The concept of personal branding has gained momentum over the past few years as the job market becomes more and more competitive.

But what is the definition of a personal brand? 

Essentially, it’s a way for people to know what you’re all about: your ethos, your goals and your mission in the professional world. We all know high-profile individuals with a personal brand. 

Think: Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs and various public figures and politicians. They have all established an identity in the public realm – their personal brand – that enables others to have a level of understanding about the type of person they are.

But beyond the hype, branding yourself is an important consideration within a professional context. The pervasiveness of the internet and the flourish of social networking sites has made it essential for any professional with a presence on the internet and networking sites to mould and manage their personal brand.

Why is building your personal brand important?

Your personal brand is critical because it is a representation of you that others are presented with when they look for you online, as well as the image that you choose to project in face-to-face interactions. 

Whether we are aware of it or not, all of our activities online – on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms – form an online personal profile that is searchable. And today, employers and recruiters are using the internet to conduct employment background searches, and to gauge an idea of the character and interests of their potential employees. Interestingly, 57% of employers are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online.

So actively creating a personal brand for yourself allows you to have a say in how you market yourself and gives you control in crafting an accurate picture of your identity, rather than it happening purely by default. 

While social networking sites are predominately about engaging in a social environment, it’s wise to view them as platforms on which you can easily start building a personal brand.

How to build a personal brand

Your personal brand needs to be constructed so that it is easily articulated in an online environment, as well as clearly communicated verbally and through behaviours and actions. 

Because you will ‘live and breathe’ your personal brand, it’s essential that your brand is genuine and an accurate depiction of who you are. 

Follow these steps for building a personal brand:

1. Figure out what you’re passionate about

Your personal brand must align with, and reflect, your likes and interests. What is it that you want to do, and what attributes and qualities express your passion? If you want to be a professional speaker, market yourself as someone with public speaking skills and ambition in your field of expertise.

2. Grow your social footprint

Create profiles that reflect your passions on social networking platforms. Maximising your LinkedIn profile to reflect your interests, skills and ambitions is essential. If you are active on Facebook and Twitter, make sure your profile and the information you share on those platforms is consistent with the overarching tone and message of your personal brand.

RELATED: The role of social media in your job search

3. Make a plan for yourself

How will you use your personal brand? Just as any commercial or corporate brand has plans, goals and targets, you should create a development path for yourself that leverages and buoys your personal brand. Start making contacts, decisions and planning career moves that are in line with your brand.

4. Tell a story

One of the most effective ways to build a compelling personal brand is through narrative. It’s easy to state who you are and what you do professionally – but a ho-hum description of yourself is not going to cut through the noise and allow you to stand out from the pack. 

Think about what makes your story unique: have you taken an unusual path to get to where you are today? Has your career taken interesting twists or turns? How have your life experiences impacted your professional choices? The more colour you can add to your story, the more compelling your personal brand will be.

Building a personal brand is particularly important if you are seeking a pay rise, or are considering changing jobs or careers. 

By creating a brand for yourself, you can gain a clearer idea of what you want to achieve and how you need to be perceived to get it, and from there, market those attributes to your target audience.

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