In today's connected and forward-thinking world, a personal brand has never been more important. In reality, the idea of a personal brand has been around for centuries under different names. With more information available about people via the internet and social media, today's version of a personal brand is a combination of everyone's perceptions of you. How you act, how you dress, what you say, what you post online, and so much more contribute to your personal brand.

But why is a personal brand so important? Consider an employee who has made a brand for herself of being the go-to person for social media issues, or an IT employee who everyone knows they can trust for a quick turnaround with their computer issues. Employees who stand out and show their worth have job security and more opportunities to advance because their leaders and colleagues can see that they set themselves apart. Freelancers also benefit from a strong personal brand. Today's organizations are naturally concerned with finding a contractor with the lowest price, but by finding something that distinguishes you through your personal brand, you can become more than a commodity and earn what you are worth.

No matter if you are developing a current personal brand or switching gears to focus on something else, there are steps to get you started, according to author, professor, and personal brand expert Dorie Clark. Your first step is to figure out your current brand by asking around and searching for yourself online. Even if you don't realize it, you already have a personal brand--taking control of it allows you to decide how people perceive you. With the status quo in mind, you can create your vision of your ideal personal brand and what you want to become. With that idea in mind, Dorie suggests three steps to turn your ideal personal brand into reality:

  1. Build a network. Pull together mentors, colleagues, and trusted friends who can serve as a team of advisors. Ideally, these people should be in your chosen field and know more about it than you do. Your network can serve as your sounding board and give feedback as you make personal branding decisions.
  2. Make yourself findable. Having a version of your personal brand doesn't matter if no one else knows about it. Start as soon as possible by creating content and establishing your online presence. After all, being the biggest expert on a particular topic doesn't matter if no one can find you online. Depending on your comfort level and experience, find a platform that works for you--it can be as simple as curating a Twitter feed or creating your own blog content.
  3. Take on leadership roles. Gather a following and make yourself visible by joining professional associations and getting involved. Stepping into leadership roles establishes your credibility and can help build connections to further your brand. You may be surprised how easy it is to take on a leadership role--many positions are often unfilled because people think they are too busy.

With your personal brand in mind and the initial steps taken, it is important to continue living your brand consistently. If you aren't authentic or true to your brand, people will see through the cracks, which could lead to a loss of credibility.

Building a personal brand is a gradual process that can take months. The work is never truly done, and you should always strive to build and grow your brand as you move throughout you career. If you view your personal brand as a start-up business and yourself as the entrepreneur, you can take control of your career and set yourself up for new career opportunities and a strong reputation.