Vaccines for Genericide

by Justin Lindsey

If you’re in the same boat I’m in, then you’re nitpicking your portfolio/résumé in search of errors and phrases that might mark you as a fool to your potential employers.

Undoubtedly, you’re grooming for graduation and setting yourself up for a killer first job in this ever-so-shaky slot machine we call the American job market. Hopefully you’re not just scanning your résumé for AP style compliance and exciting buzzwords. What you should be looking for are the early signs of “genericide” lurking in your life.

Stop searching WebMD — you won’t find the term “genericide” in its database. Most PR practitioners and advertising professionals, however, are well aware of genericide and its role in Xerox case studies and the plight of the Kleenex brand.

If you were texting in your mass communication law class, don’t worry—a brief overview is in order.

1. Check yourself before you ‘Meh’ yourself.

Judy Hermann, writer for Strictly Business blog, recounts a conversation she once shared with a disgruntled client.

The client’s former video crew habitually produced offensively generic work. Videos specifically intended to communicate that client’s values failed to be creative enough to stand out from other media in the industry. Hermann explains that the client expressed her desire to completely drop the old crew and switch to another firm.

Enlightening anecdote, you might say. How does this apply to my pursuits with potential employers?

Before this semester is underway, consider the products you’re churning out: class projects, visual communication assignments, mock press releases, etc.

Even if you’re not currently producing something for Edelman Digital . . . you might be soon. What are you doing to create a fresh and different look for yourself that will entice employers to hire you?

2. After you check yourself, realize the current in which you’re swimming.

The average PR practitioner possesses more skills now than ever before. If you’re well-trained you can write a press release, weave those words into a visual communication strategy and catch up on industry developments—while simultaneously coaching your keynote speaker on her talking points.

The training you received is also obtained by your classmates and countless others, so how will you distinguish yourself?

Hermann explained that inherent obstacles come with new technology and high-powered creativity: “The white noise is growing louder every minute and without compelling communications that help companies stand out from the crowd, they’ll drown in a sea of mediocrity.”

The product you create has the potential to be indistinguishably similar to others’. Observe what works and what doesn’t; then make success your own. Chances are you will find yourself developing a style and body of work that pop off the page in an evolving market.

3. Invest in your personal brand.

Any contribution of your own volition results in a negative or positive outcome. In professional relationships, in academic pursuits and in your own personal growth, this fact is evident.

Take time today, right now, to invest in your personal brand. Review old class notes, open a Lynda.com account and learn something that will make you enticing to employers.

Consider this your kick-off for a successful, fulfilling 2011 school year. The world, and this blogger, is calling you out to be the dynamic, multi-faceted, capable individual you know that you are meant to be.

In the wise words of Cosmo Kramer: “Giddy up!”

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