Once upon a time, you would apply for a job, secure an interview, attend the interview, show your portfolio, and wait to see if you would get an offer. However, today when it comes to your career and job applications, it’s a different story.
Now when you apply for a job, your potential employer or recruiter can search your name and start sizing you up on the merits of your Instagram feed – all before they read your cover letter or even open your resume. This practice of individual online publishing has led to what is known as Personal Branding.
‘Personal Branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging.’
Before the marketing lingo of ‘personal branding’ was coined, and prior to the dawn of social media, your personal brand used to be about your reputation; most often spread by word of mouth.
What You See Is Not Always What You Get
We all know that people are presenting the best version of themselves online. No unflattering angles, no liking a page or being affiliated with anything that isn’t cool or helping their image. However, this promotion of self has become much more complicated and aggressive in recent years. And for many, especially those in certain industries, personal branding has evolved to not only curating but also inflating aspects of yourself.
Social media accounts are the platforms that successfully facilitate the distribution of your brand to the right people. This process includes curating your eternal online image; from who you’re following, who’s following you, and to what types of content you like or choose to share. For certain generations, the days of using social media for sharing photos with friends and keeping in touch are long gone.
‘Your social platforms act as an eternally outstretched hand, ready to meet and
present your personal brand to whomever browses your way.’
Whether done consciously or not, the information we share online – like articles, retweets, videos – are chosen not only out of a possible interest in the subject, but often as something we want to be affiliated with. Someone in a management position may share LinkedIn articles on the hottest trends in restructuring and efficiency, while a graphic designer may only share their own work and inspiration; literally turning their social media accounts into portfolios. The media we choose to engage with online further shapes how we want to be viewed.
We’re incredibly preoccupied with the way we’re perceived because the urge to be liked and make good first impression is natural. Studies show that “our brains deal with social pain in the same ways it deals with physical pain”. In other words, we hurt when we feel rejected or not accepted. For this reason, first impressions can be stressful; and nowadays you’re making first impressions on the regular without even knowing it. Your social platforms act as an eternally outstretched hand, ready to meet and present your personal brand to whoever browses your way.
‘Potential employers or peers can grasp the
image you’ve so carefully curated and published.’
Where Will It All Get You?
If you follow relevant influencers in your field, share and repost all the right thought pieces, and have a visually sound and attractive online presence, it will make you accessible, easy to measure and classify; and with that, potential employers or peers can grasp the image you’ve so carefully curated and published.
One of the biggest conflicts with personal branding is that you’re a person, not a brand. A person has multiple dimensions and sentiments. As a brand, you’re only presenting a portion of yourself while ignoring other parts. The pressure of maintaining that idealised image of yourself can be nerve-racking and unsustainable. This discrepancy fuels the increasing problematic distance between who you are in life versus who are you are online.
What Goes Around…
Just as you can be Googled, you too have the power and tools to examine potential employers, brands, and companies. Let’s not forget that the same level of thought and curation goes into a company’s brand, as your own. Sure, a little white lie here or there never hurt anyone but what are the long-term implications if everyone’s projecting partial truths? What are we really seeing?
By Leysha Savoy