A Paradox for Lean Times: The Loss of Anonymity and Relevancy

Once upon a time, we could all be rather anonymous.  We had our circle of family, friends and acquaintances but, outside that, we could choose to remain in relative obscurity.  Even with the advent of the internet, we did not lose anonymity immediately.  In fact, screen names allowed us to converse worldwide without tipping off our identify.

Personal Branding

Along came Google, social media and online networking, and this forever changed our lives.  Now we are sharing vast amounts of personal and professional information with the world from the important to the mundane–our pictures, what we had for dinner, our phone and email address, our place of employment, how we are feeling and so forth. We have opened ourselves up and cast off most of the mystery.  There is not much left to be said about ourselves.  We owe much of this  to personal branding.

It is conventional wisdom that personal branding is an essential ingredient to success.  In this tight labor market we must endeavor to differentiate ourselves from the competition for promotion opportunities and job seeking.  It is necessary that we stand out by advertising what it is that we do best–our education, experience and skills.  This implies an online brand that is carefully built and reputation that is actively monitored.

We should also exercise prudence in what we share.  For the most part, people are beginning to “get it.”  They are following the prescribed “must do” steps from career experts and building a solid brand in online spaces where it matters.  Yet, there may be some trouble brewing up ahead.

I agree with Dan Schawbel when he says that relevancy will become a challenge as we are deluged with information and rapidly changing technology.  However, let’s take the relevancy issue just a bit further.  Let’s examine market saturation and look at the paradox that forms at the crossroads of anonymity and relevancy.

Reaching Saturation

Those who have a solid online presence have a distinct advantage currently.  But, as with anything that is successful, a saturation point is eventually reached and competition becomes an issue.  So, what will occur in a tight labor market when a majority of job seekers figure out personal branding?  If a good percentage of the population looks good online, then how can individuals continue to stand out–remain relevant?  How do we address this paradox where we are no longer anonymous but we are also no longer relevant because of all the ”noise?” What happens when hundreds of job seekers begin to take out ads on Facebook?  Will they be effective?  It worked for a few and for a period of time, but it will certainly lose appeal in a deluge.  It will lose its novel quality, will it not?

So, when the constrained labor market is faced with thousands of qualified candidates who have a great resume and online presence, how will people remain relevant?  An online brand is has its advantages.  But, like the resume, an online brand can take on an almost homogeneous quality in a large pool of candidates.   Short of donning a red cape and a super suit, what can the job seeker do?

Determined Differentiation

There is little doubt that it is an employer’s job market in most sectors of the economy.  Outside the talent pipeline of college recruiting, which often entails leadership development programs, companies are looking to fill jobs with workers who possess very specific skills and who can hit the ground running.  Unlike during boom times when candidates are in short supply, qualifications are imperative.

You probably will not get hired if the recruiter feels that you will encounter a steep learning curve.  There are just too many good candidates who are seeking jobs right now.  Therefore, now more than ever before, knowledge is the key. It is your differentiating factor.  It is absolutely critical to research targeted industries, companies and positions to stay on top of trends and find out the exact requirements of a desired career field or position.  With careful and advance planning you can work to fill any holes in your career trifecta of skills, education, and experience and position yourself to be a competitive and relevant candidate even in a saturated and noisy environment.

Back to college recruiting…students are fortunate that companies often build their bench strength through campus recruiting programs.  However, not all companies have a college talent pipeline.  So, consider what you need to do to position yourself for your “dream job” or a similar position.

Where are you lacking skills?  How can you fill in your gaps?  Do you need to pursue professional certification?  Is a graduate degree preferred or required?  Will your targeted position require a certain amount of experience in a particular area?  Could you gain valuable experience through volunteer opportunities or internships?  Will it be necessary to learn another language?  Does the job require certain technical skills?    Contact your school’s career services area and ask a career counselor to assist you in your self assessment and to help you develop a plan.


As Assistant Director of Recruiting within the Wake Forest Schools of Business Corporate Relations team, Lisa’s passion is connecting employers with student talent and creating a positive experience for both. She manages all aspects of recruiting, retention, and systems for the graduate business school.  Her strengths include relationship management, networking, social media engagement, information aggregation, process facilitation and communication. Lisa has been employed at Wake Forest since the fall of 2002.  She has over 20 years of work experience in various roles.  Prior to arriving at Wake Forest, she was an entrepreneur, venturing into web-based international sales and marketing of salvage automotive parts and accessories.  Before that, she was a trust officer in the Employee Benefit Trust area of Wachovia Bank.  Lisa is also a veteran of the United States Air Force. Lisa earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Rollins College and will complete her Masters in Liberal Arts from Wake Forest in 2011.  Visit Lisa’s blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.

Related posts:

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  2. Dreaming the Dream – Part 1
  3. Build Relationships to Build a Career

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  • Dan Schawbel

    Dan Schawbel, the founder of the Student Branding Blog, is a world renowned personal branding expert, the international bestselling author of Me 2.0, as well as the publisher of the Personal Branding Blog.

  • Connect With Dan

  • Chelsea Rice

    Chelsea Rice is the editor-in-chief of the Student Branding Blog. She began her work for just before graduating from Boston University, where she studied journalism and minored in international relations.

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