The Jobseeker Identity Crisis

Make sure you don't have these 3 identity problems before beginning your job search!
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In my job I come into contact with hundreds and hundreds of graduating university students each year. And I absolutely enjoy this part of my job. I love meeting new people and listening to what they have to say. I find that I learn a lot from their opinions. Being able to help them get on the right career path, well, that’s just a rewarding bonus for everyone involved.

But before I can give them some career tips, I realise that many job-seeking students (even graduates) fail to fly off the starting block. Instead, what should be an exciting chapter of their lives becomes a miserable and lengthy bout of repeated rejections and crushed confidence. Naturally, an unsuccessful job application has many factors in play. Some of these are well beyond the control of the applicant. But there’s an underlying identity issue that thousands of job applicants fail to address.

Identity Issue #1: Email Address

Each year, thousands of graduating students enter the workforce armed with their degrees… and email accounts created when they were 17. This is a very costly oversight. Recruiters will not be amused at email addresses that are inappropriate. I will also go as far as saying that a job applicant’s email address forms part of that invaluable ‘first impression’ and is a major factor in any job search.

Suggestion for job seekers:
Creating a dedicated email account for job application purposes is always a good idea. Ideally, it should be made up of the applicants’ first and second name, e.g. Also, think about much more professional that looks compared to, say,

Identity Issue #2: Name

Yes, I know, it’s hard to change a given name. But if it’s too long (like my name) or hard to remember (like my name) then shortening it in some way is the ticket. Just think of the poor recruiters who have to sort, review and shortlist thousands of possible candidates!

Suggestion for job seekers: 
Just like your email account, your name should be relatively short, thus making it easier for recruiters to remember it. There’s absolutely no harm in shortening your name for professional purposes. Just prepare your parents beforehand if you must! Recently, I advised a student to shorten his first name (it was 16 letters long!) to just 5 letters.

Identity Issue #3: Profile Picture

We humans are wired to make our first impressions very quickly. Some years ago, researcher Daniela Schiller from New York University examined the neuroscience of how we establish first impressions of the people we encounter. Their findings were astounding: our brain attaches a ‘value’ to people in the same way we may assign prices to items for sale. In the professional world, our profile pictures can make or break our first impressions!

Suggestion for job seekers:
Invest your time (and a little bit of money, if necessary) to have a studio-quality profile picture taken of you. You should be in formal wear, and your face should be seen clearly. You can then use this picture for all your professional purposes including LinkedIn account, résumé, online applications, etc.