Your heart thumps in your chest as that little arrow hovers over the blue “Submit” button. You take a breath, let it out, and then… click!
You’ve just sent in your cover letter and résumé to your dream job; the job you were made for.
A strange feeling rushes over you as you sit staring at the screen in front of you. You thought you’d feel a sense of relief, a release of pressure from this crazy job application process. Instead, you’re left feeling empty and unsatisfied.
That’s because there’s so much more you can be doing to secure that position. In this competitive job search landscape, it’s not always enough to just apply and hope for the best. We spoke to Predrag Lesic, CEO of .ME about his own career journey, why students need to work on their personal brands, and how .ME can help you do that.
How did you become interested in the tech industry?
I attended the University of Montenegro and fell in love with programming while I was there. My degree is in mechanical engineering, but I attended university right as the internet was taking off. Computers were becoming more common in the classroom and I was pulled far more in that direction. The result is almost 20 years working in computer-based business, mostly internet-related technologies.
Tell us about your career until now—what was your first job after graduation and how did you end up in your current role?
I was lucky in that my first job was as a programmer for a small, vibrant company. At the time we were pioneers in Windows and Novel based computer networks which were later replaced with TCP/IP networks.
My consistent interest in new technologies opened many doors for me. At first as an ISP provider in Montenegro and afterwards in the national airline company where I was able to transform communication infrastructure from the SITA network to a more affordable internet infrastructure.
For a long time I was in search of new challenges. Like a lot of people trying to figure out where they fit in their careers, I spent about seven years trying new jobs. My current position as the CEO of .ME came after eight years of working for the national airline.
A friend of mine told me that he was thinking about applying for the Government of Montenegro’s public request for proposal process to operate the .ME domain.
We went looking for partners and after negotiations with different companies, we got into agreement with one US company and one Irish company—Go Daddy and Afilias. We applied and won the process to run the .ME registry.
Why do you feel a student’s personal brand is such an important part of the job search?
The labor market is highly competitive, with rising numbers of graduates with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and fewer job openings. Generally, when we are seeking to enter a highly competitive market, we have to differentiate our offerings. Building a strong personal brand is one way to do it.
One can say that personal branding has become the key deciding factor for being considered a serious candidate or not.
What sets .ME apart from other domains students may use for a personal website?
.ME is the only personal domain name. It is all about the user and their personality—their interests and unique traits, qualities, and talents. With .ME, students can reserve a place on the internet that is just for them, that carries deep meaning in its name, and that they can use to take control of their web presence and start building the brand they want to be recognized for.
The value of a .ME domain is that it offers limitless word combinations from GetToKnow.me or DayDreamWith.me to domains such as YourName.me to YourNameSurname.Me.
Students can also update their email to one associated with their domain name like name@surname.ME. They can also showcase their personal logo. That would certainly be a signal for a potential employer that they follow technological trends and are tech savvy.
The .ME team also provides users with advice and tutorials on how to best use their domains. Just recently we launched a Personal Branding for Students and Graduates campaign. We also invite everyone to follow our LinkedIn page that will, for the next few weeks, be focused on providing students with knowledge and tools necessary for standing out from the crowd.
How can students use .ME to develop their personal brands?
Students can use their .ME domain as an address to their personal website or as an address to a centralized “hub” for all their social media accounts, blog, or portfolio of projects. It can be used as a website to build their virtual résumé or portfolio.
Students can also link a landing page like About.Me or even a LinkedIn profile to their domain.
What general advice do you have for students who are hoping to create a strong personal brand?
The most important advice I can give to anyone wishing to create a strong personal brand is to stay true to themselves. There are two parts to this advice: know who you are and be honest about it.
Even if you don’t have extensive experience, that does not mean you don’t have something of value. Don’t try to be something that you’re not. Instead, find a way to build on your interests and strengths and paint them in the best light.
What is the best way for students to get noticed and connect with potential employers?
One of the best strategies I have encountered for getting noticed and connecting with potential employers is writing a personal blog. For example, it can be focused on industry topics and news with an elaborate “about” section that serves as a mini résumé.
You have to think like you’re the CEO of your own life (or as we like to say Me, Inc.) and that you are tasked with managing your brand and career. [Your personal blog] is the perfect place to write about academic and volunteering projects, personal opinions, or anything else that you are passionate about.
Also, if you’re active on social networks such as Twitter or LinkedIn and maybe even mention influencers, recruiters, and companies in your updates, with time, you will get noticed. Even if you don’t, you will certainly have something valuable to show a recruiter.
What qualities, skills, or experience would make you want to hire a student or recent graduate?
Experience and educational background depend on the position I would be considering them for, but what I always search for in a candidate is a cultural fit. I want them to be confident in their abilities, enthusiastic about the company, and willing to learn.
Homework time! Predrag recommends starting a personal blog to stand out in your job search. Pairing your writing with a strong social media presence can help you get noticed by employers. Start documenting your school projects and volunteer work. Find industry influencers on Twitter and LinkedIn and follow what they are saying via social media. Predrag suggests using .ME to get everything into one centralized area that is easy for potential employers to find. Think about creating a landing page, like an About.ME, to provide links to your personal blog, social media accounts, and online portfolio.