Category Archives: Personal Branding

Build a Personal Website With Zero Development Skill

Build a Personal Website

Personally, I have a huge amount of trouble staying connected in this technology-driven world. I often find myself being pushed around by the tide of new information available everyday on the internet. Here’s what I really need: a hub to connect my social media pages, resume information, and previous work samples. But here’s the good news: even if you have no technical experience, plenty of platforms can provide that service for free. Setting up a personal website will help you define your professional self, direct employers and recruiters to information about your qualifications, and help you brand yourself online.

Here’s a quick guide to help you asses which platforms are best for your professional needs. Not all personal websites are created equal, and we’re here to help guide through the decision process. Keep in mind that you will most likely need more than just a personal website. It’s a good idea create some social media as well. Additionally, most of these platforms can complement each other nicely. You may need to use more than one of these programs for your job search.


Need Addressed: Put your visual portfolio online.

Pros: If you career revolves around visual craetivity, Behance is a great option for clean portfolios. Not only can you easily and clearly post your previous work, their job board is a vibrant host to creative jobs and freelance opportunities. Recruiters can list their job opportunities and browse your portfolio in the same ecosystem.

Cons: Behance is very selective. In order to have an account, you need to be invited from a current member. Networking through other social mediums (LinkedIn, Tumblr) — or the old-fashioned but dependable “real world” — is necessary to score an invitation to the community.

WordPress + Free Theme

Need: Build a complex personal website (e.g. a blog, portfolio, biography, and a page listing your consulting rates – all in one place)

Pros: WordPress is incredibly versatile for different professions. They offers different page designs, some that are targeted toward certain careers (ex. the Buttercream theme would be excellent for a baker), and others that are plain and adaptable for different professional fields (ex. the Responsive theme). Simple and straightforward for employers, this site is great for consulting job seekers.

Cons: Of all the items on the list, WordPress is the most stuffed with features – and for beginner users, those features can feel a lot like bloat. If you need to keep it simple, WordPress is more overwhelming than slimmer platforms like Tumblr or Clippings (coming later in this list).

Need: Personal Branding Hub

Pros: enables you to build visually striking profiles that connect your portfolio and social media presence in one place. Recruiters can spot-check the blurb on your profile to get the elevator pitch on your career, and easily access more information about your skills and work experience through connected links. Built-in apps will pull key information from other professional sites, like LinkedIn credentials and Smarterer scores. (We know, we know, ulterior motives – we’d make the same recommendation if the integration didn’t exist, though.)

Cons: A recruiter will only see the short description you’ve written about yourself – it’s up to you to compel them to dig into your arsenal of external links. If you can’t write a compelling ‘hook,’ you may squander your chance to put your portfolio and LinkedIn profile in front of your visitors.

Need: Writing Samples Portfolio

Pros: If you need to showcase your writing, is designed for you. Literally. Since they offer the ability to categorize your articles, recruiters can easily find the articles that pertain job you’re applying to. It allows your web writing samples to live in the environment they were published, with comments and social interactions intact.

Cons: Recruiters can easily see your work, but not your resume. You’ll have send it them some other way. The framework for Clippings is simple, but adding too many articles can be overwhelming for the viewer. Consider adding just your best pieces to your homepage.

So now you’re on your way to being technologically-savvier, more professional, and well-known. You’ve been branded: there’s new job opportunities on your horizon, your social media pages are connected and easier to navigate, and you’ve made yourself and your resume more accessible. Where do you go from here? Up, my friend. Up.

LinkedIn Answers Shut Down. Now What?

LinkedIn Answers shut its doors on January 31st, 2013.
R.I.P., LinkedIn Answers.

LinkedIn Answers closed its doors yesterday, without much fanfare or forewarning (they made an announcement earlier this month, which managed to slip by me unnoticed). I was first confused–then a little bummed–when I paid it a visit this morning and found it a wasteland, save for the curt notice you see above.

Why am I going to miss it? Because it was a personal branding godsend. LinkedIn Answers was one of the best places on the Internet to establish a reputation for thought leadership within your industry. Any advice you published was connected to your real name, which in turn invited curious visitors to investigate your work history and areas of expertise.

It was a great 1-2 punch: your profile answers the question, “has s/he worked in this capacity before?”, while your contribution to Answers proves whether you are knowledgeable enough to perform the functions of the job. We place so much importance on writing a perfect resume (because it’s a tangible document and all), but when you think about it, demonstrating skills relevant to the given position is about 10 times more important. It became the norm, not a rarity, for top LinkedIn Answers contributors to receive unsolicited job offers in their field.

Now that the feature has ridden off into the sunset, what’s next? Let’s take a look at the alternatives to LinkedIn Answers that will satiate your thirst for thought leadership.


With its popularity already on the rise, Quora will welcome the LinkedIn Answers exodus with open arms. It’s already more fully featured as a dedicated Q&A exchange site, with greater moderation controls and more flexible ways to follow thought leaders directly (which is huge where personal branding is concerned). Now that an industry giant has stepped out of the space, Quora can shine.

Ironically, people have been suggesting LinkedIn acquire Quora for a couple years, and LIA suddenly going MIA sends very curious signals. If a merger is in the works, you just might migrate from LinkedIn Answers to…the next LinkedIn Answers.

Stack Exchange

98 smaller Q&A sites make up the Stack Exchange empire, which leans heavily on the technology niche but covers some recreational topics as well. The organization of small communities into one central hub is a great system. It affords each site the ability to focus on a niche, which in turn attracts passionate experts and influencers within a narrow field. As a result, even though the community is huge, answer quality remains high, because the site structure funnels people toward their passions. Any corner of Stack Exchange could be your next information goldmine.


What Metafilter lacks in size (just 12,000 active users), it makes up for in strength of community. The $5 barrier to account creation (a one-time fee) is chump change, but it weeds out the would-be trolls and inactive accounts, replacing them with people eager to share and absorb information. Plus, it was founded in a year that started with a 1*, so it’s as old as dirt by internet standards, and it feels like it’s not going anywhere.

1999, if you’re counting.

Google+ Communities

Google just launched Communities in December, which are hub pages built around a common interest. They are essentially Facebook groups, in the same way that Google+ is essentially Facebook: less populated and more techy/insular, but pretty much the same product from a practical standpoint. Because Google+ has a higher concentration of professional activity, its communities leave plenty of room for discussion and guidance. And because content on Google+ is given preferential treatment in Google’s search rankings, the wisdom you share in Communities will receive a natural visibility boost.


Forums are alive! I sort of avoid them when I’m casually browsing the internet, mostly because video game forums ate up a valuable chunk of my childhood, and that’s time I’d probably spend elsewhere if I had a do-over. Despite my lukewarm associations with the format, forums are like the Lost Temple of Knowledge on the internet.

It’s true: authority sites (think Mashable) have taken over the web landscape, mainly because their articles follow coherent keyword campaigns in a well-defined topic. That level of laser-focused SEO knocks sites with more scattered discussions off the map, which might explain why forums aren’t the most obvious source of knowledge in 2013.

But if you go looking for them, it turns out they’re still thriving. Just Google “(industry) forum” or “(discipline) forum” and make an effort to return to whatever you find. There is a greater sense of community in forums than in most other online destinations, and that community will feed you advice you won’t get anywhere else.

LinkedIn Groups

If you don’t want to leave the familiarity and comfort of home, shift your attention to LinkedIn Groups. They have been the most durable gathering place for peers to exchange information and connect with people walking the same professional path. Not to mention that group members essentially function as free 2nd connections within your industry, which will open up more opportunities with the added visibility.

There are, of course, a bunch of similar sites out there that didn’t make the cut. The other big players (Yahoo Answers, eHow) generally don’t foster the depth of discussion to make them a desirable destination for thought exchange.

All in all, your interests will probably dictate which resource provides the most value. A bike shop mechanic will be happier with Stack Exchange’s bike enthusiasts niche community, while marketers – plentiful as we are – will relocate discussion threads to any of the flourishing marketing groups on LinkedIn.

Now That LinkedIn Answers Is Gone…

Back to the question posed in the title: now what?

  • Have you used LinkedIn for personal branding?
  • If so (or if not), where will you shift your attention with the disappearance of Answers?
  • Which communities have we missed? (By the way, you have my full blessing to wave your own flag here if you represent an awesome community you believe in.)

Let us know us on Twitter or here in the comments.

Brand Yourself With Smarterer

Personal Branding with SmartererWe’re going to take a little break from our regularly scheduled knowledge-dropping, and invite one of our friends drop some knowledge in our stead. Laurence Hebberd of The Undercover Recruiter wrote a brilliant guide on how to use Smarterer for personal branding, and it really hits some of the sweet spots that make us proud of our testing platform. Laurence is one of the experts who trains the rest of us, so you know he’s worked our site over for every last drop of value he can squeeze out of it. Among other things, he covers:

  • How taking too many tests could actually hurt your chances at employment.
  • How your career goals should define the tests you take.
  • How the perfect mix of tests can highlight you as a specialist and give you an advantage in the job market.

Laurence focuses on using our tests for personal branding – the curation of a set of social profiles which, when taken as a whole (usually by hiring managers snooping for some background to your application), portray you as an interesting, thoughtful, and above all employable person.

At Smarterer, we aim to be concrete proof of the Skills section on your resume, and his article is a road map to getting the most out of our tests. Of course, we’re only one part of the hiring circle: the information diggers will pass us on the round trip to your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Your goal is to make sure all of those are pristine, and that they all tell the same story.

If you’re wondering what it takes to establish this cross-network presence to boost your visibility in the job market, you’ll want to check out last week’s feature. We explain how personal branding is a three-headed beast: each profile serves a separate purpose, and each better get along, because they’re inseparable ’til the end of time. But once you tame the beast, you wield the power of visibility and credibility in your job search.

Let us (and Laurence) know: how do you represent your personal brand online? How has your online presence helped (or hurt) your chances for employment?

Personal Branding Resource Hub

untitledWhen looking for a job, your personal brand can either make or break you. A good personal brand will show the hiring manager that you’ve got your act together, but one that isn’t as put together can signify a lack of professionalism.

An individual’s personal brand sweeps across many different areas, from their online presence, to their personality, and even their physical appearance. It can be tough to get every piece in line in order to create a cohesive and professional personal brand, especially since there is so many of them. Because it can be so difficult, we’ve created this Personal Branding Resource Hub to provide you with the best advice when putting together your personal brand.

General Personal Branding Advice

There is a lot of content about personal branding out there on the web, but there are a few sites that simply hit the nail on the head: Job Searching – About provides a simple, and straight to the point guide on personal branding and even offers their own list of personal branding resources.

Personal Branding Blog – This is THE one-stop shop for all things personal branding. Dan Schawbel literally wrote the book on personal branding and his writers provide great advice in each post they write.

Personal Branding 101 – Dan Schawbel also wrote a great beginners guide to personal branding on Mashable.

Personal Appearance

Your personal appearance speaks volumes to the first impression you give off, all before you even introduce yourself. Make sure to dress professionally by following these generally accepted guidelines.

Professional Style Guide – Check out this all encompassing guide to professional style, for both men and women.

10 Important Tips On Your Professional Appearance – This article provides general guidelines on maintaining your professional appearance.

Business Cards

Carrying a card is the hallmark of a businessperson, but don’t let that perception fool you into thinking you don’t need one. Everyone, whether they’re a student, a hairdresser, or even an artist should have their own business card for those times when they need to give out their contact information. Fortunately, designing and printing business cards is easier than ever before and can be done right from your computer.

Vistaprint – Vistaprint offers free business card printing and provides a great alternative to the pricier options for the first-timer. Be warned though: on the back of each free business card is a statement saying that the cards were printed for free through Vistaprint, which some could consider to be unprofessional.

Staples – The office supply superstore offers a free design platform and printing service at a very reasonable price. You can even order prints online and pick them up in store within the same day.

Moo – While a little pricier, Moo’s offerings are a bit more hip and stylish than the more traditional cards. Check out their mini cards for a unique alternative to show your personality.

Online Presence

In today’s connected world, the digital aspects of personal branding are just as important as the physical aspects. We’ve already written about building your social presence previously, but there are even more resources to help you build out your personal brand online.

Social Media Etiquette for Professionals – It’s important to keep it classy on the web, so follow these guidelines for professional etiquette while using social media. – More and more people are turning to this free service that lets you create a one-page website that’s all about you and your interests, similar to a portfolio. Join the crowd and make one today.

Vizify – Similar to, Vizify allows you to create a graphical biography that synthesizes information from all of your profiles across the web.

LinkedIn – We’ve all heard of it by now, but if you don’t have one, you’re behind the curve. Having a LinkedIn profile is now almost an expectation for anyone searching for a job.

Twitter – Twitter is a great way to build a following online and post about subjects that matter to you.

As you can see, there are many factors that go into creating a robust personal brand, but with the right resources and know-how, you’ll be on your way to perfecting your own.