of the sort. If the line of work that you’re looking into includes any kind of portfolio, or allows you any room to show off your personal skills to potential employers, then a personal website is probably the right choice for you.
Where to Start
If the idea of paying $200 for a domain on top of shelling cash out to a web designer makes you cringe, don’t fret! There are plenty of options that are less expensive, and even some that are totally free.
Kristin Doherty from Drake University and senior Aubrey Nagle from Drexel University both created their personal websites for free on Wix.com.
“I found a nice (and free!) way using Wix.com not only to express my resume, clips, and portfolio in an easy and professional way, but by designing my own with a build-your-own-program I was able to show off my personality, too,” said Aubrey. “I think if you are going above and beyond in creating your own online presence, you’re already on the right track.”
Wix is particularly useful for collegiettes who may not have extensive knowledge of HTML or CSS. The website provides you with basic templates so that all you have to do is sign up, then click and drag anything you want onto the page. But don’t worry—it’s still totally customizable, so you can make a unique page of your own (just very easily!).
Wix isn’t the only site you can use, of course. Sarah chose to use a site called Squarespace instead, and she loves it. “It’s not free, but for someone who knows a little about website building, it is an amazing platform,” Sarah said. “So clean and user friendly, and many start-up companies and bloggers use it for business. AND to top it off, it helped me land a summer internship in NYC this past week!”
Briana Morgan, a senior at GCSU, has a blog on Wordpress that she says is essential to her as a writer. “I do freelance jobs, and my blog is an excellent way to showcase my work while getting my name out to potential clients,” Briana said. “It’s definitely important to have a personal website if you’re pursuing a career involving writing or anything artistic.”
Another thing to consider as you make your decision on which website to use to create your own personal website is whether the page you’re creating will be responsive and optimized across all platforms. If your site requires viewers to take any extra steps like pinching, zooming, or clicking too many things, they will become disinterested much more quickly. “[It] detracts from the user experience and general wow factor,” said O’Brien. “That’s really important in my opinion—I use media queries to adjust the site’s layout and content display for a seamless experience.”
What to Include
Once you decide which platform to use, it’s time to actually make your site! Start with the basics. Kristin said, “My website is pretty simple: I have an introduction page, a page with my resume, a slideshow of a sample of my portfolio, and a contact page.”
While you’re probably familiar with what goes on an introduction page and a contact page (and of course, you’ve got your killer resume by now!), figuring out what to include in that portfolio section can seem daunting.
“It’s important to include examples of your work (your skills in action) ranging from writing samples to a gallery of images to audio and video projects,” said O’Brien. For example, if you’re a journalism major, you should include clips of the best pieces that you have published, or if you’re a photographer, you should choose a handful of your most popular images.
And of course, that contact page Kristin mentioned is an imperative aspect of your personal website, since it allows potential employers to easily get in touch with you—but be careful not to get TOO personal. “Don’t share your home mailing address online,” O’Brien cautioned. “An email and phone number should be sufficient.”
Though email and telephone are great avenues for employers to contact you directly, they’re also going to be very interested in your presence in social media, and may wish to reach out to you through another one of your profiles.
“Anyone looking for a job in the communications field should also consider adding links from their website to their social media accounts: LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, et cetera (keeping in mind that potential employers can see what you are posting and have posted in the past!),” O’Brien said.
On that note, if you do choose to include links to your social media pages, be sure to totally clean them out before making them accessible to the public! Of course, beyond making sure that your numerous social profiles are rated G for everyone, you should make sure that your personal website is, as well.
“Especially as I’m searching for jobs and internships, I make sure to keep it clean and professional, because my website is the first thing that comes up in a Google search of my name,” said Kristin.
So maybe un-tag yourself from photos from the social last weekend, and delete all of those tweets from your March Madness drinking games! Oh, and the Instagram photos of your spring break festivities should probably say hasta la vista, too.
While it shouldn’t be inappropriate, your personal website is meant to give employers a better idea (in comparison to your resume and cover letter) of the kind of person you are, and the kind of employer that you might be. “If you’re going to put time and money into having a website made, customize it to suit your needs and personal taste!” O’Brien said.
This means that your site should be uniquely your own, and should show off your style and personality. You can emphasize your individuality through fonts, colors, designs, and your writing style throughout your site as a whole.
“I want to go into entertainment/teen magazine writing, so my portfolio has a professional picture of myself, and a goofy one on the ‘about me’ page, which explains details about my personality,” said Aubrey. “I think in my industry, this really helps. Anyone thinking of creating their own should follow the formalities and informalities of their industry, but expressing yourself is key!”
Trying to balance personal expression with simplicity is the key to making your personal website a successful job-hunting tool. Post enough information that employers can get a better idea of who you are and what you’re all about, but not so much information that your website becomes cluttered. Do your best to summarize and choose the most effective wording for each section, but remain creative so that you can creative a profile that really stands out!
Whether or not you want to invest the time, energy, and money that it takes to create a high-quality personal website is totally up to you and its importance varies by industry, but boosting your online presence definitely can’t hurt! If you choose to create a site using a web developer or any of the platforms mentioned in this article, just be sure to follow the dos and don’ts to maximize the benefits of having a personal website—maybe you’ll even get a job or internship offer out of it!