Building an Online Platform
Recently I gave a presentation to new graduates at Keiser University in West Palm Beach about building an online platform. By “platform” I was specifically referring to a WordPress website, but more generally I had explained that this idea encompasses all online platforms, and the ways in which they are connected to each other. I advised them to think about presenting a consistent, identifiable brand wherever people find us online.
Websites can serve many functions, but for the purposes of my presentation, I talked about creating a website as an Internet version of a résumé, C.V. or portfolio. These types of sites are generally very simple and to the point. The “point,” of course, is to present the job-seeker in the best possible light to the job market.
But why build an entire website? Isn’t it enough for the job seeker to have a LinkedIn profile?
Well, yes, and you should have a completed, optimized LinkedIn profile. However, with your own website, you control the entire reader experience. It sends a message that you take your career seriously, setting you above other applicants. It can also help you get found easier via Google and other search engines—and then the whole world is your job market.
Best Practices for Building an Online Platform
So how should you go about this, and what are some of the technical and design elements that would help you stand out from the crowd? Here are some of my suggestions:
- Pick a WordPress theme specific for these types of online résumés. There are even some that are unique to certain fields, such as writer, photographer, graphic designer, etc.
- The current trend in websites is towards simplicity and UX rather than flashy, high design. Make the task of navigating your site easy and intuitive for the reader, rather than trying to impress them with your design skills (unless you’re applying for a design position, of course).
- One reason for this is that more than 50% of all webpage views are now on mobile devices. “Pretty” websites often don’t look so pretty on an iPhone 4 screen.
- To this end, make sure that your site has a responsive theme. This means that your site quickly and accurately morphs to accommodate varying screen sizes; as well as horizontal and vertical orientations.
- Less is more, both visually and in your written content. This speaks to my earlier comment about design, but also in regards to attention spans. People just won’t spend the time to give your content a chance if they’re bored right off the bat.
- Get your most important information “above the fold.” Don’t make people scroll down to find your contact information, for example. Place it in a prominent position.
- Make it your voice; don’t be generic. Let your personality come through.
- But don’t make the message all about you, rather, what you can do for THEM (the reader/recruiter).
“YOU” in a Nutshell
Whether you’re selling a product or selling yourself in the job market, it’s a good idea to have your “pitch” perfected. Actually, two pitches: a short version, and an even shorter version.
The short version is often referred to as an “elevator pitch,” implying the amount of time that you have to sell your idea to the big boss as you ride up the elevator from the lobby to the penthouse. You’ve got a captive audience for about 20-30 seconds; just long enough to convince Mr. Money Bags that you or your ideas are worth his investment.
The shorter version is called your Unique Selling Proposition. What makes you different than all of the other job applicants? You should be able to sum this up in just one or two sentences. And remember, being unique is often “better” than being better. If that makes sense…
Furthermore, the “About Me” page on your site should NOT be about you, but rather what you can do for a potential employer or client. Are you detecting a recurring theme here? By serving them, you serve yourself.
To Blog or Not to Blog?
People often ask, “What’s the difference between a website and a blog?” At this point in the history of the web, the distinction is mostly semantic. But if we’re being picky, we can still say that a website is mostly static, like a brochure or advertisement, while a blog is dynamic with an emphasis on content.
The reasons to include a blog on your site can vary, but basically it’s a way to showcase your industry knowledge and insights; and to create a destination to direct traffic from social media, forums, and other third party platforms (like LinkedIn’s “Pulse,” for example) back to your website where you call the shots. It means that there will be something for people to “do” when they arrive on your site other than admiring your C.V. Again, putting the reader first.
- Create a consistent voice and identifiable brand across all platforms so that people recognize you no matter where they encounter you online.
- *Connect all your platforms to work in sync. The total effort will be greater than the sum of the parts.
- Always be professional, even when exchanging banter with friends. You never know who will see what you post online.
- Don’t try to be “everywhere.” Focus on the platforms that make sense in your field.
- Try to “upgrade” your connections to the next level of intimacy. From social to your website, from your website to your email contacts, from email to phone, and finally…
- Don’t ever underestimate the power of eye contact and a firm handshake. The Internet helps us expand our reach, but important decisions and transactions are still often done face to face.
There’s a lot that you can do with a personal website, but even just having a basic version of an online resume will put you well ahead of the competition. Don’t get too fancy with graphics and such. Just present a clear message about the skills and experience that you bring to the table in your unique voice.
Happy job hunting!
P.S. Attached are the PowerPoint slides from my Keiser University Presentation in West Palm Beach: