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How to have a professional online appearance

jackrkelly profile image Jack Kelly ・6 min read

If you're struggling to get a job as a developer/designer, this article may have a couple of things you should consider changing to improve your chances. As a developer/designer, and especially one that is looking for a job, presenting yourself online is very important when it comes to getting a job.

A few things that I will be covering are:

  • A online portfolio
  • A professional resume
  • A email signature
  • Documenting your findings
  • A GitHub with some interesting projects

A online portfolio

I think having an online portfolio to showcase what you do and what you've done is easily one of the most important aspects of presenting yourself. Even if you're primarily a back-end developer and don't think you have any strong design skills, I encourage you to create an online portfolio. A couple of aspects that I focus on when creating the portfolio are:

  • Keep the portfolio clean and concise
    • Some visitors may leave after a few seconds if they're not finding what they need quickly.
    • Make sure they know what you do, and what your desired role is.
  • Have a professional design
    • If you're not a designer/front-end developer that is ok. You may want to look into hiring a designer to make a design for you. You could also use a content management system to build your portfolio, or you could find a template online.
  • Have a professional domain
    • Having a custom domain that isn't a subdomain of others shows that you are serious and professional. If you are a student you can get a free domain and some other perks with the Github student developer pack. If you're not a student, you can find some cheap domains around a couple dollars.
    • Along with having a professional domain, you should also have a professional email. My domain is "jrk.digital" so I set up email forwarding on "me@jrk.digital" using ImproveMX.
  • Include a simple contact form
    • Having a contact form allows for visitors to quickly send a message to you without leaving your page.
  • Make a captivating intro
    • Your portfolio has to be interesting, if it looks like every other developer's portfolio there is no reason for the hiring manager to be interested. You could look on some digital design sites such as dribbble to get some design ideas for your portfolio.
  • Include some of your work/projects
    • Make sure that the viewer can easily understand your skillset and some work that you've done so they know what you're capable of.
    • If you're able to, a live preview of the website would be preferable. People like to interact with what you've created to better decide whether or not they believe you have built a good project. A few sites you can host sites for free on are netlify, heroku, and vercel.
    • If you cannot get a live version of the site hosted, a video preview will work as a substitute.
    • You should make sure to include the code for these projects as well, which will allow them to decide whether or not they think you write clean and efficient code.

Below is a screenshot of my portfolio site. I made a mockup in Adobe XD and then built it with React.js and Typescript. The code for my portfolio can be viewed on my Github Portfolio Repository.

Jack Kelly's Portfolio Website

A professional resume

Having a professional yet creative resume may be very crucial for some front-end developers/designers. As for back-end developers, you will want to focus less on the design and try to be as informative and concise as possible, though being concise and informative is a quality of any good resume.

  • General information
    • Include a header of some sort to signify the job title that you are looking for, your name, and some quick links.
    • I make sure to include my email, phone number, and website. I also include a couple of my social links such as Github, LinkedIn, and Devto.
  • Skills
    • Include a list of the technologies that you're proficient in/have used previously
    • Make sure you don't rank yourself in each skill, I see this quite a lot but you could be shooting yourself in the foot by doing this. What you would rank yourself as a "5/10", the hiring manager may think is a "7/10", and now you just didn't get the job because of that.
  • Projects
    • Include a list of projects you have worked on previously that viewers will find impressive
    • A good format for doing such may be the project title, a little description of the project, technologies used, and some links such as Code, Preview, and Live.
    • Make sure that you built these projects from scratch. There are plenty of tutorials out there for building generic full-stack web applications and if you include a simple tic tac toe application, the hiring manager might not be too impressed.
  • Experience
    • Make sure to include all/most of your related professional experience in this section, this will help the viewer get an even better understanding of your background and what you can do.
    • Make sure you include some of the tasks you completed at the job, and make sure to include some numbers and statistics. Everyone loves a quantifiable statistic that can help them understand the impact you've had.
  • Education
    • For developers who completed a formal degree program this will most definitely help you show that you have dedication and determination. For self-taught developers listing your high school may not be necessary, but that is up to you to decide on.

Below is a screenshot of my resume, I designed this in Adobe Illustrator and added the links/metadata in Adobe Acrobat.

Jack Kelly's Resume

A professional email signature

A small point, but one that shows you are willing to take the extra step to present yourself as professionally as possible. Having a professional email signature will help others keep in touch with some of your other contacts/media such as your portfolio site, your phone number, or your email. This can even easily be done in Gmail.

Below is my raw email signature with placeholder information, and a screenshot of my email signature:

Your Name
Job Title
123-123-1234 | email@email.com | https://website.com
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Jack Kelly's Email Signature

Documenting your findings

Writing articles on topics you spent time learning is very valuable for the development community as a whole, and yourself. Writing an in-depth article on a topic you've learned requires you to take a deeper dive into the technology to provide the best possible explanation. This will also allow potential hiring managers/colleages to get a better idea of what you are interested and how you explain things.

A GitHub with some interesting projects

For developers specifically, you will want to have some public projects that you have worked on to showcase what you can do. If hiring managers are unable to see the code you write, it is that much harder for them to want to hire you. You should include a few projects that aren't just copied from a tutorial. These should be projects unique to you, and based on something that you find interesting. You may also want to spend some time creating a unique and valuable readme for your profile, this can be done by naming a repository the same as your GitHub username and creating a file named README.md. Shown below is an image of my readme, it is nothing too special but it does its job.

Jack Kelly's Github Readme

Conclusion

Thanks for taking the time to read this article, I hope you found this helpful! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like me to take a look at your resume, portfolio, or anything of the likings. Also leave any comments if you have any suggestions or additions to this list.

Discussion (28)

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jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy

TBH, as someone who has been interviewing and hiring a lot recently - most of these things make little difference at all. For me, the CV is what will get you in the door for a first interview - and if that goes well it generally depends on how well you do on code challenges and a live coding exercise.

GitHub or GitLab can also be quite useful/revealing too - providing they're not obviously curated to make you look good.

Things that make zero difference to me whatsoever when hiring:

  • Educational background
  • Portfolio website
  • Email signature (really?)
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jackrkelly profile image
Jack Kelly Author

Thanks for the input, Jon! These are very small things that I have done recently, and I have been getting a lot of interviews. This was simply my advice and I appreciate yours. You may be in a small percent of interviewers and I'd love to interview with people like you haha. So many interviews care a significant amount about education and decide not to move forward with me and other candidates solely on that fact alone.

I don't understand why a portfolio website wouldn't affect your impression of a possible candidate for you. Unless you're explicitly hiring back-end engineers or something that has no relation to design/UI. If I was hiring front-end engineers I would definitely expect that they had a portfolio site to showcase their work.

The email signature section was a small one and the definition isn't a big deal. Just figured I'd add that in as a small touch.

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jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy • Edited

A portfolio site, whilst pretty, gives no real indication of how skilful and competent someone is. It's carefully curated to show the developer at their purported best - you get no real idea of how long any of the sample work took, whether it was copy pasted from somewhere else, etc.

It gives an idea of the final results, but no real idea how they got to those results - which is what is going to be important when they're doing work for you.

I want to get a good idea of HOW they build stuff, their thought processes and methods - warts and all... a glossy promo simply doesn't give you that

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jkettmann profile image
Johannes Kettmann

Thanks Jon for this comment. I thought the same while reading this article. Many of these tips will just lead to a lot of wasted time imo.

A good resume is very important depending on how you approach job applications. But please don't go down the "creative" road. Stick to a standard template to make it easy to scan for hiring managers. They will just take a few seconds to find the information they're looking for. Focusing on a special design will cost you a lot of time and probably some job opportunities.

Here's a great list of simple things to create an outstanding developer resume.

Second, the portfolio website is probably the biggest time sink for many developers. Especially when it is approached the way it is described here with custom design and so on. And mostly it doesn't have a big effect. At least if you don't have a really cool portfolio which must people don't. I never had a portfolio website myself and i know a lot of devs who have great careers and never had one either.

You can find my take on developer portfolio websites and why you shouldn't waste your time on them here.

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jackrkelly profile image
Jack Kelly Author

Thanks for the comment Johannes, I definitely think that creative resumes can be annoying. This article is simply based on what has worked for me so far, but who knows. Maybe a regular resume would’ve worked better for me. As a self-taught developer I have felt as if I needed to stand out.

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jkettmann profile image
Johannes Kettmann

Don't get me wrong. It's a huge accomplishment from your side to be able to get this far. Especially as a self-taught developer :) So kudos to you. What would be interesting is how you approached the job hunt. How did you reach out to employers in the first place?

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jackrkelly profile image
Jack Kelly Author

Thanks! I initially took the spray and pray approach but that was clearly not the solution at all. I then started to apply to local companies that actually aligned with what I did and found much better luck. I just applied on LinkedIn primarily.

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jkettmann profile image
Johannes Kettmann

Oh that's very interesting. Did you reach out companies with open positions or did you just apply to companies that seemed like a good fit? Thanks a lot for the insights btw

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jackrkelly profile image
Jack Kelly Author

Yea I just applied to software engineering positions that had a similar tech stack to what I am comfortable with/interested in. I just used LinkedIn jobs primarily and applied from there.

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jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy • Edited

Agree - 'creative' CVs are annoying and can be a turn-off. Also, similar to what you mentioned... most of the best devs I know do not have portfolio sites

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nheindev profile image
Noah Hein

While they may not be a huge impact, I'm sure they are appreciated. It's not as if he's saying if you lack an email signature that you won't be hired. However, it does make your email exchanges look more professional. Doubly so if you are planning to freelance at all. You would also be the first person that I've ever heard of not caring about a portfolio piece. I haven't had an employer and I've only done client work. That being said, I have spoken to enough recruiters to know that if there isn't a portfolio website attached to the resume, I am not going to be considered.

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jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy

Interesting - are these recruiters in recruitment companies?

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nheindev profile image
Noah Hein

All of the ones that I've spoken to are the typical staffing solutions companies yes. I don't have experience in in-house recruiters.

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jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy

In my experience recruitment companies are best avoided (by both candidates and employers) - they're generally clueless about tech and have little idea what makes a good developer. Most candidates they send are usually not great.

Best way to get good candidates is through more direct channels

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robskrob profile image
Rob Jewell • Edited

Jon, your perspective here is very interesting. I always assumed that a Portfolio website would be valuable. Take for instance this job posting. In particular there is this part of the application which appears to be very important:
"Please share 2 projects that best represent your capabilities, interests, and leadership, and that demonstrate deep technical expertise in at least one platform, language, or domain."

If an applicant did not have a portfolio, then how could they possibly share any projects with a potential employers?

Also, is not a portfolio project a good opportunity for a developer to demonstrate a potential skill to an employer? Could not a portfolio project give a developer the opportunity to say, "Hey this part of the code base I am proud of because XYZ reasons. However this part of the code base I am not in love with for ABC reasons, and I would improve this parts in EFG ways."

Of course they could potentially show off a project, app, or website that they got paid to do. However chances are that the code they wrote to make the paid project is in a private repository, making it difficult to "show" ones work.

I guess for me the fact that an engineer has a portfolio is of course significantly more important than a "portfolio site" which could equate to a shiny meaningless glimmer of work.

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shauncraig profile image
Shaun Craig

So much thought you have put into this information report. Well done.
I'll save this for, when I need it. Thanks for this.

I've just changed my career, into programming.
Focusing on web development for starters.

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bhupesh profile image
Bhupesh Varshney 👾

Nice tips
Although I wouldn't recommend adding a contact form

It's 2021 adding a contact would invite spam emails to fix your SEO.
If someone really wants to contact you they can send an email.

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jackrkelly profile image
Jack Kelly Author

Yea, this is one of the less important points on a portfolio. With the right spam filters, I think this can be pretty easily avoided. But I totally agree.

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z2lai profile image
z2lai

I'm so glad to read this. I wanted my small footer to use the same background as my last section, so squeezing in a contact form would have messed up my design!

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localstorage profile image
Michael Hungbo

Thanks for these awesome tips, Jack!
Plug: Can you please share how you were able to generate those beautiful social links in your GitHub profile readme? Thanks

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jackrkelly profile image
Jack Kelly Author

Thanks for reading the article Micheal,

I created the social links in adobe illustrator and got the icons from iconmonstr.com/. If you would like I can send you the illustrator file for them.

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Michael Hungbo

Thanks Jack, I actually didn't check very well to see that they were PNGs. I'll try to create something cool as those using Inkscape. Thank you for the tips.

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Joel Buenrostro

Very good recommendations, Thanks Jack.

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Pawan Pawar

Thanks for sharing!

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muzammilaalpha profile image
muzammilaalpha

Nice tips

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azimjonkamolov profile image
Azimjon Kamolov

Well written

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smithwebtek profile image
Brad Smith

Nice list to cover the bases.
And, yes you should be able to code first.

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arthur40056743 profile image
Arthur

great!