A little mayo won’t hurt you. Granted, that statement may be true (in the absence of any allergic reaction), but it doesn’t prevent me from gasping a little bit at the sight of the pasty white condiment. Of course, you can rightly guess that I try to avoid it if possible, but there are times when the lunch caterer has laid out the spread and there’s no place to hide.
My point in sharing that little story is to draw a comparison to the way we build our brand identities as professionals. In one sense, every project you complete or position you hold adds another topping to what I’m calling “The Brand Sandwich,” the full complement of what your talent and experience put on the plate.
It’s also what butters the bread on your paycheck.
On one hand, it’s reasonable to think that the more layers, the better the overall sandwich; on the other, it’s fair to say that some prefer to load up on a single premium ingredient. The point is that over the course of a career, creative professionals accumulate a ton of work — not all of it palatable as portfolio material — and usually, only a small portion reflects your very best efforts.
That means taking the good with the mayo.
Naturally, you want to present yourself — your brand — in the most favorable light possible. However, no matter how you garnish or add spice to what you’ve done, know that prospective employers and recruiters are skilled at picking your past apart. They understand how to find the scraps in every background, but the ones worth working for are advanced enough to find the substance without being confused by the selection.
You can take the crust off the bread, but it won’t change the bread. This kind of approach won’t appeal to every employer, which goes against current thinking about search engine optimization, keyword usage, and algorithm-based job placement, but it’s not supposed to work with EVERY employer — just the right ones who are truly in the market for what you can bring to the table.
If your brand is up-to-scratch, you’ll always be in business.
And no, a little mayo won’t hurt them, either.
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Gerald Northup has written professionally in the fields of advertising, marketing, social media, and corporate communications since the early ’90s. For a look at his blog posts and social media articles, as well as TV, radio, print, and website samples from his online portfolio, visit gnorthup1979.wix.com/44words.
Jerry is also a talented guitarist, an avid tennis player, and a lifelong student of linguistics.
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