What is a professional online identity?

With the ever expanding reach of the internet, it is becoming increasingly important to understand how your identity is managed across various web platforms and also developing your own professional identity – something that can act as the primary node for all professional information about you.

The idea of establishing a professional identity is to provide a single source for all professional information about you, so someone looking for you finds everything they need to know about you in one place. If it is comprehensive and integrated enough, it should make further inquiry about you on other web services less relevant. There are a few important characteristics of an effective professional identity:

  1. A unique address. Your identity must have a unique reference point – your own URL works well – http://www.yourname.com
  2. Comprehensive. The platform should store all possible professional information about you. It  is less valuable if the viewer has to search other places to fill in the gaps.
  3. Integrated.  It needs to be able to perform well in all types of web services such as job search boards, search engines, and social media. There should be tools in place for SEO (search engine optimization) and full indexing of the content. In addition, there should be proper referencing for landing pages in social media.
  4. Accessible. The platform needs to be recognized in the industry, and it is crucial that the URLs perform well in all types of search engines – there is no value if the URLs are not found.
  5. Standardized. Viewers of an online identity should have at least some basic expectations of its structure, so they can quickly find the information they are looking for.
  6. Adaptable. As new technologies are introduced, it is crucial that the universal identity platform can be changed to utilize the new technologies. For example, it needs to have functionality to work with cellphone and tablet applications.
  7. Controllable. You should have control over what content is available to viewers and how it is displayed. When you subscribe to web services, you usually can control your content but it is not always clear how it is shared with third-parties.

A well designed professional website has all of these characteristics:

  • You get your own domain name
  • You can enter your contact information and all relevant professional information.
  • Works well in Google search engines, and has a proper paging interface
  • It usually appears high in Google rankings
  • Based on an expanded resume foundation, it is standardized
  • A data-centric approach should make it highly adaptable to new interfaces
  • You own your professional website and control your content

TheProfessionalWebsite offers a professional website service that promotes the development of a professional identity and has all of the functionality mentioned above.

Page and Tabular Layouts, A Professional Website

For many of the sections of a professional website, there is the option to render the web page in either a tabular or page layout. This is true for all of the “experiences” and “body of work” sections and also the “blog” section. A section rendered as a “tabular” layout will display as a table on a single web page. A section rendered as a “as a page” layout will display as multiple web pages, one for each subsection of the particular section. There are advantages and disadvantages with each type of layout.

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Push Approach, Employment Seeking

The traditional approach for seeking employment is to find a job listing and apply to it by email or filling out an online form. We call this a “push approach”, where you “push” a resume to a potential employer. Within this approach, there are two different strategies: applying to a few positions with unique resumes and cover letters or applying to many positions with a generic resume and cover letter. For example, someone applying for a judge clerkship would take the first strategy and someone applying for a database administrator would take the latter strategy. A professional website has functionality for a “push approach” with both of these strategies.

Most of the content collected for a professional website can be used to generate a standard resume. You can also include sections not commonly shown on a resume – such as a portfolio. You have complete control over which sections appear on your resume and, within the section, what content appears (each line-item has “on” and “off” switches). A professional website also has functionality to build a list of contacts who you are sending your employment applications to. Also, you can track applications you sent and update their statuses.
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Pull Approach, Employment Seeking

Companies are increasingly using web services to find talent for employment opportunities; for example, drawing from my own personal experience, I have recently been contacted by hiring personnel from three companies based on my LinkedIn profile. Having potential employers find you can take some of the onus off of you to search (and apply) through the many job listing directories and perhaps avoid missing out an opportunity just because you did not find the listing. I call this a “pull approach” to employment seeking, where you “pull” potential employers to your professional website – an ideal landing platform. With a professional website, there are many advantages in having a “pull approach” .

“Pulling” a potential employer can be accomplished by using SEO (“search engine optimization”) or getting found in search engines, setting up your professional website to be a landing page in social media, and sending invitations to hiring professionals. Learn more about how to implement a “pull approach” by reading my blog entry How To Implement a Pull Approach.
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What is a Professional Website

In 2010 I started to conceive my interpretation of a professional website and in the intervening years have evolved this interpretation considerably. I have analyzed potential competitor services, web services such as an online resume (or CV ) or a professional profile or simply a personal website. In addition, I am always coming up with new functionality or utility for a professional website. And here is my basic concept of a professional website.

A professional website can be considered a combination of a “multi-dimensional resume” , a “personal website”, and an “online identity”. It can be considered a multi-dimensional resume because it is built with the basic constructs of a resume and has added interactive elements only available with a website interface. It could be considered a personal website because when most individuals decide to build a website, they do so in a professional context; they may visit a personal website service and design the website themselves but do so for professional reasons. Finally, a professional website might be considered an “online identity” because it can act as the central node for an individual across the internet. In other words, it might be what an individual wants to appear as the first search result in a Google search or it might be their primary reference in social media. Another important aspect of an online identity is that a professional website has a unique domain name, usually including a professional’s first and last name.
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Getting Found With Professional Website

Managing an organization’s website versus a personal website require very different marketing strategies, especially with SEO (“search engine optimization”) approaches. Typically an organization wants their website found in all search results when users search on keywords relevant to their business; for example, an online shoe store wants to be found in a Google search result when a user searches for “leather sandals”. However, an individual may or may not want to “get found” in a Google result and if they are found may want to restrict access to content on the website. With a professional website, an individual controls SE0 and access to their website.

Professionals that use their professional website to share a “body of work”, such as publications, galleries, portfolios, would most likely want to “get found” in search engines when users search on keywords – like the subject matter or title of a work. Obviously, “getting found” can promote a piece of work and the professional who created it.

Certain professions that require significant background experience and skill, such as lawyers, professors, and scientists, might want to “get found” in search engines when users search on keywords related to their profession. It would be beneficial for a professional website to appear when a user searches on the keywords: “Rochester corporate lawyer with 10 years experience”, for example. “Getting found” promotes professionals with particular talent that may be difficult to find.

Perhaps you have “something to say” on your professional website through a blog, videos, or social media. It can be difficult to get people to read your blog because there are so many of them; currently there are 181 million blogs worldwide. “Getting found” can promote your professional communications by increasing your audience.

Finally, if you are a professional seeking employment, you may want to “get found” in search engines when potential employer search on keywords related to your skill set. This is a “pull” approach to seeking employment; “pull” potential employers to your professional website. “Getting found” can increase the likelihood of finding employment.
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Badge Concept: Professional Website

Badges: ProfessionalWebsite
What a badge might look like

Professionals often have to verify their proficiency in a technology, language, or skill; we will refer to the presentation and validation of this proficiency as a “badge”. Visually speaking, a badge could be a background image with overlaying content about the proficiency and perhaps a link to a third-party verification.

A professional website currently promotes the presentation functionality of “badges”. The use of skills is already tightly woven into the framework of a professional website, along with particular IT skills, languages, and certifications – much of the content and linkages related to a “badge” are already in place. However, the validation integration has not been developed yet.

The validation integration would be similar to other web service verification applications. For example, the verification process that a website is secure. When you make an online purchase, you will often see a logo that says the webpage is secure (before you send your credit card information) – basically saying a third-party SSL certificate has been installed properly. Typically, this involves placing some JavaScript provided by the third-party verifier onto a website. Alternatively, in a simpler approach, the badge may just have a URL to the third-party verifier. In both implementations, a third-party company actively verifies the proficiency – making it a more reliable, standard verification.
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