Why you need a professional website

May 1, 2019

I was recently talking to a collegue who was applying to graduate schools. I asked if he had a personal website displaying his research, CV, and maybe a blog. He looks perplexed, as if to say “Only companies have websites, right?”. The more we talked, he realized the value in having a public forum to showcase his work. If you are in a technical, creative, and research field you should have a professional website too.

Why do I need a website?

The internet is a busy place. Information is scattered among millions of websites and can be difficult to find. Have you ever tried searching for yourself and been dissapointed in the results. At one time, the top search result for “Kevin Guay” was a story about a man in New Hampshire, convicted of impropper waste disposal. There is nothing preventing people from posting incorrect information about you on the internet. Fortunately, you can control how your information is viewed on the internet and what people see when they search for you.

But I’m not looking for a new job

The best time to start building your online portfolio (and website) is when you are not looking for a new job. Down the road, when you are looking for a new opportunity, you will thank yourself for investing a little time in curating your home page on the internet. It shows a potential employeer that you care about what you do and directs them to the parts of your online world that you want them to see (e.g. your resume, LinkedIn, ResearchGate, etc). It might even bring interested employeers to you.

How do I get started?

If you have never built a website, you’re in luck. There are many easy-to-use website builders catering to people just like you. Wordpress is a good place to start. Pick a theme, add some content, and you’re off.

If you’re a programmer or are interested in learning how to program, check out static website compilers such as Hugo and Jekyll. They are open source and free to use. Static websites have two advantages over Wordpress (or other websites built using dynamic website builders). First, since there is no database on the backend, that is queried every time a page loads, they are blazing fast. Second, there is no server-side code, making them extremely secure (as long as they are on a hardened server or hosted with GitHub pages).

What to publish

Start with a short page explaining what you do, a list of current and past projects, publications, and interests. There are two options for adding your CV. You can either link to a PDF version of your CV (that will download when clicked) or insert the content of your CV as a web page. The later requires more effort, but is easier to read in a web browser.

Blogs are a great way to improve/demonstrate your writing, explore topics that are interesting to you, and share knowledge that you have accumulated. I often write about creative solutions to difficult problems that I face at work. Instructional “how to” posts double as documentation that I can use as a reference. It matters less what you write about and more that you are doing it.

Why are you still reading? Go build a website!