As we spend more time online, we must secure our professional identities.

If your resume and cover letter tell your professional story, your personal brand drives the character development.

So, what exactly is personal branding? Well, it's the act of identifying, positioning, and promoting one's self in the professional world, and its popularity and importance are reaching an all-time high.

In short, it's all about "Why you?" Personal branding helps individuals become conscious of their differences, ultimately allowing them to position themselves in a way that makes them stand out in the pack among other potential job applicants. It's not about treating yourself like a product, faking it 'til you make it, or merely posting your name and content online. Instead, building your personal brand is about strategically, creatively, and professionally presenting what makes you, you.

Related: 3 Ways to Boost Your Online Personal Brand and Attract Job Offers

The origins of personal branding

Personal branding is anything but new. Its practice dates back indefinitely but was first noted over half a century ago in the 1950's. Then, social scientists were studying what made individuals unique. They were discovering that we often use signs, symbols, possessions, products, and brands to express ourselves. These findings supported the claim that we select and display certain elements based on others' feedback. In 1959, sociologist Erving Goffman coined the term "self-presentation" as the act of “conveying an impression to others, which it is in his interests to convey."

Goffman imagined that all of our social interactions were similar to stage performances. In his eyes, we act according to the situation or audience we're dealing with. As we 're motivated by approval and aim to avoid disapproval, we are always seeking specific outcomes and act in ways that help us accomplish them.

Personal branding in modern business

In 1997, author Tom Peter published a piece in Fast Company entitled "A Brand Called You." It 's since become the focal point in the conversation on personal branding. Peters put forth the concept of envisioning yourself as an operational company.

He stated, "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. [ ... ] It's this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else. "

The future of personal branding

When we take Goffman's studies, Peter's outlook, and the flourish of social media today, we can begin to witness the importance of personal branding. New work has brought Goffman's perspective online and studies are showing that we behave in the same ways even through our screens. This means we're strategically presenting ourselves everywhere, even through emerging digital platforms.

It's time we envision our future with these new channels of communication and expression. From Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and LinkedIn, to personal sites and Google results, we are now living online 24-7-365. There's no longer an "offline." Your personal brand is being presented every second whether you're conscious of it or not. There are a growing three billion people online, making you just a click away from countless opportunities, good and bad.

Today, we must invest the time, energy, and financial resources into our digital selves. Just as we frequent the gym, visit the doctor or purchase new clothes, we must begin to treat our online presence with the same significance as our physical one. It is our future, after all.

Click on the following link to download TopResume's personal branding checklist.

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