With the slew of job applications, networking and resume-building students are expected to do, one helpful tool is a personal website.
The name of the game is personal branding, said Gheni Platenburg, assistant professor of journalism.
“We live in a time where branding can be of assistance for almost everyone,” she said.
Platenburg said a personal website is a great tool for students looking to self-promote because it helps build an online presence.
“Your website and the whole purpose of it is to show who you are and to introduce yourself to the world,” Platenburg said. “It’s like your calling card for the internet.”
Leigh Gruwell, assistant professor of English, said that personal websites are a great opportunity for students “beginning to articulate their professional identity.”
Gruwell noted that the kind of writing needed to craft personal profiles online is called “metacognitive work,” allowing students to reflect on their own work.
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Platenburg encouraged students to start working on their online presence sooner rather than later.
“The largest [mistake] that comes to mind is failure to start branding,” Platenburg said. “One of the selling points that students can have going into the job market these days is their social media presence.”
Just having a website is not enough, though: your success depends on the contents of it.
“My first advice would be to think about your audience and your purpose,” Gruwell said. “Are you trying to get a job? Are you trying to build a name for yourself and a presence just kind of generally? Those are important questions to consider, and that will guide the process of choosing what to include.”
A personal website should include a web-friendly resume and CV, Platenburg said, as well as a method of contact. Most of the content, though, is field-specific, she said.
“If [your field is] graphic design, I certainly want to see some examples of your work on there,” Platenburg said. “If it’s business, have you done any case studies? … If it’s sports information, even, have you written up any scripts?”
Other than content, however, formatting is a consideration when building a personal website.
Color and organization are the primary considerations for this, Platenburg said. Gruwell said that students do not often consider the usability of their websites, but it is crucial.
Anyone creating a personal website needs to think about what the site will look like on a mobile phone browser, for example, Gruwell said.
Both professors encouraged students to browse other personal websites and use appealing ones as models for their own websites.
Gruwell said the Miller Writing Center offers a number of resources, including example sites, to interested students.
In terms of what website-building tools to use, Platenburg advised students to look for a site-building platform that is both user-friendly and budget-friendly. Platenburg uses Weebly for her own website.
Gruwell mentioned Wix.com, WordPress and Squarespace, but she cautioned students to be creative with their own sites rather than using template designs without changes.
In other advice, Platenburg recommended cross-promoting. One’s social media profiles should be linked on their website, and vice versa, she said. And while owning a personalized domain name is nice, Platenburg said, it is not always a necessary expense, especially depending on budget.
Gruwell encouraged students to be careful to consider the accessibility of their websites. Using alternate texts for photos, for example, allows the site to be more accessible to anyone who may be visually impaired and using a screen reader, she said.
Gruwell also warned students to be careful of vague “About Me” sections.
“I think being able to articulate really clearly and concisely the sort of professional skills or values or aspirations that you have — and that’s very challenging to do — can be useful,” she said. “Being able to have a clear statement of who you are that’s a little bit more detailed and interesting [is more helpful].”
Both agreed that personal websites, when done right, can be powerful tools for young professionals.
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