There are ideas that, on the surface, seem totally reasonable but completely fall to pieces once you think about them for more than five seconds. Things like extended warranties, variable annuities, and tapas. Add to this list personal websites: those dinky, résumé-displaying URLs you ostensibly maintain to enhance your “brand.”
A survey of 3,000 people, paid for by Workfolio, a personal-website services company, concluded that while 7 percent of respondents have a personal website, 80 percent want one. According to a blog post by Workfolio President Charles Pooley—on his own website, of course—such a Web presence increases your visibility through search engines, raises your profile, and “lets your personality shine.” In March, Career Thought Leaders, a think tank in Coleman Falls, Va., urged workers to “establish a more robust digital identity.” Employers, it wrote, are increasingly “identifying prospective employees through their online presence. Personal websites, social media presence … and a well-defined personal brand will be the requirements for gaining the attention of prospective employers.” And a Workfolio-funded study in April suggested that 56 percent of managers count personal websites as a plus when vetting job candidates.
Let’s not get into the validity of a company’s survey that confirms the company’s mission (“98 percent of Americans want to eat even more bananas, says a survey from the Banana Growers of America”). Because studies are not needed to confirm that for the vast majority of people, personal websites are a colossal waste of time.
I’m not talking about freelancers or plumbers or other individual service providers. Obviously, in those cases, you are your business and you need a site to advertise what you do. But if you’re a salaried, full-time staffer in, say, pharmaceutical sales, what exactly are you going to show on your site? The pills you carried around in your roller bag?
Having your own website is as outdated as it is unnecessary. At one time, maintaining samgrobart.com was a way to show that I was Internet-savvy, and the novelty of a site overshadowed its uselessness. Now, though, we’re all reasonably fluent in how to use the Web. If I want to find out about you, I’ll do some reconnaissance on Facebook. I’ll check your Twitter feed, your Instagram account, and your Tumblr page. Most of us already exist all over the Internet, whether we like it or not. “You have two résumés today,” says Sarah Downey, an analyst at online-privacy company Abine. “There’s the one you carefully write and put on a personal website, and there’s the sum of all your online activity, which you have no control over.” Doing careful spadework on your own site is meaningless as long as that photo of you with the skull bong continues to lurk around the Web.
If you do want an online record of your employment history, isn’t that what LinkedIn is for? I’m no LinkedIn booster—its internal e-mail system, InMail, is terrible, and the site spams me with way too many updates. But it has become the place recruiters and employers go to find qualified employees. If you have a site of your own, how do you expect people to find it? Are you going to optimize “regional sales manager for a wholesale steel-pipe distributor” for Google’s search algorithm? Good luck with that.
The nice folks at Workfolio offer tips on what to have on your unnecessary website. Things like a headline and a work summary. More wasted effort. We know what your goal is—to get hired. Spelling that out only shows that you don’t know what it means to be efficient.
Perhaps that’s the greatest flaw with the idea behind your personal brand and the relentless self-promotion that goes along with it: Every hour you spend tweaking your site is an hour you didn’t spend making that sale or that deal. A website is nowhere near as impressive as a fistful of accounts you can bring to a new company. And while some would argue that having a site makes you appear professional, you could also say it makes you look needy. If you’re killing it, your work speaks for itself.