The Paradoxes of Self-Branding: An Analysis of Consultants’ Professional Web Pages

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24 Scopus citations


Research has demonstrated the growing preoccupation with self-branding among professionals struggling with the precarious labor market. Much of this work has considered self-branding a commodification process turned inward, blurring the distinction between self and market. Yet, little attention has been paid to self-branding implementation. Conceptualizing self-branding as a rhetorical genre, the authors analyze the webpages of 100 self-declared consultants and identify three emphases: the construction of uniqueness, friendliness, and realness. The authors illustrate that in each of these emphases, creative and sophisticated rhetorical devices are utilized to place the “self” at center stage while distancing all market-based connotations. As such, the authors argue, the implementation of self-branding builds on and reaffirms a distinction between “self”—presented as unique, intimate, and real, and “market”—presented as competitive, instrumental, and unauthentic. The authors propose that the revealed attempt to distance the market from displays that are promotional and market-oriented is inherently paradoxical, marking a trajectory of change for professional identities. Such effort shifts the competitive axis from a focus on services to a focus on reliability and authenticity of display, indicating the centrality of a new type of rhetorical labor, skills, and cultural capital in the contemporary market era.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-267
Number of pages25
JournalWork and Occupations
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017.


  • commodification
  • consultants
  • cultural capital
  • professional identity
  • self-branding


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