There are a few lessons taught to all students at Stanford, regardless of major, interests or lectures attended. Apart from the more routine epiphanies that most of us eventually experience (such as “Palo Alto is too damn far to walk” or “last night’s drunken euphoria is equal in magnitude to this morning’s physical agony”), one assured lesson is “searching for a job is miserable.”
The phrase “job market” is a cute euphemism for an experience categorically opposite to that of actually browsing a market. “Job war zone” or “Job game park” would more accurately reflect the brutal nature of marketing oneself repeatedly to different firms. Happily, I ran across an article some time ago with advice for the savvy job seeker looking to differentiate themselves from hordes of qualified candidates. The piece, “5 Ways to Take Control of Your Personal Brand Today” by Dan Schawbel, introduced an interesting concept highly lauded by job market experts: your name is your personal brand.
The idea behind this is not that people should be incentivized to submit copyright applications for their birth certificates. Rather, it is that viewing oneself as a brand is an appropriate mentality when laboring through the job search process. In an age where seemingly limitless information about us is available through multiple mediums, it is necessary for us to envision our names as logos. These logos need to be both promoted (as the Stanford Tree candidates recently discovered) and defended (as Tiger Woods is currently realizing – ouch). Fortunately, there are many great tools that allow people to engage in both self-aggrandizement and damage control, whether they are supplementing their resumes with letters of recommendation from their mothers or convincing their cereal sponsors to forget about that online photo of them hitting a bong.
The article emphasized five central steps for taking control of one’s brand. The first is claiming a Google Profile. A Google Profile is a personal summary that allows people to link all their relevant information to one page, which can be used as a “base.” Two added advantages to using this feature are a) that the service is free and b) that it shows up automatically on the first page of results in a Google name search.
Another method of brand control is reserving one’s name on all available social networks. Envision the disappointment on the face of all those similarly named to you, as they discover that you have preempted their efforts to enlist at obscure peer-to-peer websites! Clearly, dispersing your presence throughout multiple such networks will make you a more attractive candidate. To see if your name has already been reserved on all the major sites, use the aptly named www.namechk.com.
Another useful tip is the establishment of a personal hub. Using domain-hosting services or simple format websites such as www.nombray.com, you can list all your relevant qualifications in one easy-to-navigate page, much like a Google Profile. This way, you can pick and choose between what information you wish to present to (and obscure from) your prospective employer. By adding the website address to your resume, you can immediately direct attention toward the article of you saving that young boy from drowning in The Claw and away from that video of you in Cancun that you’d hoped would not surface on the Internet.
All of this is meant to develop a picturesque revisionist history that presents only the more palatable aspects of your brand to your potential recruiters. A LinkedIn profile (www.linkedin.com) can display a glowing recommendation from that professor you worked with for a month, while making no mention of that summer you spent referring to yourself as The Situation and experimenting with perpetual drunkenness. For the attention-deficit set and those unversed in professional vernacular, www.twtjobs.com provides the opportunity to summarize your resume in 140 characters, bypassing the excruciating boredom associated with reading a full page of bullet points.
The lesson here is that the period of our lives where our full name was irrelevant (outside of filling out speeding tickets) is over. Each job applicant in the modern world of competitive employment-seekers requires a reputation management strategy. The best way to supervise and moderate one’s presentation to the outside world is to conceive of oneself as a brand. That way, should disaster strike, you will stand poised to successfully navigate the treacherous straits of reputational defense. So what does your brand say about you?
This column seems to alternate between social networking and heavy-handed moral philosophy. What will next week’s column bring? Ask firstname.lastname@example.org to find out.