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Personal branding is not only for celebrities and top-tier managers
By our News Team | 2023
Study underlines the importance of Gen Zeders utilising LinkedIn to kick-start careers. But their online brand need not be perfect.
New research from the UK reveals how members of Gen Z perceive online personal brands as a crucial tool to gain more advantage in job-seeking.
The study, led by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with the University of Greenwich, demonstrates the importance of authentically building online personal branding strategies and tactics to bridge the gap between Gen Z’s desired and perceived images on social media when starting their careers. The study results are published in the journal Information Technology & People.
Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels
“As Gen Z start graduating from university and entering the competitive job market, understanding how they enter the workforce is important,” said lead researcher Nguyen Trang, a former University of East Anglia master’s student and Gen Z student job seeker.
“Less is known about the Gen Z student perspective and their brand-building strategies, brand goals and motivation, and how they manage risks associated with their images when promoting on social media.”
Adds study co-author Dr Brad McKenna, Associate Professor in Information Systems at East Anglia: “The differentiating factor between Millennials and Gen Z is the use of technology from an early age and how this has impacted their online behaviour. Gen Z are always connected to digital environments through interactions with their networks, gaming, consuming videos, and creating their own content to share on social media.
“Social media has emerged as a tool for shaping the personal brands of job seekers, and how Gen Z attempt to represent themselves authentically online has implications for their job-seeking activities and affects hiring decisions. As a result, personal branding has emerged as a means of achieving career success.”
Says another co-author, Dr Wenjie Cai from the University of Greenwich: “We found that authenticity was perceived to play a central role in personal branding, as well as being the most crucial characteristic of Gen Z online personal brands that employers expected to find.
Personal brands are not only for public figures
“Personal branding has shifted from celebrities and top-tier managers to employees and job seekers, making the ways in which people market themselves more of a conscious effort.”
The study involved final year Gen Z students who were interviewed about personal branding, as well as recruiters and career advisors to gain insights into the recruitment process and expectations of online personal brands.
Before interviewing, the students’ profiles on professional social media platform LinkedIn were examined and then fed into the interview process.
All participants perceived digital personal brands as an essential tool to portray themselves and project strong impressions to employers. The effort in building and managing personal brands creates win-win results for Gen Z students and employers in the recruitment process.
Strategies such as effective self-reflection, authentic communication, self-promotion processes, awareness of risks, and constantly controlling digital footprints were suggested to build stronger and more coherent personal brands.
“Previous research has argued that professionals tend to maintain a perfect image online, but we find that, for Gen Z job seekers, an imperfect online image works better,” said study co-author, Professor Alastair Morrison of Greenwich.
The more these students focus on portraying their brands on platforms such as LinkedIn, the higher the probability that employers will find their profiles and be better able to evaluate candidate talents, skills, traits and the fit with company culture. Employers highly recommend LinkedIn to Gen Z students and expect them to build LinkedIn profiles.
The researchers recommend that universities seek personal brand information from Gen Z students to understand them better and to mentor them in the varied ways needed to achieve personal goals and objectives based on skills, knowledge, and opportunities for training and growth.
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