From the Archives: In Pursuit: Seeing Yourself as a Commodity
Part II of II from the Grad School Archives. Sometimes the hardest part about becoming a freelancer is realizing that instead of a company or a product, you are selling yourself. Try bundling your skills, education, humor, experience, and work personality into a hirable little package beyond a resume. It's an uncomfortable self-reflection that also can come laced with some great humor and incredible potential for growth!
The beginning of developing your digital presence comes from the cliche of getting to know yourself.
Who are you? What exactly are you selling? (As has been pointed out, I do love a rhetorical question.)
The hardest thing to initially get your mind around is that you are your own commodity. Your skills, your way of thinking, your work ethic, your experience, and your interpersonal skills are a bundled up into a neat package that you are selling to an employer. Whether you are a freelancer or a 9-to-5-er, you are selling yourself as a product. The first step of creating a professional profile is to decide exactly what it is about yourself that you are selling.
For instance; I get paid for my writing and management skills, my talents for terrible jokes, cooking, and coffee are not on the sellable market for me.
So how do I sell myself as a competent manager in the arts?
Well to start, no one cares about my food pictures on Instagram or terrible jokes on Twitter. I still think I’m hilarious, but I realize not everyone else does. Instead, my Instagram features a lot of photos of my work, the cool things I get to do while working abroad, and photos mocking the un-glamourous life of backstage management. So the cool photo of the show with CO2 smoke cues is balanced with a photo of me covered in dirt from crawling under the stage to fix them. The glamour and flash and the hard work that goes into creating it.
Already in one meeting, I have asked to pull out my phone and brought up Instagram. My saved videos and photos are exclusively my shows and work from Global Village. They can better show off what I do than my words can. Because I keep my personal account clean & professional, I can hand them my phone and point them to my own posts that showcase both my work ethic and personality. All of these details are key in a hiring decision of a stage manager. I know how to tailor my social media to reflect myself well for what I’m selling; an experienced stage manager who keeps a sense of humor and patience even in the face of grime and grunt work.
Does it work? So far I have been recommended for two positions, have an interview scheduled when I return the States, and I was offered to assist backstage at the Backstreet Boys concert in Dubai at the end of the month (my teenage heart broke having to refuse as it falls after my visa and housing expire).
So from my experience, I say yes. When you know what you’re selling and how to talk about it, it makes a difference.
My Instagram already proves this. Check me out @Katherinenmcc, my likes and comments have gone up exponentially since I developed more of a focus on the commodity I’m trying to sell and the career I’m working to cultivate. Do I still have food photos and a few random quips? Of course. But I relate every non-work photo and post to the life and product I’m trying to sell. Open to new challenges and experiences? Check. Positive attitude and sense of humor on and off the job? Check.
My social media profiles are already responsible for major opportunities in my life, including the job I have currently. You know, the one that paid to fly me to Dubai for six months and manage the main stage at a major tourist attraction? I was hired because I cold messaged someone on Facebook who stalked my social profiles and decided he liked me enough to recommend me to his boss. I was hired within a week of sending my message.
So step one? Sit down and have a good hard talk with yourself. What are you trying to sell? What about you are people going to want to invest in? Why are you the better candidate for this position and how can you make your digital presence showcase that?
Sometimes it’s a hard talk to have with yourself. I used to fantasize about drawing and creating sketches and animation to go along with my writing. It was even part of my capstone project for this blog. You can see the video here and we can all agree, that despite weeks of practice, I’m not the next Picasso. So I’ve put down the drawing pencils and picked up the pen again.
I can write well, I can talk well, and I can find a partner to do the artwork from now on.
So tell me, what are you selling? Who do you hope is buying? And what do you plan on doing about it?