Build your personal brand as a new developer

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I’ve noticed that my blog and my social media accounts have seen an increase in traffic. Only a very slight increase, but it’s still very motivating and encouraging.

This got me thinking about something that hasn’t crossed my mind until recently. Something that I had been neglecting. My personal brand.

I’ve got a great job and I’m not looking for work. But I had underestimated the importance of having a positive online presence.

My naivety was reinforced last week.

My company was recruiting for several positions and had received a large number of applications. To my surprise, I saw my boss Googling applicant’s names to evaluate their online presence.

My boss was using this as a way of looking for positive contributions and information. He wasn’t browsing Facebook trying to find out what the candidate does on a Friday night. He was more interested in:

  • Did the applicant have a blog?
  • Any special interests?
  • Any passion projects outside of work?

I’m sure at other companies though, this could well be a different story.

It got me thinking about my own “personal brand” and inspired me to give my online presence a bit of an overhaul. Here’s some things I did, some observations I made and some easy steps that I believe you should take, too.

Start and maintain a blog

If you don’t already own it, try and buy your {yourname}.com domain name. If you can’t get the .com, then the .co.uk or other local TLD will do.

Fancy domain names are great if you are trying to build a business. But, if you are building a personal brand then it should be just that — personal.

Before you say anything or stop reading, blogging is far from dead.

This isn’t about getting 1,000’s of visitors to your website. This is about developing a personal brand. And ultimately, it’s about what happens when a prospective employer or customer types your name into Google.

Your actual blog doesn’t need to be anything flashy or expensive. A WordPress blog with a free theme will be more than enough to get you started. There are other platforms that you could use like Jekyll. WordPress was so easy for me to set up and get started with that I never felt the need to try anything else.

This isn’t about showing off your design skills or projects. Your blog is about people being able to find you online, see what you’re about, and contact you if needed.

Don’t get too caught up on what to write or spend hours and hours tinkering with your blog. It shouldn’t take any time away from your learning or your family time. Try to post regularly and be consistent with it.

Finally, try and remember that all your posts don’t have to be too technical. Even if you are a complete beginner, you will always have 1 day, 1 week or 1 month’s more experience than someone else. Someone will find value in what you have to say.

Don’t be afraid to take the opportunity to write about something non-technical. Write about a hobby or interest. Use your blog as a way to show your personality and interests outside of code. Just try not to be too controversial.

Sign up for a Twitter account

I’m not much of a social media person myself. Yet, while considering my personal brand, I decided to sign up for a Twitter account.

Twitter is an easy way to get direct access to many “high profile” members of the coding community. For example, I recently put a tweet out expressing my interest in learning the Slim framework. To my surprise, the first reply was from one of the core contributor’s to the framework. Who better to get some advice and guidance from than him?

As well as being part of a community, it’s a great way to keep up to date with industry news and events. It’s also a great way to break the ice and say a virtual “hello” before bumping into someone at an in-person conference or meet-up.

Remember that your tweets are there for the whole world to see. So with that in mind please be helpful, be kind, and try and offer some kind of value. Pointless tweets about what you had for dinner and auntie Madge’s bad back are going to get you swiftly un-followed.

Social media is a great opportunity to build your personal brand so use it correctly to network, and share your enthusiasm and knowledge.

Be consistent across all platforms

When you think of any brand, no doubt you will associate it with a particular logo, slogan or image. This is exactly the same when evaluating your personal brand.

Make sure that you have the same profile picture and bio across all platforms. I made the mistake of having a different profile picture on Medium to what I had on Twitter. People didn’t immediately associate the two. Your aim is for people to recognize you and your personal brand no matter what the platform.

You ARE a developer

Even if you’re still learning and new to development, don’t hinder your chances of landing a job. Your blog and social media accounts say something like “aspiring developer” or “developer in training.”

What hiring manager is going to be interested in an aspiring developer? It’s a sure fire way to get dismissed at the first cut.

Even if you work a regular day job and have been learning to code in the evenings, you’re still a “developer” (who just happens to work a job during the day and write code in the evenings!).

There will be plenty of opportunities to explain your level of experience at a later date. But first impressions count, so don’t stumble at the first hurdle.

You are a developer, and looking for a job as a developer, so make sure you refer to yourself as one.

What exactly does Junior even mean anyway?

I realized that on my blog and social media accounts I referred to myself as a “junior” developer. I’m 30. Nothing junior about that!

Seriously though, junior has no meaning. It comes down to an individual’s perception. A junior developer could be someone with little to no work experience. But what if that person has been writing code in their spare time for the past 10 years? Are they junior then? Or someone could have a few years commercial experience yet still not be very good?

If you’re referring to yourself as a junior developer, stop. It’s not doing you any favors. You are limiting your employment potential. What company or recruiter is going to consider a “junior” when they are advertising for a mid-level developer role?

You don’t want them to say: “Hang on a minute. You meet all the job criteria and have several years experience. But sorry, we aren’t looking for a junior.”

If you have a niche, emphasize it

On my blog and social media I was referring to myself as a “web developer.” Yes, I do develop web applications using web technologies. More specifically I am a PHP developer.

My JavaScript skills are nothing special, so I won’t be looking for a JavaScript developer job anytime soon. I only spent about an hour going through a Ruby on Rails tutorial, so that would be a no-no too. So I decided to re-brand myself as a PHP developer. This represents my skill-set and specialty more accurately.

If you want to attract the right opportunities for yourself, you need to consider exactly what you wish to portray.

I am 5+ year experience software developer and part time blogger. I have experience in Android and Java.

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