The Madness of Marketing

How many people know who Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is? Does the name Elizabeth Grant ring a bell? In a world with so many people and so much competition, it seems unlikely that you’ll ever be able to rise above the rest and stand out in a crowd. Especially if you don’t even know what the crowd is looking for. Understanding what the market wants, what our society deems valuable, is critical to economic success and in getting what you want. It’s what transformed Stefani into Lady Gaga and Elizabeth into Lana Del Rey. But is morphing yourself into someone else, marketing yourself as someone you are not, something to want? Ideally, the market would want you for who you are and what that person has to offer. It’s a harsh reality when you realize that what you’ve been investing in yourself doesn’t matter. It’s hard when you have to decide between who you want to be and what you have to be to survive in the world.

There’s a lot of information that explains how you should go about selling something that no one wants. But what if the product that’s so hard to market is you? Say you’ve gone to college and earned a degree in studio art because that’s your passion. But when you’re preparing to enter the workforce, employers value the ability to utilize computer code over an art brush. What then? Do you go back to college to re-invest in yourself? That doesn’t seem like a practical solution. Spending thousands upon thousands of dollars and hours on something that gets you nowhere useful is incredibly inefficient and disappointing. And most people don’t have the luxury to press a redo button. Or the assets to market themselves as something else. So, before you can even ask yourself if morphing into someone else and marketing yourself as someone you’re not is something you want, you’re going to have to assess if it’s even a possibility. Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey are the exception, not the rule. Their ability to market themselves is a good example of meeting public demand by shifting your supply (or whatever it is you’re willing to sell). But I feel like our society keeps being fed success stories and hardly begins to scratch the surface of the norm. It can be uplifting to hear of someone else’s motivation and efforts paying off. But if we consistently hear stories of eventual successes after long patterns of failure, it might lead us to believe that we’re all capable of achieving something that’s unreachable for the majority of us. There just isn’t enough demand for everyone’s dreams.   

It’s upsetting to abandon your goals. I’m not saying that we should abandon hope and dreams altogether. Just that it’s wise to have a backup plan. If you’re able to go to college, it might be best to assess the current and projected labor market.  This way, it’s be more probable to find work in a field that pertains to your major. You wouldn’t be as likely to face the dilemma of having to work in retail or the food-industry, something that many college graduates would consider themselves above doing. These jobs would be reserved for people with little to no higher education thus increasing efficiency in our workforce.

Sometimes, it may seem like college doesn’t prepare you for anything at all. Perhaps you feel like it’s even setting you up to fail by offering majors that seem irrelevant (my mom knew a man who graduated with a degree in Soviet Union studies right after the USSR was disbanded). At these times, the whole “do what you love, love what you do” saying seems like an idealistic yet cruel joke. I definitely don’t think that it would be good to have half the school major in computer science and the other half in physics. That would throw supply and demand in the labor market way off balance. But I think that it would be useful for high schools and colleges to prepare students for what lies ahead of them in full detail. Of course, nothing is certain. For instance, our whole economy might collapse in a week, and the only people who will be able to support themselves are those who know how to live sustainably on their own (like the Dwight Schrutes of our time). However, I believe that offering more counsel on how best to navigate a competitive labor market and how to best market oneself would prove useful and efficient to our economy in the long-term.

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