Much is being said these days about job hunting and personal branding: “potential employee = product”. It has become fashionable in career thought that people should “market themselves” as though they were snow tires or cooking oil. It sounds practical. It seems rational. It feels positive. Let’s slow down to breath pace and take a few weeks to mull over this idea, shall we?
So what am I…one more pack of razor blades or bath soap on the endless shelves?
The question becomes, “how do I, and what is the most efficient way to distinguish myself from all the other packages of razor blades or bath soap?” “How do I become known–visible–in the market and get a distinguished place on the shelves too?’ This is the sense I get from reading articles and books on “personal branding”.
Wait. Am I missing something here? In the minds of business, are people being reduced to being mere packages of skills? Are we potential employees beginning to think about and to define ourselves as either useful or not useful in this society? Is this the idea at the bottom of the ubiquitous depression walking the streets these days?
Do people have a “freshness-sell-by” date? Listen to us talking about people being “stale”. Have we become bread with a 1-day shelf life?
Look at the long lines of people who will possibly never work again because they are “too old”: the throw-away society throws people away like greasy cardboard boxes. People submit themselves to outrageous surgical procedures to look “saleable”. Are there corporations/healthcare planners/urban managers thinking about the turnover problem: what if we throw away too many of them all at once? What if they keep living and living and not dying fast enough? Do we have enough space to warehouse them and keep them entertained long enough? Can we encourage them to elect to die to make room for newer/better/improved product”? What do we do about the broken ones who don’t have money?
If I get my history right, there was a time in this nation when people were property; farm equipment that ran on grits and bacon. Why does this whole “personal branding” thing seem so nightmarish? Am I having a premonition that we are going the wrong way in business?
I say the idea of packaging and marketing a human being like a bottle of shampoo is monstrous. There must be other ways to think about the subject of distinguishing oneself in the marketplace. I say people are not products, and we should not be herded into thinking of ourselves that way. I say, reclaim the dignity of simply being human.