How established is your personal brand?

Whenever I run into friends or colleagues in the grocery store, early on a Sunday morning or as I’m walking the kids to school, people often ask “Are you on your way to a meeting? Why are you so dressed up?”

I awkwardly shy away from the question and say: “I don’t dress down very well” (which I don’t).

But it’s also one of the 5 keys I use to manage my personal brand.

Let’s back up for a minute so I can share more about what is personal branding and why it is so important.

Personal branding is the act of managing the way a person wants to be perceived.  It’s the key to building your career and managing your reputation, so by investing time into building your personal brand, you ensure a competitive edge that sets you apart from the crowd.

Take note of these five tips that will help you get started on developing or strengthening your personal brand.

(1) DRESS THE PART: Whether we want to admit it or not, visual communication speaks volumes about our businesses, organizations -- and ourselves. Establishing your personal style and investing in your appearance, health, and mind determines how people perceive you and can help you feel more confident about putting yourself out there.

(2) POSITION YOURSELF AS A LEADER: Managing your brand requires you to be a great role model, mentor and/or voice that others depend on. When you make the commitment to living by your core values and helping others, your work is defined by your focus on how you can serve. The focus is not self-promotion, it’s about establishing the value you offer and how you can benefit others through your relationship with them. Every day you know you must deliver to a standard of expectation that you have set-forth for both yourself and those whom you serve.

(3) DEVELOP AUTHORITY: Be the best at something and become known for it! The first step is to identify your audience and create content that is helpful to them. Write a short e-book, host a blog, publish articles, or position yourself as a public speaker … any of these tactics help to establish you as an expert. No time to create your own content or don’t know where to start? No sweat! You can also establish your voice by taking a stand on existing content or adding a twist that brings value in some other way.

(4) BUILD AN ONLINE IDENTITY & SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY: We know that employers and recruiters use social networking as a selection and validation tool for prospective employees or contract workers, so it’s important to have a platform where people can find you, learn more about you, and where you can showcase your talents and build credibility. Your online identity should reflect who you are and give others a sense of what matters to you through clear, consistent communication.

We understand that it’s not easy to fit all of this into an already-full schedule! When you’re planning for 2017, determine how much time you want to dedicate in this area and create a schedule for sharing industry-related content, and then follow up with solidifying those social media connections and referrals.

(5) NETWORK & MANAGE RELATIONSHIPS: My husband jokes around that my day job is “getting coffee.” And he’s partially right – I do spend a lot of time drinking tea in coffee shops while networking. In this era, when we’re all so tied to our devices, I still believe that face-to-face interactions are the best way to connect with people. It’s an opportunity to discover new ideas, strengthen my own, learn from others, be inspired, explore possible synergies, and ask “What can I do for you?” Of course, as with any relationship, it’s important to be reliable and manage with follow-ups. (Put them on your mailing list, connect on social media, and send them your work!)

Maintaining a personal brand requires a tremendous amount of self-awareness, action, and accountability. Investing in it will make you feel more confident about your career, help you discover new opportunities, and get noticed by people in a position to give you work.

Just like that trip to the gym has to be on your calendar, so too does this work.