Why Every College Student Should Create A Personal Website (And How to Do It)
It’s time to transform your resume into a digital portfolio.
Remember when you applied for your first job, leadership role, or scholarship? Somewhere along the lines you probably had to create a resume. While a resume is a common requirement to apply for opportunities, we live in a technology-driven world. On the surface, our resumes look identical. As a college student and young professional, it becomes essential to continue to create innovative solutions to beat the competition and stand out. Whether your interest aligns with corporations, start-ups, freelancing, or speaking gigs, we are challenged by a competitive market filled with talented individuals.
Similar to anyone looking for new opportunities, I have sent out countless resumes in hopes of receiving a response and eventually an interview. When asking an Executive Recruiter and Managing Partner at nextOPP Search, Rebecca Oppenheim, about the applicant screening process, she shares that “[recruiters] are never reading one or two resumes at a time. We bulk it together and scan through a bulk of resumes and flag the ones of importance.”
One thing you can do to stand out is utilize technology as a platform to both reach out and gain a greater sense of visibility. This is where creating a digital portfolio or personal website is key.
By creating a personal website, you’re able to utilize this as your additional marketing material to highlight all of your projects and accomplishments utilizing rich digital media. This is your opportunity to help establish a strong personal brand, “and if you’re starting your career or even later in your career, if no one has paid you yet for something you want to do in a future role, you can do it on your own and showcase it on your [portfolio]. Take the initiative to grow it,” says Oppenheim.
Yes, a personal website actually makes a difference.
Creating a personal website can make an impact. To get noticed by large companies is extremely difficult. In fact, I’ve included the link to my website on my resume and have had recruiters and interviewers go through my portfolio. It became a positive talking point throughout my interview.
Consider utilizing a personal website geared towards one specific goal: getting hired. This was the situation for Francine Tamakloe, who was trying to get hired by Spotify. Needless to say, Francine made it happen.
By creating a website and utilizing social media, Francine shared the website she created on Twitter. In less than 24 hours, Spotify noticed her and tweeted back: “Hi Francine - You’ve got some skills! Our Talent Acquisition team will reach out soon. #JoinTheBand”
What if I’m not creative nor do I know how to write HTML?
Regardless of your creative or technical skills, there are options to help you create a stunning website. I’ve come across the same issue, thinking: I’m not creative enough nor do I know how to design a website. It’s well within reason to think that if you’re going to create anything, it needs to be done right. In my case, I don’t know how to fully use programs like Adobe CC nor do I know how to write HTML. However, I do know where to find the appropriate resources.
One of the best parts when creating a website as a student is that if you utilize a paid website to host your domain, many of these services have education pricing (aka student discounts). One of my favorite tools that allows you to drag and drop things into place is Squarespace. Although it requires a payment, you will also have the ability to create a custom e-mail, run e-mail campaigns, and even sell products.
A paid version is not always an option for everyone, and I would actually advise adopting a free version to begin with. There are a ton of great websites to begin building out your personal website. Some of these include Wix, Weebly, Google Sites, and About.me. Another huge bonus is that a majority of these websites have templates that you can easily customize.
Things to consider when getting started:
As you begin to create your website, Oppenheim advises candidates to: “Find your story. Find your personal voice. When I graduated college, we wrote resumes and never used the word I. The point is there was never a place where you could be personal. And today, we, as employees and companies, want to bring more of ourselves into the workplace. How are you bringing in I?”
Here are 5 things to include:
Target Audience/Goal: You should begin by asking yourself why you are creating a personal website. Is it to gain visibility in front recruiters to get a job? Generate more traffic for your social following? Create more opportunities to speak? Anyone visiting your website should be able to easily identify your target audience and goal.
Landing Page: Your landing page is the first page that a user will land on when visiting your website. It’s important to have all your relevant information listed there to do so. If you analyze a handful of websites, a majority of them have the content in a Z formation. From the top left, it typically starts with a logo, contact information, a central message or call to action, and more information. Below is a screengrab from my own personal website, with the Z formation highlighted:
Resume & Portfolio: While you may have already submitted a resume, this is your opportunity to visually showcase some of your best projects. By utilizing digital rich media like videos and graphics, this will make your listed items come to life. As an engineer, this is also a great place to list your GitHub. While incorporating media, be sure to only incorporate the best and most relevant pieces for your purpose.
Contact Page & Social Media: As obvious as it sounds, provide methods for people to connect with and contact you. This will also be a great way to increase your visibility for social media profiles, should they represent your professionally. If you don’t want others to see your social media profiles, consider filtering out content that may seem inappropriate. Be smart about it.
Testimonials: While letter of recommendations may appear outdated, they are still very relevant. Depending on the goal of your website, ask previous employers or individuals you may have worked with in the past to provide a short blurb highlighting skills relevant to your future career path based on their experience working with you. Be mindful as you do not want to over saturate this with generic comments.
A testimonial featured on my own website
These are some of the basic things that should be included in a personal website. An additional point worth adding would be to create a section to share blog posts, relevant industry news, or even content (books and audiobooks), that show you are keeping up to date with relevant news and willing to continue to learn and grow. Your education does not stop in class.
Now that you have your checklist of items to include, you need to begin to drive visibility and traffic to your website. To do so, consider including your website URL on places including your LinkedIn, resume, social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), business cards, and even your e-mail signature. By including your URL in your e-mail signature, you might just be passively inviting a recruiter to visit your website!
Finally, remember to update your website as you progress through your career.
It’s not enough to make your website a “one and done” project. Remember to continue to update the content and best optimize your portfolio by incorporating keywords that are relevant to your current goals. As someone looking for an internship or job, I suggest analyzing descriptions of the jobs you are applying to and incorporating those keywords. You should also be sure to update your website as you complete any new projects or roles.
While this may appear to be a time-consuming task, creating a personal website as a student (and professional) is essential. In our competitive workforce, it is no longer enough to have just a resume or a LinkedIn profile. There are proven results to help get discovered for new opportunities. Whether you explicitly invite a recruiter or hiring manager to visit your website in your cover letter or turn to the power of social media, maybe you’ll find that your website can help you land your dream job or internship.
Germain Louie is an aspiring marketer, senior at the University of California, Irvine, and LinkedIn Campus Editor. He is also the host of LinkedIn Local Orange County and enjoys sharing about topics on social impact and technology, mental health awareness, and professional development. To learn more or get in contact with Germain, visit www.germainlouie.com.