Dear Personal Branding, I’m Just Not That Into You

It may be bad for my personal brand to write this article, but I’m going to do it anyway.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the last business class I’ll ever have to take, when my teacher started lecturing on one of my least favorite topics.

I was in a good mood that morning. I had time to make breakfast, pick out a cute outfit, and drink a Lorelai-level amount of coffee. I really should have been in a blissful caffeine coma, but somehow my professor was managing to make me mad. The should’s of business are one of my hot button topics, and that morning’s lecture was no exception.

“Everything you do and say should reflect your personal brand.”

My brow furrowed.

“You all need to think about how you want other people to view you.”

I clenched my jaw.

“Who do you want to be seen as?”

Myself, I shouted. In my head though, don’t worry.

As she continued to talk to us about the importance of “branding ourselves,” I started taking angry notes. And surprise surprise, they turned into this article.

As most of us know, personal branding involves marketing yourself in order to establish a professional reputation in the business world. It’s not enough anymore to have a nice blazer in your closet and some mean graphic design skills. Personal branding is all about intentionally infusing your “brand” into every aspect of your life. Your clothes. Your hobbies. Your friends. Your everyday attitude. The jokes you tell. The way you smell.

In a nutshell, it’s thinking of yourself as a business. Everything about you should emulate your “brand,” and nothing is exempt except perhaps the songs you sing in the shower during private concerts. Don’t tell me you’ve never belted the lyrics to Get Low into your hairbrush. To the windoooooooooow, to the waaall…

The reason that personal branding irks me so much is because it goes against everything we’ve been taught since we were little.

It goes against authenticity.

What happened to “it’s none of your business what other people think of you”? Instead it’s “what other people think of you determines your success in business.”

What happened to “be yourself”? It’s been replaced with “build your brand.”

Is it really necessary that we “brand ourselves” in order to succeed? Cause, I’m sorry friends, but I just don’t buy it. I think this model is inside out. The person you are should determine the career you pursue, not vice versa.

When I asked my dad (businessman extraordinaire) what he thought about personal branding, he said, and I quote, “I don’t know what that is.”

Yep, that’s right, folks. Before the Internet and social media mania, there was a separation of work and leisure in the professional world.

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand that personal branding is a valuable business strategy. If you really eat, sleep and breathe your “brand,” people will begin to associate you with certain values and qualities, which could lead to lucrative connections and job opportunities.

I just think the whole “brand yourself” philosophy is, well, overkill. I support professionalism. I think polished portfolios and resumés are a good idea. And I know booze and social media are not a good mix.

Even if your major is completely outside the realm of the traditional “firm handshake, pantsuit, PowerPoint, how are the kids, Shirley” business set-up, there will most likely be a business-y aspect to your job. I’m a journalism major, which is not business per se, but I’ll probably be going to meetings, interacting with my boss, and making the occasional presentation (oy). I will have to be professional, of course, but I’m not going to go out of my way to build a personal brand.

Instead I’ll simply be nice, work hard, and live my life the way I want to.

I plan to have a successful career, but I don’t want my career to be my whole life. I’m not going to worry about what employers will think of me if I do the things I like to do. If I want to join a hip-hop group or dye my hair purple, then I will. If I want to belt Lil Jon during karaoke night at the pub, then dammit, I’m gonna do it. And you’re not gonna want to be missing that.

In my opinion, feeling the need to stifle your personality for the sake of your career is a key indicator that you’re in the wrong field.

Because at the end of the day, we’re all more than the presentations we give and the words on our resumés.

We’re not businesses. We’re not brands. We’re human beings.

 

Featured Image via Anna Thetard

Megan Peterson

Editorial Contributor, Indiana University Major: Journalism and Apparel Merchandising Her heart belongs to: fashion, old Hollywood, the color pink, big cities, disco balls, airports and dance parties Her guilty pleasures: Diet Coke, Friends reruns, shopping sprees, and following Kate Middleton’s life a little too closely

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