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Why Having an Online Presence Matters in Your Job Search

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Your parents and grandparents have probably told you stories of how they got jobs by putting on a suit and walking into an office with a resume. That’s not the world most of us discovered when we entered the workforce, though. We were told, “Apply online.”

Now the landscape is changing again, and by the time you have grandkids, they’ll be equally amazed that you once applied for jobs by filling out form boxes and attaching documents on a website.

The fact is, if you are looking for a full-time job, sending out online applications is not the most effective way to go about it anymore.

In 2016, there are way better methods of handling your job search than by blasting out resumes and boilerplate cover letters. (Which is a no-no, by the way. A copy-and-paste cover letter is easy to spot, and even easier to delete.)

What’s the method of the future, you ask? It all begins with curating an online presence.

What is an online presence?

Your online presence, or digital footprint, is the broad picture of the identity you’ve created online — personal and professional. It changes each time you publish content, write a tweet, or interact with someone in a public space.

In a nutshell, your digital footprint is determined by what you publicly put out online. It’s what can be found out about you via online search. (A private Twitter account or Instagram profile doesn’t count, because not everyone can access it.)

Even if you don’t think you have one, you do. Test it out yourself: Google your full name (in quotes for best results), plus the town/state you grew up in, or live in now. Unless you have a really common name (looking at you, James Smith — which actually beats John Smith these days), you’ll probably find yourself.

Laurence Bradford Google Search

Nowadays, 77% of employers are Googling and otherwise researching job applicants. What appears in the search results is your online presence, or digital footprint. And if literally nothing appears – it raises eyebrows.

Here’s why your online presence matters

Maybe your digital footprint is already great…or maybe it’s a little lackluster. The good news is that it’s easy to take control of, and reshape, how you appear online.

Your online presence is powerful. It can show you who are, help build trust and credibility, show that you’re passionate, and make you stand out from the pack. (Or, on the flip side, it can make you stand out in a bad way…when you forget to delete that one profile picture on Facebook from that party.)

Having in-demand skills and experience is great. But if people don’t know you have amazing skills, jobs and connections won’t exactly be falling into your lap. Put yourself out there, so the world can see.

An online presence is a networking tool, too. A strong one goes a long way in helping you connect with more people — peers, influencers, and decision-makers.

How to start building an online presence

Many components are involved in the process of building a solid web presence. Below are a few of the most common, and effective, ways.

1. Personal website/portfolio

Everything starts with having your own website. You need a dedicated place online that tells people who you are and what you do. A website or portfolio site is an ideal place to outline your vision/skillset, show examples of your work, and make your contact information available.

Unless you have a business with its own name, use your full name as the URL. If the .com extension isn’t available, you have plenty of other options — .net, .org, .me, and many more. When you register a domain, you own it.

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2. Use social media

Technology professionals should be on LinkedIn and GitHub (if you write code) at a minimum. Joining Twitter or creating a Facebook group/page can be a good idea, too, provided you have the time and content to post regularly on them. (Designers, also look into Dribbble and Behance.)

3. Create content

If you’re a good writer (or even a passable one), start blogging. Usually, this will be done on your website, but you can also choose to publish on a platform like Medium. Focus on creating quality content that is valuable to others; this will help your blog (and thereby you) develop a following.

If writing isn’t really your thing, that’s fine. Thanks to modern technology, it’s easier than ever to start podcasting, design graphics/illustrations, or create videos.

4. Build projects

Adding projects or code to your GitHub provides evidence that you know what you’re doing — the “showing your work” equivalent of the working world.

Start by building a mini app, or helpful library (like the Toast grid system). Or create other kinds of side projects (for yourself or others), like Jessica Hische’s shouldiworkforfree.com.


There are, of course, more ways to build your online presence than just those four. Remember, your online presence is anything that can be searchable online. As long as it’s online and public, it counts.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So many options, what path to pursue? The answer: where you put your attention depends on your goals.

How to build your online presence strategically

Don’t just build your online presence because it’s something you’re supposed to do. Be strategic about it. Build it in a way to help you reach your career goals. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time.

The first step in doing this is to pinpoint exactly the kind of job you want. What industry? What company? What will your role be? What will the hiring manager who interviews you care about?

When you have a target in mind, it’s a lot easier to be deliberate in the online presence you create.

Want a job as web developer? Build projects that align with the kind of jobs you want, using the programs and technologies that the job requires. Post them on GitHub publicly. Or contribute to an open source project. Or write blog posts that pertain to some aspect of the job.

web developer

Want to be a web designer? Similarly, design stuff that aligns with the kinds of jobs you want. (If you want to work in the food industry, like at GrubHub or Doordash, for instance, design food-related things — icon sets, infographics, even presentations.) Get on design-specific platforms like Behance and Dribbble. Write blog posts about design topics that will attract decision-makers at the companies you want to work for. Add these things to your portfolio site.

If you want to be, do. Just make sure to highlight what you do on your personal site, so you can show it to the world!

The one thing to always keep in mind

Whatever your target is, there is one sure way to get discovered, build a brand, and put your name on the map: provide value. Create valuable content, and people will naturally share what you’re doing with others, and want to reach out to connect with you.

Ultimately, the way to really boost yourself is to think about other people before yourself. Websites, social media, etc. are important, but not as important as establishing yourself as a vital part of your community, by contributing insights, ideas, and help.

Value you create online through blog posts or even just conversations on social media can be found later. Go beyond consuming by contributing ideas, thoughts, and help others.

You don’t have to be an expert to provide value, either. It can be as simple as building an app or doing an experiment, and documenting the process, including any mistakes and how you learned from them. Or posting about upcoming industry events or interesting news. Or researching a question someone asked to see if you can solve the problem they’re having.

When you consistently create value, you build authority in your industry, which translates to increased visibility. And by putting out quality content, you build trust, which allows you to build relationships with others in your industry/field. For instance, starting the LTCWM podcast has allowed me to connect with so many awesome peers I maybe never would have otherwise!

ltcwm podcast

Yes…there are still other ways to get opportunities

Not everything is online (yet). In-person networking is still a very viable option. Without a doubt, meeting someone in person, at a workshop, happy hour, or the like, is the fastest way to build a meaningful connection.

networking event

However, there’s a few drawbacks to in-person, or one-on-one networking.

  1. You can only meet the people in the room with you — you’re confined to that crowd. When you’re online, you can connect with anyone.
  2. You have to live in an area with networking events to go to! Sure, if you live in SF, or NYC, or any other urban area, there’ll be tons of people to meet. But what if you live in a less populated area? Or an area without much of a tech community? You’ll be out of luck. Not so online.

Even if you do live in a big city, with tons of networking events to attend and conferences and so forth, you can’t afford to neglect your online presence. So much of building a strong professional network, and maintaining relationships (even ones initiated in person), is done online. Through LinkedIn, email, Twitter, and so forth.

And more than that — how many people do you think will still Google you after you meet at event? I’d argue most, if not all, will. (I know I do! After connecting with someone in person, I almost always Google their name and try to find them online. And I can’t help but judge a person if the search results appear empty…or if all I find is an outdated website, lackluster LinkedIn profile, etc.)

So even if you’re going out and meeting others in “real life,” having a web presence matters a lot.

Start building your online presence today.

Building an online presence takes time. It’s not a quick run to the finish line; it’s more like a marathon. But if you start building an online presence now, you can leverage it well into the future. It’s like compounding interest: the sooner you start, the more valuable that initial investment will become over time.

Remember, though, that the flip side is true as well: the longer you wait to begin, the longer it will take to reach your goals.

And regardless of your end goals, having a personal website is like the nerve center of an online presence. It’s the core from which you build your name and your brand.

Especially when you’re not ready to even think about starting a business or anything so formal, a portfolio website is the perfect way to start establishing an online identity and showcasing your skills.

To help you get started, I created my free portfolio course. It’s built specifically for aspiring designers and developers who aren’t sure where to start with a portfolio site, and want to avoid the mistakes and pitfalls that have sabotaged those before them.

Sign up for my FREE portfolio course below, and start building an online presence you can be proud of!


Join the free portfolio course

Sign up below for my *free* course on how to build a portfolio site as a web developer/designer.

Don't worry. I'll never, ever spam you! Powered by ConvertKit


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