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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Personal Case Studies and Millennials: are we there yet?

As a marketer, I spend a decent amount of my time securing, writing and distributing case studies. I try to think of new ways to be heard above the noise; to make the case studies not just beneficial to my company but to the people who are in the decision-making/purchasing process as well. I'll be honest, I don't love case studies. I love the benefit of them being done well but the formulaic approach to writing them -- challenge, solution, plan -- does not lend itself to the fluid creativity I prefer. Recently, I've been thinking about ways to blow them up; to spin them on their access so they aren't even recognizable. While I was working on these ideas I started thinking about how the best case studies show how a great product or service helped someone achieve their goals or solve a problem. Case studies do for a company what references are supposed to do for the job seeker.

Why couldn't you apply the idea of case studies to personal branding or the job hunt? Why can't HR departments or managers ask employees to write case studies about their own performance? So often self-reviews are done at the last minute with little thought to rating. I've seen first year employees straight out of school rank themselves a 10 out of 10. That implies there's no room for growth and I don't care how fantastical an employee you are, there's always room for growth. What if, in addition to examples of their hard work they also had to show in more than one-sentence detail just how they solved a problem? This type of proof takes a lot more work and thought behind it. Plus it helps to reframe the way they think about their jobs. The type of critical thinking required for a case study creates and encourages a problem-solver mentality and awareness.

Do I think businesses will turn to personal case studies in the near future as part of the review process? Probably not, but the idea of selling oneself through personal branding is already here and entrepreneurism is important to millennials.  Encouraging them to sell themselves through poignant example will help them achieve their goals sooner, something that benefits both you and your younger employees.

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