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Is self-branding really a necessary strategy for success in this increasingly complex corporate world? Facebook, like MySpace before it, has precipitated a kind of mediated self-branding never before possible. Whether in the form of a pin, tweet, photo, like, or share, social networking has undoubtedly contributed to a shift in the way we market ourselves to future employers. But where is the line between promotionalism and professionalism?
Alison Hearn from the University of Western Ontario has argued that the type of self-branding practices I’m talking about, whether strictly for social networking or for professional networking on sites like LinkedIn, “illustrate the erosion of any meaningful distinction between notions of the self and capitalist processes of production and consumption.” Is this true? More and more I think the answer is “Yeah, kind of.”
While self-promotion is not new, more and more we are encouraged to think of our professional selves (and to creatively represent of ourselves) in promotional terms. We are asked to reduce ourselves down to a set of abstract, purely instrumental characteristics within the limits of dominant corporate discourse. What’s left is referred to as our ‘brand.’
Is this an entirely bad thing? It might be too soon to tell, but I too often experience the frustration of students who feel alienated by this kind of approach to securing a future career. Nevertheless, most of us will have to walk the line between promotionalism and professionalism at some point in our careers, and it doesn’t have to be a taxing experience.
Resumes are one of the most common tools for self-promotion and if you’ve ever applied for a job you’ve probably agonized over the right words to describe yourself. I chose to bookmark the resumes above either because I think they’re good creative examples or because I think that what they lack creatively, they make up for in quality content.
Here are some things to consider when building a resume:
What kind of design is right for my field?
A resume that a graphic designer or photographer would choose, might not be right if you’re applying for a job at a law firm, university, or non-profit. It makes sense for a designer to implement elements of design into their resume. Don’t let the lure of flashy graphics and creative design distract you from showing off the skills that matter most in your field.
Chronological, Functional or both?
Chronological resumes are great for applicants with a solid work history. Functional resumes group work experience by skill, which is ideal for those just starting out, changing careers, or with gaps in employment history (say, because you’ve been in school). You can combine both by organizing your headings by “skill” and listing all relevant work experience under each heading chronologically starting with the most recent.
What headings should I prioritize in a functional resume?
Look to the job posting for specific credentials the employer is looking for. Do you need a special certificate, diploma, or degree? If so, ‘education’ should be listed close to the top. ‘Experience’ should be broken up when applicable under more detailed headings. For example, if an emphasis is placed on experience with customer service, use it as a heading where you’ll list your customer service experience. The same goes for design, writing, research, teaching, marketing etc. experience. Single out the 3-5 most important areas of experience and group your assets under each applicable heading.
How many pages?
This will depend on the job. Many of the examples above are a single page, which doesn’t leave much room for content. If you’re using it to distribute widely, a one-pager might be optimal. When applying for a specific job, I think 2 pages is ideal. If you need more room, make sure that there isn’t anything on the resume that the employer could live without knowing.
Your resume is not a confessional!
It can be difficult to weed out experiences that are less relevant than others. The focus should be on your most relevant skills and experiences.
Create a ‘word bank’ of key words or phrases used by the employer in the job posting. Adopt the tone, language and style of the employer.
Do your home work!
Want to get a leg up on your competition? Put your Google search skills to work! Start with a company’s web page, employee bios, links to corporate documents, and even press coverage to get a good sense of what they’re looking for in an employee, what kind of resume they might be receptive to, and why type of language to use.
Hearn, Alison (2008). ‘Meat, Mask, Burden’: Probing the contours of the branded ‘self’.’ Journal of Consumer Culture, 8 (197). 197-217.