Why You Should Prioritize Building Your Personal Brand

Imagine the following scenario. Your biggest competitor is in the running for the job you want. You've done your research, gone over your submission with a fine tooth comb and followed every professional protocol. You know your work is excellent, yet somehow it wasn't enough, and your rival is the victor. In an effort to figure out what she's done that you've missed, you find yourself browsing through her website, admiring her headshot and, later on, trying to get her slogan out of your head.

Personal branding is no longer exclusive to the realm of entertainers, politicians or public figures. It's not a futile exercise in vanity or a reflection of narcissism. Instead, it is the calling card of confident, credible and authentic leaders, the ones who take themselves seriously enough to convince others to do so as well. In fact, the power of personal branding is so effective that I know you won't regret carving out the time to take care of this essential business process.

A personal brand is a reflection of an individual's strengths, values and character. Everyone has one, whether they're aware of it or not. Our mannerisms, behaviors, wardrobe and the like all project a sense of who we are, and they help us to establish personal and professional connections. When you use your personal brand in business you leverage that image by making it more accessible to your business community. You are marketing not just your work, but yourself as an industry leader in what you do. Your brand makes you stand out from the crowd: You become visible.

Leadership development in women involves shaking off that conditioning from childhood in which we were taught not to brag. Competition is for the boys, whereas girls are supposed to share and nurture. However, a gender expression involving passivity and gentleness can make it difficult for women to succeed in the boardroom. The key to getting past this hurdle is to understand that personal branding is not aggressive or boastful, but rather a proactive method of building an executive presence for women.

So what is it that sets you apart from your competitors? What should come to mind when people hear your name? Identifying what you have to offer is your first step. Before you can build your brand, you should know what your brand is.

JK Rowling, whose distinct public identity is such that it needs no introduction, personifies persistence and steadfast adherence to one's goals. From welfare mom to blockbuster author, Rowling's brand represents determination and perseverance through challenges. "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all -- in which case, you fail by default," opines Rowling, who has set the bar dazzlingly high for female entrepreneurs and thought leaders. Even in her social media feed she demonstrates this grit by steadfastly maintaining her own opinions in the face of public objection. Her leadership manifests itself even further in her humanitarian work, earning her the British Red Cross Humanity Award.

While you may not have a set of child wizard books to write, you definitely have something else of great worth to contribute. A personal brand helps get your message out and enables you to not only further your career but make a bigger impact as you do so. Ask yourself if what you do is merely a job, or if it is an adventure: one where your life's work will have an impact and leave your mark. If it's the latter, personal branding just went to the top of your priority list.

About the Author: Michele Thompson Rosario, CEO of Bright Effects, helping entrepreneurs get clients, get traffic, and get results.