Is personal branding the key to staying ahead in the jobs market?

Personal branding, or the act of identifying, positioning and promoting one's self, has never been more timely and critical than it is today. After comprehending the idea that there is no longer "an offline" and that a permanent, living image of ourselves constantly exists online for those to view, we can then realise the importance of forging a consistent and effective personal brand.

The concept of personal branding was born out of research over half a century ago, when in the 50s studies were examining how individuals were reinforcing and expressing their perception of themselves. While mere common sense now, it was being found that individuals were cautiously selecting signs, symbols, possessions, products and brands to construct their desired image to others. It was sociologist Erving Goffman who coined the term "self-presentation", which was later notably applied in a business sense by Tom Peters in his ‘97 article, "A Brand Called You". Here, Peters likened professional self-presentation to the management of one's personal company or brand.

Peters wrote, "We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You". Fast forward a couple decades, and with the proliferation of digital channels, platforms and content, the ability to develop and promote one's personal brand has become as equally challenging as rewarding when implemented successfully. In the face of nearly infinite marketing potential thanks to digital technology today, a theory spells out, "Brands are becoming more like people, and people are becoming more like brands". What does your email signature, LinkedIn experience, Facebook profile, Instagram handle, past Tweets, search results and entire digital footprint say about you and your brand? If you aren't concerned or at least thinking about it, you should be.

Opportunities today are being lost and gained based upon what people discover about you online. What is your future boss, school, client or date viewing and thinking about you right now? As we live more of our lives online, we need to begin treating our online identity with the same consciousness and concern as our physical selves. While we already brand ourselves everyday away from the keyboard through behaviors like how we dress, speak and walk, online, this is a much more intricate and delicate process. How is your digital hygiene? Now is the time to begin working on this process as we're engaging in self-presentation online, 24-7-365, every single waking second, whether or not we're currently behind the keyboard. The spotlight is always on you.

While interest in personal branding has reached an all-time high this year according to Google Trends Data, many do not know where to begin, and 'experts' without experience in marketing or advertising are providing empty promises with absurd price tags. Online identity development and reputation management is as serious as it gets, and the success of one's personal brand is dependent upon a blend of strategy, creativity, and professionalism. Acknowledging the need in this space and a lack of legitimate solutions, a new venture, PRSNL Branding, was born, applying creative digital strategies from big brands to individuals, all in order to impressively enhance online identities.

Ready or not, we now have the ability to reach the world with absolutely zero geographical or time restrictions. This opens the playing field to all. That said, why you? Much like any brand, you too must ask, what is it about you that makes your name stand out as the clear choice amongst the competition? There are roughly over three billion people online, making you one in a growing 3,000,000,000. What are you doing to make sure you're more than just a number and that your personal branding is working in your favour?

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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