As a junior undergraduate looking for summer internships, I know that I am preaching to the choir when I say that entering today’s workforce is extremely competitive. Reviewing the list of preferences and qualities that companies are looking for in interns is alone overwhelming. Tradition lies in sending in paper resumes, personalized cover letters, etc., but how do you differentiate yourself from other candidates when your potential employer’s are reviewing hundreds of other people?
Maybe we don’t.
Example 1: #EllenNeedsErica
According to DailyWildCat.com, it has been Erica Barstein’s dream to see The Ellen DeGeneres Show in person. And her dream has come true: on January 16, she won tickets to see the Ellen show on February 21. Life for University Arizona senior Barstein would be even better, if her second dream comes true: working for Ellen.
As an avid fan of the show, Barstein knows what type of candidate the show would consider hiring. They need to be bright, witty, a quick-thinker, imaginative, and have the ability to laugh at themselves. So how does she plan on differentiating herself from the hundreds of candidates that apply for the famous talk show?
Through 36 videos, one for each day since she got the tickets until she goes to the show. She has created videos showcasing why Ellen needs her, and each highlights a different theme or characteristic she has that would benefit the Ellen team. Video topics include accomplishments, humor, diversity, and parities of other viral videos. No matter what topic of the day it is, she always brings it back to Ellen’s carefree and witty attitude.
Her YouTube channel alone has over 80,000 views (to date). On Facebook, she has over 2,000 likes, and has generated more than 50,000 views. Advocates for her have also taken to Twitter, using #ellenneedserica to increase popularity and tweet at The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Example 2: BuzzFeed Fellow
BuzzFeed, a website that captures the essence of what’s trending online through videos, images, and editorials, uses humor, sarcasm, and lists in most of their pieces. What better way to grab the attention of employers than a list of why they should be hired?
The future of branding yourself
Are Barstein’s videos and social media campaigns or BuzzFeed’s mock post really that far-fetched for advocating for a position? Not at all.
We, in the job search journey, are faced with similar challenges that companies face when strategizing how to compete and differentiate themselves from other brands with similar products.
We are entering a period of brand parity. With the lack of available jobs, their are more applicants seeking the same jobs, many of whom possess similar qualities, experiences, and characteristics. Outside of referrals or internships, resumes and cover letters are no longer the strategies to set yourself apart from candidates who have similar qualifications.
How do we define ourselves?
We define what’s unique about us. How do companies do this? Brand equity.
Don’t believe it? See for yourself:
(Using the #EllenNeedsErica example from above, how is she setting herself apart? By building brand equity)
- Research and analyze what it would take to make a brand distinctive.Barstein has watched the show since the first episode aired. She knows Ellen’s skits backwards and forwards. She recognizes Ellen’s attitudes and what differentiates Ellen from other shows. From watching the show (and other research) she knows what qualities would be most appealing to the Ellen team.
- Engage in continuous innovation.Barstein has made her own YouTube channel and has posted a video everyday about why she should be hired.
- Move fast. She started the day after she received news that she would be an audience member of the Ellen show. Since then, she has kept to task and has made a video everyday. She recognized her window of opportunity.
- Integrate old and new media. She uses YouTube, Facebook, and has created a Twitter following. She has been sought out by student publications at the University of Arizona about her project. She also uses word of mouth by getting other people involved in the making of her videos and other people spreading awareness on social media platforms.
- Focus on domination. Every video and effort stems back to the original idea: she is the best candidate for the job.
Integrated Marketing Communications
Consumers are looking for brands that not only appeal to them on emotional levels, but also engage with them. Companies are looking for the same thing in their employees. Outside of #EllenNeedsErica’s direct peer engagement and encouragement, developing ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are crucial for careers in marketing, public relations, strategic communication, broadcasting, etc. Similar to a portfolio, it creates a brand foundation beyond our paper resume and cover letters. We, the job seekers, want to create a similar and cohesive message, desire, and confidence across all platforms considered by our potential employers.
So, what do companies actually think?
Maybe not all companies are onboard with innovative and non-traditional hiring tactics, but some embrace them.
Vala Afshar, chief marketing officer at the tech firm Enterasys Networks, is one of these people. During an interview with USA TODAY, he said, “The paper resume is dead. I believe the very best talent isn’t even looking for work.They’re mobile and socially connected and too busy changing the world.” He is currently looking for a senior social manager strategist based on tweets. You can tweet at the company until April about why you deserve the job.
What can we do?
Branding yourself is more important than ever. We are competing with so many people for the same jobs. It is more crucial than ever to differentiate yourself, no matter what unique way that may be.
Kudos to Erica Barstein. I would have never had the courage to do what you are doing for your dream job. The best of luck to you Thursday. We all have something to learn from you.
This post is a part of a series of posts for Integrated Marketing Communications class that explores strategies of integrated marketing communications and recognizes strong and weak branding strategies today.
Demember, Alyssa. “For UA senior, making it on Ellen Show is everything” http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2013/01/for-ua-senior-making-it-on-ellen-show-is-everything
Horovitz, Bruce. “Tweets, not resumes, are trending #icymi” USA TODAY. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/02/15/twitterviews-resumes/1919305/
“Ten Reasons Why BuzzFeed Should Hire Me As A Fellow” http://www.buzzfeed.com/chackattack/10-reasons-why-buzzfeed-should-hire-me-as-a-fellow-873h