Talent Circles

Friday, April 13, 2012

What to do with Conspicuous Consummation

You earn the networker and travel badges, post your professional accomplishments and awards, display your peer and previous employer recommendations, share your articles and posts written as well as your speaking engagements spoken at, highlight your education and certification acronyms, share your social influencer scores, and you even share your Twitter stream to those who might want to wade in. You even mix worlds and share your proudest dad-icated parenting moments about your family (like I do).

Based on the economic terms conspicuous consumption and conspicuous conservation, I’ll call the above example conspicuous consummation: the relatively recent phenomenon of engaging in online activities and sharing information that highlights the best professional (and personal) self in order to obtain or signal a high social status.

I’m certainly no economist by trade or training, but I do find the field fascinating, just as I find it fascinating how we show ourselves (hopefully) in the best light online, whether we’re in a job search or just keeping ourselves relevant and marketable.

I started thinking about this more and more after listening to a recent Freakonomics podcast titled Show and Yell. It highlighted a relatively recent phenomenon of engaging in activities that are environmentally friendly in order to obtain or signal a higher social status (for example, buying a Prius versus other hybrid models). This concept was developed and analyzed by a brother and sister team of economists, Steve Sexton and Alision Sexton.

In my ripped off, I mean highly leveraged world-of-work economic concept, conspicuous consummation can be a valiant personal branding effort to get noticed, but is it enough to truly be evaluated on when seeking varying levels of employment and/or business (for the consultants out there)? The obvious answer is no, which is why we have a myriad of screening tools to choose from as employers. Then throw in the interviewing, maybe a scenario-based exercise or two, reference checking, and a few other housekeeping-to-hire activities, and we’ve got ourselves a new employee (or not).

But what if there was a way to show your current employer or prospective employer actual real-time examples of you shining in action? No scenario-based acting models – actual footage of you kicking butt and taking names. We already use surveillance cameras in places of business for preventative measures like crime prevention (not to mention identification technologies that confirm our identities via fingerprints, retinas, breath, blood, DNA…whoa, Nelly!).

Agencies, vendors and companies record external and internal meetings with consent (usually audio but I’d bet more video today too). So why not record day-in-the-life highlights and accomplishments in video?

Crazy, I know. The sheer volume of video to screen and store, the management issues, the logistics and policing and all sorts of other legal nightmares to deal with is enough to make even Google and YouTube pass out. But then there were those who said e-mail and the Internet would grind business to a halt.

Video interviewing and screening has become more mainstream, both in live virtual and recorded formats. Heck, we virtually stream events online as well as babbling industry influencers and thought leaders quite regularly now (and I write that with fondness), much of which is being recorded on the other side anyway by the content consumers.

What I’m suggesting may get the EEOC’s, the ACLU’s and many other privacy advocates blood boiling, not to mention direct supervisors, executive management, IT and legal counsel, but c’mon, we (the people) have already changed the world of work with social and smart phones, complete with still and video cameras mind you.

Talent networks screened in real-time doing real work and making real bottom-line progress could be very cool. Integrate that into our current conspicuous consummation and we’ve got something pretty powerful we’ve never had before.


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