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  • Personal Branding on Display

    What if you were applying for a job and as part of the application, you have to write a post for the company’s blog?

    There are no other requirements for the post and you can write about anything you want.

    This is actually happening right now at an innovation consultancy in Richmond,play_think_cards Virginia! The company, Play, required all the potential 2009 summer interns to write a blog post for the official company blog as part of their application. To make things even more interesting, Play is actually publishing those posts for all the world to see.

    It’s a fascinating display of personal branding – both bad and good

    There’s an applicant who wasted his post by writing about Michael Phelps’ recent (and now notorious) escapade on his campus. There are a couple applicants who sullied otherwise decent posts with careless spelling and grammatical errors, and others tried to get ahead by heaping praise on the company. And one who didn’t even bother to write a blog post, just a couple sentences about his background and his interest in working at Play. (Oops!)A common mistake was also for applicants to write the blog post in the style of a college admissions essays. They’d talk about their accomplishments and use impressive words – totally missing the point that blog posts are about being informal and showing personality.

    But some of the applicants got it right

    A couple wrote engaging posts about their experiences with creativity. David wrote about his struggles to write a screenplay and how he eventually realized that enjoying the process was more important than creating a perfect ending. Paul wrote about creating toys out of found objects when he was growing up in southern Africa. Hannah shared a moment of inspiration that led to a theme for a dance.

    Others showed that they fit into the culture of Play by writing posts like the company would normally put onto its blog. Valeria shared a creative commercial that inspired her. Panayiotis wrote about the nature of creativity, and Mary wrote a quirky post about how – given the choice between a dinosaur she could ride, or one she could talk to – she’d choose a dinosaur that could be ridden because it would eliminate parking tickets!

    Finally, Krystle showed that she had a fun spirit by creating a video for her post about how she liked to play.

    Further analysis

    Those posts are effective personal branding because they reveal what the applicants are really like. They show what the applicants will talk about when they’re given a completely open-ended question, and what’s important in their lives.

    The posts also prove who paid attention to the rules of the “game”. Careless errors stand out, and it’s obvious who took the time to understand the style of posts are normally written on the Play blog.

    And, most importantly for Play, the posts show who has the capability to break out of a box and be creative!

    Of course, most companies don’t require applications like that. But could you imagine if they did?


    What if you had to write a blog post, or even a personal essay as part of your application? What would you write about? How would you go about creating your blog post? How would you prove to your dream company that you are the absolute right person for the job?

    Would you be able to convey your personal brand effectively? As you can see from the young college students applying for the internships at Play, it’s not an easy thing to do.


    Katie Konrath writes about “ideas so fresh… they should be slapped” at getFreshMinds.com, a top innovation blog.


    Katie works with Fortune 500 companies to help them generate new ideas based on consumer insights at leading innovation company www.IdeasToGo.com. She’s worked with creativity guru Edward de Bono and uncovered new ideas across North America and Europe. Prior to that, she earned a Masters degree in Creativity and Innovation from the Institute for the Design and Development of Thinking in Malta, was certified as a Lateral Thinking trainer, and studied at the TRIZ Institute in St Petersburg, Russia. She writes the leading innovation blog, GetFreshMinds.com.

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    Posted in Career Development, eBrand, Interview, Misc, Personal Branding, Recruitment, Social Media
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    6 comments on “Personal Branding on Display
    1. avatar
      Jacob Share says:

      Good find, Katie.

      Usually I caution job seekers about doing free work as part of the recruitment process but given the opening in question and the fact that all the posts will be published, this sounds like one of those rare cases where it’s actually worth it.

    2. avatar
      Beverly Macy says:

      This is great and so timely. I just completed a Train the Trainer at a major university to help continuing education Program Mangers understand the importance of personal branding and how students are using it today. Love your examples and I will definitely pass this on to the group! Thanks.

    3. avatar
      Ari Herzog says:

      The irony of reading this now, Katie, is I was recently contacted by someone after applying for an internet marketing position with a vetting request to write three blog posts about one of the clients.

      My initial reaction was the person wanted me to write posts on MY blog. Moreover, about what aspect of the client? Aimed at what audience?

      I later chatted with an acquaintance after learning we both applied for the same position, received the same response, and agreed on the same reaction.

      Neither of us wrote the posts, communicated our reasons to the company, and never heard back.

      It’s one thing if an applicant has no writing skills to speak of, but if one is a successful blogger, why would writing blog posts be necessary? At the least, include guidance about what to write about.

    4. avatar
      Jason says:

      This is great, assuming that writing on the companies blog would be part of the job duties. I wonder if the company gave “extra credit” if the students already had their own blog. Writing one post…not so hard. Keeping the content streaming…that’s the test.

    5. avatar

      @Jacob I think Play was using the blog posts more to get a sense of the applicants’ personalities… not as a way to get free work. They announced to their readers that since the accepted interns would be a part of their community, they were publishing the blog posts as introductions.

      But I agree that it’s not fair when companies ask applicants to do real work for free. If it was a highly technical post that the company was using to advance their brand, it would be a much more dodgy situation.

      @Beverly It just goes to show how valuable learning about personal branding early is. I’m jealous of your class… wish I had one like it when I was in school.

      @Ari Sounds like that company was trying to get work from you for free! And Dan’s right… they should just have been able to Google you to verify that you could do the work.

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