Looking for a job can be stressful, especially if you don't know where to start. Companies today demand a high level of performance history and professionalism, and the sheer volume of information available on the internet makes it difficult to make a great impression unless you have a solid reputation online.

Personal branding is a lot like traditional branding. It's a series of strategies and techniques that shape an appealing identity, maximizing the practitioner's chances of attracting new attention. For traditional companies, that strategy is about attracting new customers and building relationships with current ones. But for the individual job hunter, it's about establishing your professional identity to woo and attract potential employers.

Building a personal brand takes commitment and hard work, but it's a strategy that lasts forever. Many professionals leverage personal branding as a segue into a larger brand, which could belong to their employer or a startup of their own. Once you build that personal brand, you'll have an easier time landing that perfect job, and you'll have a platform for business development and relationship building for years to come.

Advantages of a Personal Brand for Job Hunters

A personal brand can do things a traditional brand cannot, and in the context of modern job hunting, the strategy is invaluable:

  • A cohesive personal brand can serve as your résumé, demonstrating your accomplishments and portfolio in a publically available digital format. Instead of putting together a several-page document, you can simply send out a few links to your published work.
  • A personal brand with a dedicated following makes it easy to connect with other people. Most people find jobs through the recommendations of others, and if you can connect with a large number of other people in your industry, you'll have a much longer list of leads when looking for an opening or recommendation.
  • Personal brands attract recruiters. Most professional recruiters now use social media to do much of their scouting and vetting, so having an attractive personal brand will draw job opportunities without requiring you to lift a finger.

So how do you build a brand that rewards you with all these benefits?

Get Involved on Multiple Platforms

Personal branding needs to be consistent, but it also needs to extend beyond any one platform. Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other online networks you can think of to promote your personal brand. Don't segregate your efforts--having a super-professional image on LinkedIn but a hard-partying rebel image on your Facebook page could leave employers with a negative impression. Work hard to align your presence on every available channel, and build out your profiles as fully and accurately as possible.

Be Yourself, but Use Good Judgment

Just like with professional branding, personal branding requires a set of identity standards that has to be strictly followed. That level of consistency is the only way to make your followers familiar with and appreciative of your brand. You also need to have a unique, identifiable personality--trying to make yourself look like some overly polished, professional robot will just make you invisible to potential recruiters.

You do need to ground your brand personality with a foundation in professionalism, but it's also important to show off the traits and habits that make you unique. Do you have a fun hobby? Show it off. Do you have certain colloquial phrases you use regularly? Don't try and hide them. Just avoid posting anything that might make you seem incompetent, risky, or unprofessional.

Show Off Your Accomplishments

Any time you complete a big project or start a new initiative, you need to show it off across all your social platforms. Remember, your personal brand is essentially serving as your résumé, and you need to do everything you can to make sure your potential future employers can see how hard you've worked and how effective you've been in your previous positions.

Take the time to make updates across the board whenever you deserve recognition. Add lines to your résumé on LinkedIn, and make updates on Twitter--nothing impresses recruiters quite like a Twitter feed with posts like "Just landed a huge sale" or "My digital marketing campaign just saw 50 percent growth over last month!"

Post Frequently

Don't limit yourself with posting. Update your profiles regularly to show that you love and care for your brand and your network. Once a day is usually plenty for Facebook and LinkedIn, but for Twitter you should post three to five times a day at least.

If you can't find anything to post about, talk about whatever's on your mind--maybe you saw a great movie or ate at a great restaurant. Take the opportunity to show off your personality!

Get Involved in Groups and Discussions

This is a key strategy to building a reputation online. Usually, it isn't enough to simply post about your accomplishments. You have to demonstrate your expertise in the industry and show that you're engaged in the community as well.

Groups and discussions are the perfect opportunity for this. Look for groups on LinkedIn dealing with your specific field and monitor them actively for opportunities to engage with other professionals. You can also use hashtags to find relevant discussions happening on Twitter. Jump in and speak your mind about whatever the topic is. Show that you're an active part of the community. You never know whom you might impress.

Reach Out to Potential Connections

Going along with the group engagement strategy, you can also start reaching out to other professionals in your space--especially after meeting them in a group or mentioning them in a discussion on Twitter. Follow or connect with as many of these professionals as you can (as long as you've introduced yourself first). Most of them will connect back with you, and eventually you'll start to earn a following for your social media profiles. A large following will help largely with two things: First, you'll expand your range of influence, and you'll have more potential opportunities to meet recruiters while looking for a job. Second, you'll improve the reputation of your personal brand. New connections will see your following and think, "He/she must be popular for a reason."

Be Open About Your Desires

Don't be hesitant to announce the fact that you're looking for a job. Seeing this type of message can trigger your contacts to start brainstorming on your behalf, thinking about possible connections they have that might be looking for such a candidate. It's a way of instantly expanding your network, and if you're consistent with your messaging, you could attract the attention of recruiters who are searching for similar candidates.

Be careful with how you phrase your messages, however. Posting things like "Just got fired. Need a job soon!" will make you seem unprofessional and tactless. It's much better to use softer phrasing like "Looking for new opportunities" or "Open to new positions."

Be Patient

As with a traditional company's branding strategy, personal branding takes time. Unfortunately, you can't start these steps one day and expect to start seeing results the next. Most successful personal brands are the result of at least several months' worth of effort, so it pays to be proactive. If you're currently employed, you should start building a personal brand now, even if you don't plan on leaving anytime soon. Even if you stay at your job forever, your personal brand can help you earn promotions, attract new business, and build better relationships with your clients and co-workers.