You Don’t Have A Personal Brand. You Have A Soul.


The worst part about the intermingling of social media and work? It’s the stale and tired concept of the personal brand.

Judging by my inbox, many of you still have questions about how to develop a robust and interesting online identity to help you find a job, keep a job, or get promoted. So let’s go through the questions.

Laurie, I’ve been encouraged to develop a personal brand. What is that?

A personal brand is a stale and lazy way of encouraging you to sum up your knowledge, skills, and abilities into a virtual one sheet. For some reason, very stupid people want you to describe who you are and what you do in a single breath. If you are a normal human being with deep complexities and multiple areas of interest, you are screwed. Time to give up on life and work at McDonalds, I guess. The modern job market isn’t for you.

Except those complexities make you awesome. Your flaws make you great. And you are not a bottle of Tide. You are a human being. You have a soul. So the next time someone encourages you to work on your personal brand, shut that conversation down. It’s over. That person is an idiot.

Laurie, isn’t personal brand just another way of saying (online) reputation?

Maybe and maybe not. Intellectually lazy people will encourage you to develop a ‘personal brand’ because it sounds more important that telling you what you really need to do in order to find a job or get promoted. For most people, the last thing you need to do is develop a personal brand. You probably need to develop your interpersonal skills. Spend more time with your kids. Go back to school and finish that degree.

Don’t you have a personal brand, Laurie? Aren’t you the Punk Rock HR chick who writes on The Cynical Girl?

No, I am Laurie Ruettimann. I am more than just a brand. I have a soul. I am five feet tall. I am allergic to apples and pears. I have brown eyes that turn green when I cry.

Aren’t you an atheist? What’s all this talk about a soul?

Listen, I’m just as puzzled as you. But I work with smart and savvy social media gurus who are hardcore fundamentalist (insert religion here). I could go on all day about how Jesus and Buddha didn’t have personal brands. I could spend hours talking about how the Dalai Lama — while profiting from capitalism — has spent his entire life working against the evils of consumption, capitalism, and the concepts of personal branding.

But nobody cares about what I think. So I try to challenge the status quo of ‘personal branding’ by saying obnoxious things like, “Jesus was pretty cool. His personal brand is salvation.”

Anyway, I believe that humans are more complex than laundry detergent. We are not brands. We have souls — or something that differentiates us from laundry detergent.

Laurie, I’m not big on social media. I don’t use Twitter. Am I screwed? Will this impact my personal brand?

Yeah, uh, Twitter. Here’s my advice: don’t be the last guy to champion a good idea from 2008.

Go ahead and be social — in real life and on the internet — but do it on your terms. You’re reading my blog, aren’t you? (Okay, fine, you get it via email. That’s a good start.)

Don’t I need to be on social media to get a job?

They say that job opportunities are developed through relationships. That’s not entirely true. Sometimes job opportunities are granted through nepotism & favoritism. Sometimes you won’t get a job because of ageism and sexism and racism.

Social media doesn’t fix bigotry. In some cases, social media has a halo effect and exacerbates problems. And sometimes you can’t get a job because the system works against you. That’s as true today as it was before LinkedIn.

Laurie, isn’t personal branding so 2009?

Maybe — but it’s still on the lips of career advisors and job seekers. I still receive email messages about it. I hope this blog post was helpful and we can stop talking about personal branding. I hope you go back to emailing me about my cats.

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