“In VCU’s Advertising class, “Judgment”, soon-to-be-college-grads are advised on how to stand out for potential employers. We are taught how to create strong resumes, cover letters, and portfolios based on our personal brands. My professor used the analogy of the Buick and a unique sports car to describe people entering the professional work force. He explained that a Buick is fairly standard car and that because there are millions of them on the road all the time, we hardly even notice them in passing. On the other hand, people are more likely to notice a cool car like a Shelby Cobra because they really aren’t cars we see regularly. How does this relate to aspiring young professionals? In essence, he was saying that there are two types of people joining the work force: the standard candidates and those with unique brand identities. Of course, he was not saying that the Buick is an unworthy candidate. He was simply explaining that on paper, a uniquely established brand identity like a Shelby Cobra is more likely to grab the attention of a potential employer.
In my professor’s defense, I agree that people should make the effort to distinguish themselves. Employers want stand out candidates. They do not hire fresh college graduates just because they want to give them a salary and paid vacation time. They want the employee that has the most to offer their business. If we were all standard, would there be such a thing as a leader or a boss? We would all be entry-level employees with the same basic skills and knowledge to bring to the table. Someone has to step up to the plate and be the Shelby Cobra.
I would like to say though, as far as resumes, cover letters, and portfolios go, I am an avid enthusiast of the Buick. I am a Buick. I use Times New Roman size 12 font in black with a standard headline in a standard format for the majority of my work. While some say it’s plain and boring, I say it’s neat and orderly. My technical abilities are not yet developed, at least not on paper. I am still very young with limited work experience. How much can I really write without it sounding overly embellished? To me, it’s not about the face value; it’s about the content, depth, and quality. At a first glance, my resume may look boring but after a second glance, people see that I am clearly committed, having worked for the same company for several years. They also see that I am straight forward, honest, and to the point. If that is a Buick then I am proud to say that is me.
I would also like to note that, although I do have not one, a Buick persona is not always detrimental for a job candidate. I can actually see how a standard job candidate could sometimes be preferable to an employer. For example, a company might choose to hire a college student over an experienced professional because the college student, with limited work experience, is much easier to train. These kinds of new hires typically do not have much to ‘rewire’ so they absorb everything quicker and more efficiently. Companies can start completely from scratch and mold them into brand ambassadors. With that kind of knowledge, employee turnover would likely be lower and promotions from within much higher.
As I mentioned before, I agree with the concept of branding oneself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I also do not think that there is anything wrong with the Buick brand. It might not be the flashiest or the most fun but it is definitely business appropriate. And at my age, who really has a set brand identity? Our post-school lives are just beginning, and now is when we start to discover who we really are. Plus, most people in the business world have to pay their dues: first the Buick, later the Cobra.”
In my senior year of college I wrote that blog. I like to think I have conviction but I have to admit, my position was challenged greatly as I tried to transcend from my college years into the work force. I must have had thirty interviews over the course of two years. For each, I prepped, I practiced, and I prepared to the nth degree and yet still I saw no results. I knew it would be a difficult path but I sincerely believed it would give a lot sooner than it did…that someone “up there” had a master plan for me and was just waiting to get the ball rolling. I can’t lie. It was a bit daunting for about a year. My mind was jumbled to say the least. Is it me? Is it the economy? Am I not smart enough? Do I have to go to graduate school? Do I have to be a Cobra?!
I trekked on. I tried everything…except for being myself (not so scripted and rehearsed). For all I knew, “I” was not desired in a business capacity. It was all about what I could bring to the table for the organization. And then by chance, I met Mark Fernandes. He is a quirky man. We scheduled a last minute interview at a Starbucks in town. I had on a dress, heels, and perfect makeup. He had on a white Abercrombie and Fitch button up, acid washed jeans, and boots. Did I miss something here? What was initially in my eyes a formal interview I quickly discovered was more of a mutual conversation. I met with Mark several times for more of these conversations before he hired me. He spent a lot of time getting to know “me” – what I valued and what I believed in. He tells me regularly he hired me because of my “bones” and that he can teach me those technical skills I do not necessarily have on paper.
Today marks three full months (and two days) that I have worked with Luck Companies. It brings me great solace everyday to know that my conviction, even when challenged, has served me well. I am a Buick and my company appreciates that about me. They are also in the process of developing a personal plan for me to become my best version of a Shelby Cobra, whatever that is. That said, on behalf of myself and other struggling professionals in this world, I challenge leaders to consider this: in your hiring process, are technical abilities your primary consideration or is the human with the untapped potential your focus? After all, a “Buick” can be molded into anything great given a solid foundation and dedicated leader.