Why Personal Branding is Difficult in Today’s Job Market

I recently read a blog post on LinkedIn (because that’s a thing now) that talked about how quickly everything moves now. It used to be commonplace that you started working for a company after graduation, and you moved up in the ranks over the years. Many workers stayed at the same one or two companies for their entire career. Today, in the time of startups and private contractors, that’s very rarely the case. And I think that that’s a good thing, but unfortunately, that’s not what an employer often wants to acknowledge.

My boyfriend just quit his job; He’s going back to school to get a technical degree that should help him increase his chances of getting a job in the industry he intended to get into with his Bachelor’s degree. His employers were, understandably, not thrilled. He’s been at this company for two years, and he’s good at his job. But he’s absolutely overqualified, and explained to them from the beginning that this was not where he saw himself ending up. They clearly hired him regardless, but are angry now that he’s chosen to move on. As I said, it’s not unwarranted for them to be disappointed that they’re losing someone valuable, but is it unreasonable to assume that they might at least be pleasant with him, and wish him luck on his journey? Personally, I don’t see any reason why we can’t be both unhappy that someone is leaving the company, but able to see where it benefits them and you to find someone perhaps more suited for the position.

That was a bit of a tangent, but the point is that employers may often say one thing, and expect another. For instance, I’ve seen a number of employers request well-rounded employees, though they request a very specific skill set. It’s reasonable to want someone who has an understanding of all of the tasks you require of them, but it’s really not to think that someone will be well-rounded in exactly the way that you want them to be. What this all often comes back to is our public persona, or “personal brand.”

How we market ourselves is so important in a society where we look up everyone online before we meet them. We send and receive job applications on our phones, and we utilize LinkedIn and other social networks to craft the way that others see us. My personal brand has changed quite a bit over the years, as I’ve begun to learn exactly what it means to brand yourself. And because I’m applying to jobs in various industries, my brand is probably not going to be all-encompassing for whatever the position is that I’m applying for.

For instance, I may be applying to jobs where I write about TV and film, and oftentimes, these places want someone who is quick-witted, and who frequently live-tweets shows and comments on the latest celebrity gossip. I do post about many of these things, but it’s not all of who I am. And when I apply for jobs in the non-profit and education spheres, they may be turned off by my portfolio and light, entertainment-related posts. Not to complain, but that seems a bit unfair, and sort of goes against the desire for a “well-rounded” candidate. After all, we all have interests and hobbies outside of our jobs.

As I started this post saying, most of us are changing careers frequently. We’re working as freelancers, we’re bouncing from internship to job in various industries, and we’re always looking out for a new way to use our skills. This is simply the nature of today’s inconsistent job market. And yet some employers still insist that the candidates they interview be perfectly tailored for the job they’re applying for. Why not, instead, look for someone who understands the job, and has many of the most important qualifications, but who has other things they can bring to the table? This too is something employers may say that they want, but they really aren’t that interested in. (Sometimes there’s a lack of emphasis on soft skills, and other times there’s such an emphasis on them that it seems as though they’re shopping for a dream candidate who really doesn’t exist. But that’s another blog post entirely.)

You see, while my cover letter WILL be tailored for the position I’m applying for, I’m much more than just a candidate. My resume will showcase a whole host of different jobs and special skills, and that’s okay. I’ll show you how these experiences and talents can help, and if they can’t then well, honestly, they may be more fitted to my next job (because at 26, there will definitely be a next job). I dream of doing many things, and my brand and actions will reflect that. You should want someone at your company who dreams big and wants to try new things.

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