Showcase Your Personality

A personal website is an ideal platform to showcase your personality while trying to get a job. If you have been listening to me for the past four and a half years, you know I think there are many other benefits of a personal website. But here I want to focus on the personality aspect.

personality
personality

Why should you care about how your personality is portrayed to prospective employers? The reason is: many employers are considering it as part of an initial screening process.

  • They might have you take a ‘personality test’. According to a Wall Street Journal article, “eight of the top 10 U.S. private employers now administer pre-hire tests in their job applications for some positions”.[i]
  • They might scour your social media profiles. According to a Career Builder survey: “39% of employers dig into candidates on social sites, while 43% said they had found something that made them deep-six a candidate”.[ii]
  • They will assess a personal website. In a survey I conducted, 77% of the HR respondents acknowledged they would review one in an employment evaluation.[iii]

Since a ‘personality check’ happens so early in an employment evaluation, if you do not pass, you do not get a chance to make a face to face impression in an interview. Does a personality test effectively tell your story? Do social media profiles capture your essence?

Taking a personality test. It varies and depends on the test. Employers will argue they have stats indicating how a candidate answers particular questions predicts future performance; though according to one study: “only 14% of organizations have data to prove the positive business impact of their assessment”.[iv] I think the testing is skewed because of the tremendous amount of pressure a candidate faces trying to impress to get a job. Have you ever taken a personality test for a job?

I took one while trying to land my first job after college. I was applying for a financial advisor position. The test was a minefield of questions on ethics. With many of the questions, I remember thinking over and over again: “how do they want me to answer this question?” I desperately needed a job!

LinkedIn presence (profile, content, and updates). There are a lot of great features of a LinkedIn profile for an employment evaluation. Its strengths include: being indexed by a powerful search algorithm and the representation of connections and endorsements. Do you think it represents your personality, however? Not me. It is too formal and has a uniform style – other than your profile background image. Everyone has the same layout – a boxy table. When I write content for LinkedIn, I write in a ‘professional voice’ (not a ‘creative voice’). Though it is possible to add various forms of media, it does not have the same depth of a personal website. Finally, if you are a student or an early career professional, your LinkedIn profile does not have much content.

Facebook presence (profile, content, and updates). Of course, a Facebook presence is much more a personal reflection than a LinkedIn presence. As an assessment of your personality, it shows everything from all stages in your life. But your personality develops in stages. Moreover, elements of your social life (like ‘referenced drug and alcohol use’) are not strong indicators for how you would perform at a job. It is also much more difficult to control a Facebook presence because you have so many audiences.

A personal website gives you a chance to create a deep persona; it puts everything together, so you have control over the impression. You have a home page. This is where you choose an effective style and layout and carefully crafted content to make a powerful fifteen second first impression – a viewer’s gut reaction. You have a blog. Anyone who reads your posts gets a glimpse into how you think and what you have to say. (On my blog, I share stuff about me such as my love of fishing and Grateful Dead improv.) You have video. Create a powerful message across many dimensions – a script, setting, action, etc. Finally, with a personal website, you have full control of all the content, down to the pixel.

You may have to take a personality test and your social media may be reviewed. Regardless, an employer will review your personal website where you own the impression.

To reiterate, there are many other benefits in having a personal website. Here is a presentation of the main benefits of a personal website:

[i] http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-personality-test-could-stand-in-the-way-of-your-next-job-1429065001

[ii] http://www.wsj.com/articles/should-companies-monitor-their-employees-social-media-1399648685

[iii] https://blog.theprofessionalwebsite.com/2012/11/22/survey-employers-seeking-employees-professional-website

[iv] https://hbr.org/2014/08/the-problem-with-using-personality-tests-for-hiring

Original Image © Depositphoto/ mybaitshop #45892597

What’s the Rush in Putting up a Personal Website?

One clear signal I get from students and professionals is that they want to build a personal website fast. So companies offering these services advertise how quickly you can have it up and running. Let’s say the average time is to have one up in five minutes. My issue with convenience and haste is the cost it might have on your reputation. A personal website significantly impacts your online personal brand (aura and identity in particular), so I advise getting everything right before publishing it. However, I acknowledge most professionals do not want to waste any time.

According to a survey I conducted in early 2014, seventy-one percent of Millennials are ‘not sure a personal website is worth the expense’ (time and money).[i] Considering there are many free services out there, time becomes the big factor.

My business education is tugging at me saying you must meet your customer needs, and my IT designer experience- Steve Jobs inspired – is tugging at me saying you can tell the customer what they need. Believe me, I know you must have a solid relationship with your customer base and listen to their requests.

Developing Strategies
Developing Strategies

Nevertheless, I think the best way to think about building a personal website is to consider when taking shortcuts are appropriate. Here are some of the ways companies speed up the process in starting a personal website:

Importing information from a LinkedIn profile. This feature is necessary because it not only saves time, but also reduces errors. As you retype information in a website interface, there is a natural tendency for typos.

Use of stock images for style and layout. It is easy to retrieve stock images (where you pay to use an image someone else created without any direct input from you). This is fast and easy. However, using images you or a you-guided photographer creates is more meaningful. Perhaps use stock images to get your website up, but get your own images in the long-run.

Uploading content. A big component of a personal website is getting your content on the server; this includes photo galleries, documents, presentations, videos, etc. It is helpful if the uploading process is quick and painless. A great feature is to directly link to online storage drives such as DropBox, Google Drive, or Microsoft One Drive.

Using AI to generate style and aesthetics for you. One company has developed AI that automatically generates the style and layout of your website for you – no templates. Albeit an interesting concept, this has dangerous implications. Should you rely on AI to tell your story for you? Should you rely on AI to peg your personal brand? Perhaps this is an added convenience customers want, but personally, I would rather decide how to represent myself and not depend on an algorithm. I compare it to a representation in the physical world – dressing up everyday. Do you want a computer telling you what to wear? (Perhaps?!!)

Integrated with social media. Much of your online presence already exists on your social media accounts, so you want widgets that display related content. Bringing in social media feeds quickly adds substance to your personal website.

To conclude, think about a company building its website. Does it want to put something up as fast as it can? Is it not concerned how every graphic and wording is crafted as a portrayal of the company brand? To some extent, a professional should have similar expectations and care with his or her website. A personal website is the cornerstone of an effective online personal brand.

[i] Ryan Frischmann. Online Personal Brand: Skill Set, Aura, and Identity. (July 2014).

Original Image © Depositphoto/  fotoskat #2990674 and  bevangoldswain  #14778925

Reflection on Personal Website Concepts

Often times I think in functional ways, so get tunneled vision on sharing key concepts and forget to include personal reflection. So, in this blog, I thought I would share some of the stories behind the concepts.

The story behind a mainstream personal website service starts around Christmas time in 2010. I pulled my brother’s tag from a hat for our family grab-bag and I had to give him a gift. He has traveled extensively around the world, so I was going to build him a website to share his travel experiences with stories and images. However, he preferred having his own personal website to help promote his work for non-profits. Of course, I tried taking a short-cut by using a platform from an existing web service. I could not find one – there was not a web service with the functionality we needed. This is when my brother and I knew we had an opportunity to be innovative by designing a personal website service.

We learned two important characteristics about a personal website from this experience. First, it establishes an online identity. A person wants it to appear first in a Google search about them, therefore it must deliver a deep, meaningful impression. Second, there are both personal and professional themes on the website. Part of an effective personal website is presenting and validating skills, but another equally important part is communicating an aura – something that requires media, style, and aesthetics.

I took an interest in academics at the start of senior year of my undergraduate education, before then I was more into a social experience. I was in a fraternity and made some great, lifelong friends (would not change that). But my goal was to get a degree, not actual learning. For that year and in my graduate education, I performed well academically. It was simply a switch- balance social and academic experiences. All it takes is accountability, dedication, and tricking yourself that learning is enjoyable. I want to help others to turn on the switch earlier in their lives.

In creating the Skills-Based Approach methodology, one of my primary objectives is to get college students and young professionals on the right career track. I feel so many young adults lack maturity, so do not go through the necessary self-reflection to find career fulfillment. Personally, I think it is a generational thing. In their two books Academically Adrift and Aspiring Adults Adrift, the authors provide a compelling case that this problem of career preparedness affects a majority. In A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career, I suggest four career planning strategies: craftsman’s mindset, self-awareness, product to market, and passion theory. My goal is to get the average person thinking about higher education and a career much earlier, take responsibility for their own learning, and grow personally and professionally – be happy.

I root for the underdog. A person who has fresh insights should be successful, regardless of their status and how many connections they have, in my opinion. Things I fear about personal branding approaches laden in self-promotion is that it becomes a ‘popularity contest’ in social media and credentialism takes over. This is why I am an advocate of using the power of demonstration. Get your ideas and content out there.

With online personal branding, one of my goals is to remove the stigma of self-promotion. I acknowledge varying doses of self-promotion are required in personal branding because professionals compete against each other, whether it be for a position, clients, or eyeballs on content. I cringe when forced to self-promote. I am more or less an introvert who prefers writing and sharing content, then sitting back and hoping it gets read based on the content itself (and not what I say about myself). So I came up with a model of online personal branding where self-promotion is not a focal point. Instead I suggest assessing your skill set, aura, and identity and then projecting it onto a network. No one likes too much self-promotion on a personal level, why do we accept so much of it on a professional level.

Survey: Millennials and Personal Branding

In late 2013 to early 2014, I conducted a survey to understand what Millennials think about online personal branding. Millennials are digital natives and know more about social media, apps, and technology than any other generation. I targeted this segment of the population because it is the first generation that must invest in an online personal brand (at least I think so). In addition, Millennials already have an online presence – more than 80 percent use Facebook – so they will have to make a transition when they become professionals. How are they going to manage all the personal content from their teenage and college years? What about the hundreds of connections they have made? And at some point, they will face maturity.

Most of the respondents feel an online personal brand is ‘somewhat important’ and only 9.60 percent think it is essential. A large number, 26.93 percent, think it is ‘not important’. I am not surprised by having such a large number of respondents say online personal branding is ‘not important’. They probably do not know much about it. I used a broad sample canvasing many professional backgrounds and unfortunately most articles and books about personal branding cater to ‘white collar’ professionals.

Survey Personal Branding
Survey Personal Branding

In the survey, I asked what Millennials thought about having a personal website. The response to the statement ‘I should have a personal website’ was largely split between agreeing and disagreeing. The largest two segments were 32 percent saying ‘Maybe’ and 31 percent saying they ‘Disagree’. Most of the respondents (71 percent) were ‘not sure having a personal website is worth the expense’, while 41 percent thought it was ‘too much self-promotion’. A large chunk of the respondents (65 percent) want a personal website for free and 24 percent would pay $5 to $10 a month. (Millennials are well acquainted to getting their web services and apps for free.)

More to come regarding the survey…

One Thing That Does Everything?

Is it better to have a single device or application that performs many functions well, or multiple devices or applications that do a particular function best? In other words, you can have an IPhone OR a cell phone, digital camera, calculator, MP3 player, and GPS device. I got to contemplating how a similar phenomenon plays out on a personal website and more broadly with your personal branding efforts. Is a personal website enough? How do you decide which social media profiles to participate in? When should content overlap?

Juggling Content
Juggling Content

With a personal website, there are some clear advantages in using already established web services. Here are two examples. YouTube does an exceptional job handling video. It verifies copyright privilege, distinguishes content for a mature audience, and manages a variety of different video file types. In fact, w3schools.com (the best HTML reference) suggests using their video tags in HTML5. (Also worth considering, if you get enough traffic, you get paid for the number of hits to your video.) Google analytics is a powerful tool to understand website traffic. It is a simple, yet robust platform.

The benefits in using specialized applications are twofold: they are the best thing out there and will be continually updated to remain the best thing out there (by incorporating the latest technologies and adding new functionality). As a developer, it is refreshing to not worry about continually updating something that is not the focal point of the service. For example, it is possible to feed a script to Google Maps and rely on Google to provide the best possible mapping interface.

It becomes tricky as you decide what platforms to use and how you choose to use them. No matter how efficient you are collectively, there will be overlaps. Referring to the example above, say a personal website acts like the IPhone – a single platform with your multi-dimensional resume, photo galleries, a blog, etc. This substitutes the need for Instagram or Flickr and WordPress or Tumblr accounts and supplements a LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook profile. There are benefits in having your content and functionality ‘all under one hood’.

  • Content is altogether. It is easier for viewers to find.
  • Content is integrated. This adds dimensions/layers and makes it searchable.
  • Content is managed and administered in one central console.
  • A single service might cost less than multiple services.

The way I use a personal website with my social media profiles is to take advantage of what the social media application does best and wherever possible, link back to my personal website. For LinkedIn, I publish a barebone resume, mission statement, and list of skills. There is a link to my personal website, which I really want a recruiter, colleague, or client to click on when viewing the profile. I also publish my skill set in Facebook and Google+. Why? Because skills are highly searchable, I want to provide the right keywords for effective searches on each of the networks; skill sets are one of your most valuable commodities. Regarding the use of many applications, I prefer having everything in one place, though, see the attractiveness of mobile applications – they are quick and direct (surprisingly, managing applications that perform particular tasks seems to save time). Going forward, mobile applications should  integrate with your personal website.

Personal Branding: Be ‘That Guy’

I am reading books on new-age methods for finding employment, essentially utilizing social media and creating an online presence to build a personal brand. (A personal website should be the centerpiece of it all.) In a difficult job market, some of these methods are useful: show career vision (skill set), add professional connections, draw recruiters and potential employers to you (pull approach), and provide a striking appearance of you (a multi-dimensional, social resume). However, I think many of the experts leave out properly addressing a target audience and therefore, often cater to the elite. Not everyone can have thousands of Twitter followers or hundreds of LinkedIn connections, and many of us do not have Google or Microsoft on our radar as a potential employer.  Yet I think most professionals benefit in building a personal brand.

Be 'That Guy'
Be ‘That Guy’

When I think of effective targeting, I think of a phrase an Italian friend says to me about expanding his business; his slogan is “Gotta Guy”. He is a handyman, so in his context it refers to finding someone who can do a particular job locally; for example, it might refer to a plumber, woodworker, electrician, and so on.  However, I think it works in a much broader context.  You can become “that guy” or “that gal” for just about anything (including many of our service professions): “website guy” or “graphics gal” or “SEO guy” or “computer guy” or “bank gal” or “accountant guy”… And with the internet and social media you can connect to your own ecosystem – clients, associates, and employers. The boundaries of your ecosystem might be defined by where you live, an alumni network, past or present employers, personal connections, and perhaps other societal factors.  In this way, by using specific targeting, you are not taking a “pie in the sky” approach but rather a coordinated approach to developing a personal brand.  For example, in social media, effective targeting might put more value in the quality of connections, rather than the quantity of them.

Introducing a pull approach while you seek employment can be highly efficient and effective. Publish your skill set in LinkedIn and MonsterJobs and give recruiters an opportunity to find you and, once they find you, show them the “best you” on a personal website.

A great brand is only truly powerful when you get it in the hands of the right people.[i]

Another example of the “that guy” approach can be found in regional business networking organizations. Think about the setup of a typical Business Network International (“BNI”) group. Each person is guaranteed a unique identity within the group. For example, there is one accountant, graphic designer, insurance agent, website developer, banker, etc.. The organization meets to share leads, springboard ideas, and build rapport within the community. So with personal branding, you take the “that guy” approach online and utilize social media to build your network. You may or may not be constrained by the community you live in; nevertheless, you should be able to carve out your own niche. To differentiate in a larger network, you may need to add a qualifier based on your strengths or knowledgebase.  Still the idea is to build a personal brand by becoming… “that guy”.


[i] Nelson Wang. The Resume is Dead (Self-published, 2012).

Original Image © Depositphoto/deniscristo #13973710

A Personal Website For Graduating Seniors

There are a few reasons why graduating high school seniors should consider having their own personal website. First, if they are applying to colleges, it can infuse aspects of their personality to a standard college application (by using other forms of media such as a video essay). Second, it is a platform for career development and planning – they are forced to show vision with their career. Third, it “starts the ball rolling” with personal branding – something that takes a long time to develop; they begin making connections and impacting how others perceive them.

Some colleges that have added an optional video essay to their application include Tufts University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, George Mason University, and the College of William and Mary.[1] The idea is to give a chance for applicants to show originality.  Tovia Smith of NPR says:

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then you’ve got to figure a video would be worth way more than your average college essay.[2]

I spoke with ten college admission counselors about their undergraduate application process.  I wanted to understand whether colleges look at video essays and/or personal websites.  Here is what I learned:

  • None of the colleges require them. A college cannot be sure all applicants have the resources to create a video or personal website.
  • Most selective colleges will review them (though consider them as supplemental). You should provide as much content as possible with a college application, so use a video essay to show ingenuity. There are two ways to submit the content as a hyperlink: in the supplemental section of an online application or an email to the college admissions office.
  • Field of study demands a demonstration. If you are applying to art school, you might provide a portfolio of artwork. If you are applying to a highly technical program, you might share a project you worked on. And there are many other examples where the best way to establish credibility is by demonstrating with a sample of work.
  • Some colleges have a heavy load of applications. One admissions counselor said his school receives sixty-five thousand applications so it is difficult to allocate any more time to review an application. Moreover, it is only fair to make “apple to apple” comparisons among applicants.
  • Call the admissions office before filling out an application and ask about their policy for accepting a video essay and/or personal website.

Graduating high school seniors should have a personal website because it forces them to start planning and developing their career. While developing their personal website, they must formulate short-term career objectives.  They identify what skills they need and how they plan to build an expertise with them (as proposed in the planning stage of a skills-based approach).  A personal website starts small (perhaps only a video), and grows incrementally as a professional matures.

Online personal branding is a long-term objective, something professionals develop throughout their career. The earlier they start, the faster their personal brand resembles how they want to be perceived. It takes years to establish an effective personal brand. Here are some key points:

  • Create a personal brand for the future. Students should take the time in college to work on their personal brand, so after graduation, they are prepared for the job market. They should learn personal branding techniques, conduct peer reviews on how others perceive them, and employ trial and error to get the perception right. Having already established a personal brand when graduating college is a huge advantage for job seeking.
  • Manage published content.  I understand most high school seniors want to be social and do not consider the nuances of a professional reputation. It makes sense to have personal content in social media (just nothing unsavory or unlawful). So early in a career, a personal website serves as a primary professional reference (an identity).
  • Create connections. An important part of personal branding is connecting with others. High school seniors are probably already well versed in Facebook but will have to learn to make professional connections in LinkedIn. A personal website becomes a landing page for social media services.
  • Developing a personal website is sophisticated. There are many dimensions to a personal website: style, appearance, demonstration, content, communication, and personality. Building a personal website is time-consuming; the more time you spend on it, the better it becomes.