One of the lessons that we millennials learned when facing the labor market in the midst of the crisis caused by the Great Recession was that personal branding was crucial. It was what was repeated in all the congresses, what all the gurus indicated and what all the experts in human resources insisted on. You had to work on your public image if you wanted to stand out in an increasingly complicated job market and in which the competition was more atrocious. Especially if you were in a creative profession, personal branding was a toll that needed to be paid all the time. You are how you sell yourself, the experts insisted.
All this was happening at a time when social networks were appearing, growing and taking over more parts of everyday life. Those were the years when statistics began to appear on how companies researched on social media before hiring or how not having a large presence paid off little.
Working on the public image became just that, a job, for all the people who moved in that labor market. The reasons why a personal brand was needed were repeated, insisting on its importance. The workers had become marketers of themselves, a constant demand to be branding themselves.
Throughout the 1910s, the English terms imported from the United States work culture were repeated. You had to network and work on that personal branding. Every occasion was good to show how much you are worth and to build community. In some professions and in some business niches, people were beginning to be recruited not so much for their talent, but for how many followers they had on social media. If they had created a good and popular personal brand, even if you were selling smoke, you had a very important part of the road traveled.
For millennials, a generation doomed to the unstable and the precarious, all this tyranny of the personal brand condemned them to add more things to their routine. It was extra work for a generation that was already too overloaded with extra stuff.
The end point of the Z’s
But is the idea of the personal brand called to stay in that decade of the 10? Many things that at the beginning of that decade seemed recommendable and even remarkable, from the girl boss al boom del entrepreneur, are now seen as an element to criticize and even examples of a toxic work culture. The constant exposure on the network, that invasive reality to create a personal brand image, could be the next to fall. And its killers could be the members of Generation Z.
The boom of the new social networks that seek the limited and the growing interest in anonymity are the traits that define how the Z behave, as they recall in The Atlantic, pointing out that they have even returned to Tumblr, that short-lived millionaire internet star, because everyone there uses false identities. Being an internet star was something aspirational years ago and, although influencers are still there, it is no longer so now for ordinary Z mortals. Added to this is that the Z have understood more deeply the risks that online overexposure can have in terms of personal security.
Be that as it may, as the analysis of the American media recalls, what is taking place is a cultural change on the Internet and in what is expected to be done on the Internet. Being anonymous is back in fashion and that can have a profound impact on the idea of personal branding. If anonymity is sought, personal branding will not be nurtured. “It seems that Generation Z is really getting tired of the presentation culture, what could you call it,” says a Z to the journalist of the American media, “the idea that everything you do has to be a representation of your personal identity”.
If first the Z attacked the posturing, now they could end that idea that at all times you should be selling the world who and what you are.