New research reveals how members of Generation Z perceive online “personal brands” as a critical tool to gain an edge in job markets.
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 the desired and perceived images of Gen Z on social media during job search. The results of the study are published in IT & People.
Members of Gen Z – the generation of people born between the late 1990s and early 2010s – also favor a more dynamic, interactive, evolving style of authentic personal branding, which may not necessarily show as “perfect, but instead willing to share imperfections and weaknesses.
The findings were published in the journal IT & People, suggest that Gen Zers are using this combination as a strategy to build more meaningful levels of trust and engagement with employers.
Lead researcher, former UEA Masters student and Gen Z student job seeker, Nguyen Trang, said: “As Gen Z begin to graduate from university and enter the competitive job market, it is important to understand how they enter the workforce. Less is known about the Gen Z student’s brand-building perspective and strategies, their brand goals and motivations, and how they manage image risks when promoting on social media.”
The co-author of the study Dr. Brad McKenna, Associate Professor of Information Systems at UEA, said: “The differentiating factor between Millennials and Gen Z is their use of technology from an early age and how this has influenced their online behaviour. Gen Z are always connected with digital environments through interactions with their networks, playing games, consuming videos and creating their own content to share on social media.
“Social media has emerged as a tool for shaping job seekers’ personal brands, and the way Gen Z strives to represent themselves authentically online is impacting their job search activities and influencing hiring decisions. As a result , personal branding has emerged as a means of achieving professional success.”
Co-author Dr. Wenjie Cai, from the University of Greenwich, added, “Image consistency is becoming a critical concern for Gen Z to highlight their skills to potential employers. We found that authenticity plays a central role in personal branding. As well as the most critical attribute of Gen Z personal brands online that employers expected to find.
“Personal branding has shifted from celebrities and top executives to employees and job seekers, making the ways people market themselves a more conscious effort. Today’s job seekers need to effectively communicate their talents to prospective employers.”
The study involved Gen Z students in their final year at a UK university, who were interviewed about personal branding, as well as colleagues and careers advisers to gain insight into the recruitment process and expectations of online personal brands.
Before the interview, profiles of Gen Z students on the professional social networking platform LinkedIn were reviewed and then fed into the interview process.
All Gen Z participants perceived digital personal brands as an essential tool to portray themselves and make a strong impression on employers. The effort to create and manage personal brands creates win-win outcomes for Gen Z students and employers in the hiring process.
Strategies such as effective self-reflection, authentic communication, self-promotional processes, risk awareness, and constant monitoring of digital footprints were suggested to build stronger and more cohesive personal brands.
“Previous research has suggested that professionals tend to maintain a perfect online image, but we find that for Gen Z job seekers, an imperfect online image works best,” said study co-author Professor Alastair Morrison at the University of Greenwich.
The more Gen Z students focus on portraying their brands on platforms like LinkedIn, the more likely employers will find their profiles and be able to better assess candidates’ talents, skills, attributes and the fit with the corporate culture. Employers highly recommend LinkedIn to Gen Z students and expect them to create LinkedIn profiles.
The researchers recommend that universities seek personal branding insights from Gen Z students to better understand them and guide them in various ways needed to achieve personal goals and objectives based on skills, knowledge, and opportunities for education and growth.
Companies should use all possible opportunities to engage with student job seekers, share their organizational culture and be open about what they expect for specific positions.
It is also suggested that creating authentic personal brands brings significant benefits to organizations. For example, the recruiter can immediately see unique points and consider whether candidates fit the organizational culture, and this saves time, money and resources while enabling the acquisition of the most suitable employees.
“I Don’t Want to Be Perfect: Exploring Gen Z Students’ Social Media Personal Brands for Job Searching”, Information Technology and People (2023).
Provided by the University of East Anglia
Reference: Online ‘personal brands’ key to work success for Gen Z, study says (2023, March 9) Retrieved March 9, 2023, from https://phys.org/news/2023-03 -online-personal-brands-key-job.html
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