This very second, your future boss, school, client or co-worker can be looking at you online. What are they thinking?
The phrase "personal branding" has been floating around for decades without much significant agreement upon its definition. However, one thing's for sure: Its importance has never been more critical than it is today.
Overall, personal branding is the act of identifying, positioning and promoting yourself.
In short, why you?
So, you have a degree in economics, nursing or marketing. Great. But, so does everyone else in your applicant pool.
What messages are you portraying, and which ones will get your foot in that door?
While remaining strategic, creative and professional, personal branding allows you to develop and present your own attractive, yet effective image, much like the ones you buy into while shopping.
Schools and HR don't select applicants blindly, just like you don't buy your brands blindly.
What is your awe-inspiring story? What are your deeply rooted passions?
What are your unreal personal achievements? What is your distinctive vibe? What are your unbelievable skills? (Hint: it's not Microsoft Office.)
So, what sets you apart? When you recognize these mentioned traits and confidently put them forward, the consequences are surreal.
The easy part is, your personal brand already exists. It's just whether or not you're willing to acknowledge and attend to it.
This consciousness is invaluable for your professional development and success. It allows you to demonstrate your expertise and personality with style, unique to everyone else's.
Over time, your brand will grow and adapt, as well as your reputation.
Just as we check ourselves in the mirror, visit the doctor or frequent the gym, we must apply the same consciousness towards our online hygiene.
There are hundreds of bankers, nurses and marketers out there competing for the same job, so again, why you?
What is it about the presentation of your expertise and personality (aka your brand) that makes you the choice? Just as there are hundreds of shoe brands to choose from, why that one over another?
In both instances, what it comes down to are the messages portrayed. A brand is what creates the opportunity for differentiation and desirability.
In 1997, Tom Peters wrote an article entitled, "The Brand Called You," birthing the popularization of personal branding.
His words have never rung more true today:
Two of the most frequent questions I receive as Founder of PRSNL Branding, a consultancy service which provides creative digital strategy to enhance students' online identity, are "Why personal branding now?" and "Where do I even begin?"
The answers to both questions are one in the same: online social media.
Whether we like it or not, we are rapidly forming these things called digital footprints. They are the trails of content that we leave behind, made up of accounts, pictures, posts, comments, blogs and data.
The culmination of this online material is the centerpiece of our personal brands.
When we talk about that "attractive yet effective image," we must now take into account every piece of social content that we share online. We are the sum of those parts.
Just like the saying, "We are what we eat," today it's "We are what we share."
That bland Times New Roman resume, that grossly inappropriate tweet from middle school, that Vine of you doing body shots at a prom afterparty or that dusty AOL email address, they're all contributing to your online image.
Furthermore, we must also remember that the proliferation and creation of this material will only progress at faster speeds over time.
This means that in weeks, months and years from now, controlling our digital footprints — and brands, for that matter — will become even more increasingly difficult.
So, the time to begin is now.
Rather than hide online and changing your name while applying, take a step forward and confidently craft that personal brand. It will make all the difference.
So ask yourself, "Why you?"