Insta-famous fitness bloggers and YouTube stars everywhere: Rejoice!
Mass marketers have come up with a socially acceptable name for your digital narcissism: Personal branding. The kicker? Failure to brand yourself effectively could cost you a job.
This Is Me*
*This is the curated version of myself that I’ve chosen to grace the Internet with.
According to the ever-reliable Google, personal branding is “the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group or organization.”
In layman’s terms, it’s simply filtering out the parts of your personality that suck to make people like you on the Internet.
If done right, you can make self-editing work to your professional advantage.
If your dream is to work in fashion, for example, you may spend five hours a day cataloging your favorite looks on Instagram. An aspiring sales professional, on the other hand, can spend months updating, tweaking and perfecting their LinkedIn profile for potential clients. A freelance graphic designer may go the full nine yards, branding their Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and portfolio website in lieu of a recognizable corporate identity. Think of it like a digital portfolio that can be unearthed in one Google search.
This self-conscious curating actually matters: Approximately 79 percent of hiring managers in the U.S. review online information about job applicants before bringing them in for an interview, according to a 2010 study from Microsoft. *Cue college students changing Facebook settings to private*
Turns out your “superficial” friend that’s Kim K on Instagram and Britney Spears circa 2007 in real life is actually onto something.
The Rat Race of Looking Cool on the Internet
Another lovely residual effect of the great recession? Every flippant tweet, Instagram selfie and disgruntled Facebook status now matters. In our increasingly competitive job market, a resume and cover letter are no longer enough.
“Whether you’re a financial planner or a fashion blogger, a personal brand has come to seem like a professional requirement — the key to success and fulfillment in an increasingly cutthroat and unstable economy,” said Ann Friedman in a New Republic piece entitled, Me Inc. “Branding yourself might be easier than ever, but it’s getting harder and harder to stand out.”
Maybe that’s all personal branding is – a desperate, last attempt to get a leg up on the competition.
If you can bring a 5,000 person network to the Monday meeting in addition to your stacked resume and impressive list of credentials, you’re well ahead of the next Joe Schmoe in line. Conversely, if the personal brand you didn’t even know existed reads something like a bawdy Bud Light commercial, your professional opportunities are limited regardless of your resumé.
So, to brand or not to brand?
While there’s a chance you’ll find the personal branding process quite paradoxical (according to Friedman, you’re instructed to “be authentic” and “avoid clichés” when piecing together your digital identity), the concept of cultivating an online persona you can stand behind isn’t a terrible idea.
And as digital natives, we’re naturally good at it. Believe it or not, it can be done sans shameless humble-bragging and social media addiction.