This post was written by a student in the Stanford’s Winter 2011 Networked Rhetoric class; it was designed to focus in on a particular source or research experience related to his/her project on social media and digital culture . See a more detailed overview of this assignment.
As a sophomore at Stanford University, my research topic for my class “Networked Rhetoric” explores online personal branding. Personal branding is a technique used in public relations and marketing, which has recently become more widespread than ever with the rise of social networks and digital media. In short, personal branding is the way in which a person markets himself or herself to others. The way a student spends time modifying a Facebook profile is an example of personal branding; a company owner creating an investor-relations blog is another example. In my research project, I am especially interested in personal branding for the purpose of career development.
I started out my research by looking into techniques and strategies that the experts had published regarding career-focused personal branding. One of the most noted names in this field is Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Millennial Branding and an Inc. “30 under 30” winner. In his book, Me 2.0, he takes readers through the steps to “build a powerful brand to achieve career success. In his book, he defines the portion of the population born 1982-2001 as Generation Y, or the Millennials. The most important advantageous characteristic of Generation Y is that we are technology gurus. We started interacting with the web from our early childhood, have a great understanding of its workings, and cannot imagine our lives without it. While older generations, such as the baby boomers and Generation X have established personal brands and pay others to for services such as podcasts and social media outreach, Millennials have worked with these technologies since they have been created. Unlike older professionals who struggle to keep on top of new methods of communication, Generation Y is ready to embrace rapid technological change.
I found Schwabel’s analysis of the distinct generations to be legitimate and read on to see what he had to say about “building my brand to achieve career success.” Maybe it’s the advantage of being born in Generation Y, but most of what he was saying seemed extremely obvious to me. For example, he offers a section of strategies to use on LinkedIn, which the first two are “Craft Your Profile” and “Start and Expand your network.” As a college student, I know that most of us would question whether these count as “strategies” at all. By this point, most of us have had enough experience with sites such as Facebook to know that we need to fill out each section on our profile and expand our connections on social network sites. Schwabel also advises readers to “Control your Google Results”, another obvious tip when most of us have Googled ourselves as a routine part of life. Although it was accurate and complete, much of Me 2.0 seemed very redundant and unhelpful to me; it seemed like most people, especially professionals, should already know about the topics he explained. I was surprised that the book was given such high acclaim for its “secrets of personal branding,” especially since it is not even targeted at older professionals, but at the younger Generation of Millennials.