Every professional today should have a Web presence.

But why do you need one? If you are looking for a job, or think you might need to look for a job, human resources people are as likely to ask for your LinkedIn name as for a copy of your resume. Also, a blog or Web site is a place to express yourself publicly, to connect with like-minded people, and to tell the world what you think and feel about things. Lastly, posting your resume on a Web site means it can be updated instantly. And it’s easy to have different versions for different positions.

So, how do you get a Web presence? Start by going to LinkedIn.com and register — it’s free. Let LinkedIn access your address book so you can find out who else you know on the site and then connect to them. Set up your profile and see what else is there.

Next, go to Wordpress.com and register. You now have a free Web site, centered on a blog. Spend some time exploring, so that you can see how easy it is to set up an “About” page and write blog entries.

Now that you have a digital existence, build it up. Go to appropriate LinkedIn connections and request that they endorse you. Explore groups you may want to join. Check out LinkedIn Answers (it’s in the top menu) and see if there are questions you can answer. Ask a question.

In your blog, write about things that interest you and demonstrate your specialized knowledge. But be aware: You will be judged by what you say. This is not the place for emotional rants or dirty jokes. What you post on the Web is visible to everyone, and potential employers and clients are watching.

You might want to review products and services you use in your profession. By writing an intelligent review, you demonstrate your familiarity with the tools of your trade and have an opportunity to show your analytical abilities.

Invite comments. Wordpress.com lets you approve comments before they are posted, so don’t worry about having to deal with spam or incivility. Interaction with your readers reveals more of who you are to your potential employers and clients.

By participating in online communities, you begin to become more widely recognized. Your opinions and questions help others know who you are. Later, if you are looking for a job, for someone to hire, or for someone to connect to, people will more readily respond to someone they feel they already know. And of course, be helpful. The motto of the international referrals network BNI is, “Givers gain.” Always seek ways to help others; your helpfulness will be noticed.

What about other social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter? If you want to market products or services, Facebook and Twitter are excellent conduits to your customers. But if you are just exploring the possibilities, I recommend LinkedIn and your own Wordpress.com blog as starting points.

If you do decide to try other social-networking sites, apply the same guidelines I recommend for your blog. Since you get to decide what you say and how you say it, you’ll be judged by these things. See it as an opportunity.

One more powerful way to promote yourself online is by writing articles in your area of professional expertise and post them to, say, EZineArticles.com. People will find your articles, and there’ll be a link back to your blog.

Social-networking sites have proliferated, and each has something to recommend it. For the engineering professional who is not yet familiar with this new world, I suggest going slowly. But make your appearance — now.

— Joel Orr

Stuck for business ideas? Drop me a line: joel@joelorrcoaching.com

Edited by Leslie Gordon