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I recently gave a presentation about Personal Branding to a class of college juniors with my colleague, Deb Eslinger. These students are preparing to enter one of the toughest job market cycles for college graduates and are looking to get a jump start on their competition by developing a professional online image.

One of the students asked if he needed to have a personal website. The answer really depends on your target industry, he happened to be a computer science major – so, yes! If you are looking for a job in the tech world, I highly recommend not only having a personal website but building it yourself so you can show off some of your skills. I also encouraged him to market his services to other students, get experience wherever you can when you’re new to an industry.

Now, for other industries you can probably get away with not having your own personal website when you first start off in your career. (I think all the accounting majors that were in the front row let out a sigh of relief here.) But, you should still have some sort of professional online presence that you can customize and at least provide contact information on.

I’m a huge fan of LinkedIn, but sharing your contact information on LinkedIn isn’t always easy to do with people who aren’t connected to you (although there are ways – stay tuned for a future post!).

So, a great alternative to bridge the gap between a full blown website and the limitations of LinkedIn is a personal landing page (also known as professional nameplate sites or online calling cards). A personal landing page is essentially a mini website that acts as a central hub for your online profiles and contact information.

Although there are quite a few options out there (which we’ll cover in future posts), one of the easiest personal landing page sites to use is about.me. And it’s free! You can have a custom “web business card” that looks really professional, set up in less than 5 minutes.

This is a great way to establish your online identity. You choose what information you share so you have control over your personal brand and online image. A personal landing page like about.me also allows you to provide a central location for links to all of your social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + or Facebook.

It would really be silly for me to spend time walking you through how to set up an about.me page because they are so easy and the setup process will walk you through everything you need to know, but here are a few tips for making the most out of your personal landing page.

  1. Use a high quality and appropriate image for your background, it doesn’t have to be a photo of yourself but it should be something that represents you or your industry well. And don’t just steal a photo you like from a web search either, make sure you own the rights to the photo.
  2. Take caution with your social media sharing. Only link to your social media sites if the information on those pages is supportive of your professional image. If your Facebook page just contains a bunch of family photos and posts about what games you’ve been playing, or if your privacy settings block any public information don’t link to it from your about.me page.
  3. Provide some sort of contact information. Remember, the reason you’re creating this online calling card page is to connect you with potential employers or clients, make sure they have a way to contact you if they want to reach out to you. I recommend an email address over a phone number.
  4. Proofread. This is part of your professional online image, proof read just like you would a resume or cover letter.

What do you prefer to help build your online presence – a personal website, LinkedIn, About.me, or something else? Let me know in the comments below.