What do recruiters find when they google you?
More likely than not, the first thing that people come across when conducting a simple search over search engines for you are your social media profiles – your twitter feed, your Facebook pages, and your LinkedIn profile.
With more and more recruiters leveraging search engines in their background check, it is more important than ever to take ownership of your personal brand.
What is a personal brand and why does it matter?
Your personal brand is your online persona. It is how the world sees you and people perceive you. It is the unique combination of your skills, personality, and experience that comes together to form your online persona and sets you apart from your peers and competitors.
Let’s get real though. Coding is where your passion lies.
Marketing yourself online and honing your virtual image is probably something you are least interested in. You would much rather immerse yourself in the code.
“Good people put their heads down and get caught up in their job and forget they have a whole career to manage.” – Pamela Rucker, chairwoman of CIO executive council’s executive women in IT.
While marketing may not be the thing you have a natural affinity for, it is definitely something you should work on to differentiate yourself in the ultra-competitive tech world and open up a myriad of opportunities as well.
As a web developer, you cannot underestimate the importance of having a strong online presence.
Jeff Atwood, the co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse said in his blog post, “Mere competence in a technical discipline is not enough. That’s the minimum required to keep your head above water.”
A strong online presence and a distinguishable personal brand is a tool that every developer needs in his/her arsenal that can open up a box full of possibilities.
Getting on the recruiters’ radars and getting job offers is just the tip of the iceberg of opportunities. When done right, personal branding has reportedly led developers to land lucrative jobs with developer salaries towards the developer salaries towards the higher end of the spectrum, just based on their online presence.
It has even helped developers establish themselves as entrepreneurs through their personal brand. Most importantly, it has empowered web designers and developers with control over their own online reputation.
How to create a compelling personal brand?
A large number of software developers have taken to personal branding in one form or the other. Everybody left, right and center is busy making a blog, tweeting about it on Twitter, posting on LinkedIn and sharing across Facebook.
How do you make your voice heard over the din?
Here’s the strategy you need to follow to make sure that your personal brand sends out from the rest, builds your reputation and ensures that you land in a goldmine of opportunities.
1. Find your brand before you start building it
What value can you add to the existing ton of information already out there?
It is easy to feel overwhelmed looking at the knowledgeable resources being published every day. The imposter syndrome is very real and figuring out your unique selling point (USP) is important for you to be able to overcome it.
You don’t have to be a subject matter expert to share something value-adding. Even if the knowledge you share is not something you, your unique angle or perspective has the potential to make it useful for someone reading it.
The personal brand you aim to build should reflect that. It is supposed to be “personal”. This doesn’t mean that you talk about your vacation plans or food preferences.
Have a passion project? Talk about it.
Learning a new language? Share your experience
Your personal brand needs to reflect who you are, what challenges you face and the steps you take to finally overcome them.
2. Focus on creating content and taking a strategic approach
How wonderful it would be if you only had to hit the publish button and readers would come pouring in. The reality, however, is that unless you take a strategic approach, the content you create is never going to see the light of the day, despite being amazing in quality.
Even publishing content on Medium doesn’t guarantee you traffic (even though it is the primary reason why developers blog on Medium). Social media is tricky unless you already have garnered a significant following.
Step 1: Build your own website
As a web developer, you can choose to code from scratch and your website can also double up as a project within your portfolio. If coding your website isn’t something you fancy or don’t have time for, a simple WordPress hosted website will also do.
Your website doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to have a decent UI/UX and feel professional.
Step 2: Make the website discoverable
The key to ensuring that people organically discover your personal brand lies in formulating an effective content strategy.
While you might not be a marketing pro, understanding the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) and how the search algorithms work is critical to ensuring that the content you create reaches its full potential.
Step 3: Target the right audience
The homepage of your website should communicate exactly what is it that you specialize in. For example, if you are a Python developer, when a recruiter is searching for the same, your website should turn up in the search results.
How do you do that?
Identify the bottom of the funnel keywords. These are the phrases that people looking to hire someone with a skill you possess are actively searching the internet for. When you are writing blog posts, make sure those address the how-to queries regarding the area of your specialization.
Step 4: Build your blog’s authority
If you have just started your website, the domain authority is likely going to be low. Backlinks from high authority publications pass on the link equity to your website which is important for getting your content to rank.
There are several developer-focused publications you can write for. This way you can share your knowledge, contribute to the developer community and build backlinks to your own website at the same time.
If readers find your content valuable, they will likely follow the trail of links back to your own blog resulting in referral traffic at the same time.
3. Make sure your content doesn’t sit idle on your website
Blogging about something and then forgetting all about it is something that happens all too often. Don’t let the content you publish collect dust on your website.
Keep updating your content
The thing about technology as an industry is that it is highly dynamic. It is constantly changing and the stuff that is valid and relevant right now would likely become outdated or obsolete.
Keep going through the older posts, add or remove relevant data to keep your blog up-to-date.
Once your website grows, conducting periodic content audits can be a good idea as well. This removes the stuff that isn’t relevant anymore and also gives a boost to your SEO rankings.
Share it across the social channels
If you want to take full ownership of your personal brand, you have to make sure that your content reaches far and wide. This is where the power of social media comes into play. You don’t have to be an expert at social media to promote your content on it.
Choose your channel and interact with people there. The philosophy behind this should be value addition rather than self-promotion. Social media can be a great avenue for fostering relationships and engaging with the developer community at large.
Certain platforms such as Reddit have highly engaged communities where you can contribute and grow at the same time. Github and Stack overflow are also excellent avenues for engaging with the developer community and if you aren’t utilizing these channels already, you definitely should.
Repurpose your content to drive more value out of it
The value of the content you produce doesn’t end once you click on the publish button. The time is ripe to be experimenting with different formats. Video content is all the rage right now. Podcasts are also hugely popular among the developer community.
So the tutorial you just published on your blog can be converted into a YouTube video or a podcast and shared. It makes you accessible to your peers who may prefer watching or listening over reading about something.
4. Patience and consistency is the key to success
All good things take time, so don’t jump into establishing your personal brand expecting overnight miracles. Be consistent in your strategy and have the patience for the results to show and if the strategy is right, rewards would definitely flow through.
The quest to build your personal brand needs to continue right alongside your journey as a software developer. It might be a lot of effort in the initial stages but once you get started, the results will only get compounded over time.
Whether it is being recognized within the developer community, showcasing your skills, building your reputation or getting lucrative job offers, personal branding can help you accomplish all this and more.
Remember, achieving a balance between working and simultaneously talking about it is the true hustle. So, be a hustler!