My personal brand is anemic. This according to the messages that have overrun my inbox lately, as my hunt for a new job slides into its third month. Self-proclaimed experts, mentors and coaches have arrived in droves, all bearing the same conclusion. Not that they actually use the word anemic, of course, which would be much too direct for folks who make their money swimming in pools of positive ambiguity. But here is what they do tell me: I need to kick it into high gear, punch it up a notch, and pass the 30-second resume test, which — at the moment — I am failing miserably.
I get it. I need to rebrand.
People with slick logos on their business cards have a brand. People who update their Facebook statuses every hour have a brand. Buffalo Bill, the Barefoot Contessa, Jack LaLanne — all brand worthy.
My family's mantra was "Don't call attention to yourself." We didn't need a 10-piece band to sing our praises, or so my grandmother was fond of telling me. Our people would never compose résumé that used the word "preeminent" to mean you showed up for work on time and did your job.
It's not that I lack confidence or experience or a talent for shining in an interview. Just that marketing myself on paper turned into a science while I wasn't looking. Could an employer's software programs trash my solid resume by the third line in favor of some cocky Dartmouth grad who cracked the code on desirable keywords? Apparently — and sadly — so. Five years ago. Maybe my annoyance comes because it reminds me of my least favorite parenting memory — the ubiquitous awards ceremonies where we were all held hostage until it was clear that everyone was great at everything and we could finally go home.
I can tell I'm slowly coming around though, as I thought I might in these uncertain times. Lately I've been reading the experts' emails all the way through. I've even started to recall occasions when a better personal marketing strategy could have saved some trouble.
During my foray into the Internet dating world, for instance, when my dates would invariably arrive and walk right past me, since my description of myself had been — shall we say — a bit modest. Or when my last boss who asked me to write my biography for the company's marketing material and then tsk-tsked about how I needed to pump up the volume and looked at me for the rest of the afternoon as if I'd grown up Amish.
Or way back to my sixth grade classroom. When one of us needed to go to the restroom, instead of bothering our teacher, Mrs. Marcoli, you walked quietly to the blackboard and wrote your initials in chalk inside a square she had cordoned off with masking tape. The system worked smashingly well for all of us except one. Billy Murphy. When Billy Murphy's bladder could no longer hold out, he would quietly slump to the blackboard, resigned to the raucous laughter that only his unfortunate initials could provoke. This was always without Mrs. Marcoli ever noticing, as she was concerned with more critical issues, like finding the area of a trapezoid. When Billy would walk back in as stealthily as possible and erase his initials, we were reminded of how hilarious it was the first time, and it received an encore.
In today's market, Billy Murphy would not suffer. He would simply rebrand. Will Murphy, or W. Paul Murphy, or simply The Murph could be launched over recess. This is what I think about as I reformat my resume. And add the adjectives "pioneering" and "award-winning," hire the 10-piece band, and hope my grandmother isn't watching.
Linda DeMers Hummel is a freelance writer who lives in Rodgers Forge. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.