Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

I am not a Brand or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust the Process

You’re not Glossier. You don’t need to deck out your personality in millennial pink and #relatable advertising to get a job.

If I have to hear “personal brand” one more time I’m going to hurl. You see this phrase pop up everywhere, but I couldn’t tell you where it got started. I constantly wrack my brain over who coined this term because it’s hard for me to even resonate with the sentiment. “Personal brand.” I am not, nor have I ever been, nor do I ever intend to be a brand (unless I start a successful line of street-wear with my name on it, as one does). It’s as simple as that. People are not brands. We are human beings who engage with each other. Not products being sold to recruiters.

I do not need to sell myself, create flashy copy-writing, or put on a show to keep you engaged and hopefully one day convince you to “buy” me by giving me a job. I just need to be an engaging human being.

LinkedIn and Instagram are commonly equated with an extension of your personal brand. “It’s your personal brand’s online presence.” But not really though, right? It may be a window into who I am as a person. Perhaps an indicator of my experiences. But it’s not my brand. Because, once again, I’m not selling a product. I’m not selling anything. I’m presenting myself, hopefully properly and professionally, hopefully as a good person with a smart head on my shoulders, hopefully as someone who can engage in meaningful conversation. But never as a product.

My internship has taught me that an interview is really just a conversation between two people. It showed me that first impressions have more to do with personalities than resumes. It taught me that a “personal brand” is just an engaging personality with proper communication skills under a fancy, and sorry to be that guy, consumerist label.

I think it is time to stop teaching college kids that they need to market themselves with their personal brands or pitches. While the right idea is there, it is overshadowed by improper terminology that should be left to the advertisers on Madison Ave. It’s not that intense. The professional world is just a bunch of people looking to have good conversations with smart people. It’s not a buy and sell market. We need to learn to take the brand aspect out of the professional world, and implement a more human approach into these interactions. We need to value and trust each other as people, not commodities. We need to trust a process that values genuine exchanges.