By Elizabeth Kerin
I don’t recall exactly the first time I heard the term “the UD Bubble.” I’ve never questioned the analogy of our little community here at “The Catholic University for Independent Thinkers” as a bubble, though, because the image captures perfectly the countercultural nature of our community separate from the secular world. When I further consider the qualities of a bubble, I realize the fragility of our community. It is to be cherished, but ultimately each of us exits the bubble, and our comfortable, rose-colored environment … pops! And we enter the real world.
For many of us, the burst into the real world is quickly approaching, bringing with it the resounding question of how to reconcile our education with the secular work world. In our time here, the Core has enriched our minds and taught us how to think, ultimately sculpting us to consider culture differently than our secular peers. We all share in the difficulty of “the Adjustment.”
The Adjustment entails many changes and growing pains, too many to consider and address here. However, I selfishly seek to discuss secular concepts in UD terminology while I still share the environment of the UD bubble. I would like to consider the secular term “personal branding” by our UD standards.
I sought the help of Adrian Ramirez of the Office of Personal Career Development to better understand how the business world understands this concept of personal branding. Ramirez kindly walked me through Job Seeking 101 and what creating a personal brand entails.
“When you’re meeting with somebody you want the exchange [to be] about the information, not about the statement tie,” he explained.
In many ways we are capable of controlling the impression that we make upon others by the way that we present ourselves. Ramirez described our personal branding as similar to our reputations.
“[In Career Services] we like to quote Jeff Bezos who said that, ‘Professional brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.’ It’s how people know you, how people think of you,” he said. I quickly came to understand that the way that you present yourself is an opportunity to distinguish yourself in employers’ eyes.
Shortly after my conversation with Ramirez, I had the chance to meet with Dr. Philipp Rosemann, chair of the philosophy department, to speak about the way students dress on campus. He spoke of the University of Dallas’ character as a liberal arts school and our Catholic understanding of our human nature. We are hylomorphic, a philosophical term derived from the Greek word for ‘matter’ and ‘form.’”
“A particular inward disposition would be expressed outwardly,” Rosemann said.
I was happy to consider that Ramirez’s and Rosemann’s viewpoints on fashion are not opposed, but rather that Rosemann’s understanding provided the concept of “personal branding” with a fuller meaning.
“Clothes could express what you are,” Rosemann said. “I think we’re all trying to be beautiful people and not necessarily in terms of looks. That finds an outward expression that is not pretentious and certainly not immoral to want to project your inner beauty externally. To me, that’s what clothes are.”
These two perspectives on dressing to market yourself for a job presented by Ramirez and Rosemann provide an enriching perspective on the purpose of being well dressed in a consumer society. So-called “personal branding” is not meant to limit the human person to a mere brand, as inferred by the outlook of our consumer society. Rather, with the hylomorphic implications, we can see that dressing well is ultimately about a human experience, not an experience of the exchange of services and appearances.
Our clothing doesn’t have to be as effervescent as a bubble. We students of UD enter the world taking our formational education with us so that we can take the concept of “personal branding” without losing the “person.”