Student - May 30, 2013

Personal branding: nonsense or necessity?

To have any chance at all of getting a job in these harsh times, you have to present yourself as a brand: 'personal branding' is the trend. But it is one on which companies at the Aisec Career Day appear to be divided in their opinions.

In hard times you’ve got to stand out from the crowd.
'Personal branding is marketing yourself,' is how a speaker put it on 14 May in the Junushoff, where 250 students and 17 multinationals met during Career Day. 'When the job market is tight, it is necessary to stand out from the crowd.' In his view, job seekers are already doing this unconsciously since they circulate much information about themselves on the internet. This enabled the speakers at the workshop to surprise some of those present by knowing where they latter did their internships. A photograph of one of the participants in a drunken state was also shown. 'You need to be careful about what you display, as this can work against you as well as in your favour.'
According to the speakers, it is important that job-seekers themselves keep control of the image they are projecting. However, this only becomes personal branding if you work on your image actively. The motto is: make sure you stand out.
However, it was clear from a quick round of interviews that companies present during the Career Day have different views about the importance of personal branding. According to the recruiters, the importance of standing out from the rest applies mainly to those in marketing positions. As the pool of available people for commercial positions is quite big, it is important to be able to sell yourself well. 'The base is the training background but a person must have a commercial predisposition first and foremost,' adds a recruiter from ADM Europoort, a company specializing in the processing of oil seeds. To determine their suitability, the company puts candidates through several rounds of interviews and a psychological test.
Contents first
The recruiter at Cargill, a trading company in agricultural raw materials, is less interested in personal branding. Cargill prefers to work with 'hard criteria'. 'You can only get so far with personal branding but if the profile does not measure up, that's the end.' He notices too that in these times of crisis, candidates sometimes pay little attention to profile requirements. For example, several Greeks have recently applied for a management position in which the Dutch language is a requirement.
At Koppert, the focus is on the contents. As such, smooth talking alone will not get you there. Wageningen students are much sought after by this organic crop protection company. 'The students have more practical experience with farming companies and are less geared towards fundamentals.'
The conclusion: personal branding has its advantages, especially for commercial jobs. But it certainly is not a trump card for top jobs, because most companies will eventually also take a good look behind the label.