An article in today’s Quartz discusses Indiana University anthropologist Ilana Gershon’s new book Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (Or Don’t Find) Work Today and its argument that Personal branding “is largely a boondoggle advanced by inspirational speakers and job trainers.” What Gershon finds is that

It doesn’t help people get jobs. But it does make us more accepting of an increasingly dehumanized job market that treats workers as products rather than people.

For one thing, the employers and hiring managers Gershon talked to didn’t look for, or even notice, personal branding. Gershon concluded that despite all the hype, finding your personal brand doesn’t help job-seekers. Its primary function is to make people feel like they have control over their working lives in an increasingly hostile job landscape.

According to Gershon, the concept of personal branding developed over the last 30 years as the concept of work itself became more precarious.

In essence, companies tend to treat employees in a more transactional manner now, and the personal brand is the employee’s attempt to define that relationship on their terms, and to “reconcile oneself to an economy that provides less and less security.”