What makes you stand out? What makes you unique? How do you rise above the crowd?
When faced with these kinds of questions, seemingly unavoidable whether you’re already in the workforce or are in college preparing to enter this world, are intimidating. They leave us with even more questions, ones that turn back to ourselves and our own self-esteems.
The latest buzzword when looking at the job world is “personal branding.” Especially for those in any media field, the key to embodying a “successful” employee is to have a very specific idea of who you are and what you represent. This is a reasonable expectation on the surface. It’s hard to pinpoint what you want out of a career if you don’t know much about yourself, but this concept might be going too far.
When you consider what you want out of life, those big questions you tend to avoid when people ask, “What are you planning to do after college?”, what comes to mind? For me, that’s helping in whatever way I can, hopefully through church-related activities and humanitarianism. I also would love to be self-employed, continuing to make content on a website that provide inspiration for others and let my creative juices flow.
So I don’t necessarily fall in line with the crowd, the majority of students around me studying mass communication. I see the politics and business structure the media world and want nothing to do with it. Since I’m learning more about that world each day, that opinion continues to prove itself true for me. Personal branding falls into that.
We are expected to establish a personal brand for ourselves, but what factors actually play into that? Well, if you want to be hired, especially in a certain company or realm in the industry, you’ll inevitably be adjusting yourself to fit what employers want. Your freedom to be unique is minimal. Because really, we aren’t all that different from one another. There’s bound to be somebody else who has the same kind of ideas and a similar personality as you do. All your “personal brand” is doing is establishing yourself as a competitor in a race hopefully coming out on top.
Personal branding turns ourselves into what the term insinuates: we’re advertising ourselves as products. What services and benefits am I providing you? When you step into a supermarket looking for a product, seeing the shelf full of brands trying to be “the best,” how do you accurately judge one versus the others? What crazy, brand-new ideas are left to somehow make us “unique”?
There’s a reason I’m not in business or advertising. There’s a reason I talk often about how much I loathe consumerism and the extremes of capitalism, how these extremes stem into our everyday mindsets, and this is no exception. Trying to describe everything I embody as a person cannot fit neatly into a two-sentence slogan or flashy label. You won’t get the full picture of who I am and what I can contribute to this world based on some selling point that, if effective, others will inevitably also use. So what are employers really basing their decisions on? Who a person truly is, or if they’re good salespeople?
Not to mention the immense pressure put on reputations. In media, one little mistake can completely change everything. Been there, done that. To think that we should never make mistakes or pursue ideas that don’t turn out is denying our humanity, our own freedom to learn and explore, our ability to grow and become better, more knowledgeable people. I don’t want to feel like I constantly have to prove myself worthy just because I can admit that I have flaws and am imperfect. If you can’t admit that about yourself, that feels like you’re denying nature itself.
In an environment where we’re all vying for a select number of positions, a professional game of musical chairs, it’s hard, even frowned upon, to simply support one another. To not fall into the competitive trap and help others pursue their ambitions rather than constantly focusing on ourselves and how we stand out. Which, if we’re all doing that, we end up all looking the same. The industry bigwigs know what they want, and we adhere to those standards. We can lose ourselves in embodying the key qualities employers are looking for, acting certain ways, even dressing certain ways, just to be considered for a job.
That sounds like the opposite of what I want to spend my life and career doing. I wasn’t made to fit into a perfect mold others somehow designated as the best. Anybody can toss out the selling words of “multimedia journalist” and “storytelling” and whatever else to entice people in. I even admit that there’s many people out there who also want to blog for a living or use their energy serving others. I don’t think my “personal brand” is overtly unique. Instead, I’m not a brand. I’m me. I’m just a person with ideas and a heart longing to travel and help people. If you like me, great, but I’m not about to sell myself to you to win you over. I want you to genuinely appreciate the real, honest me.
What are your thoughts on personal branding? There are certainly pros and cons, and varying opinions can really get the conversation rolling.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie