Whether you’re looking for a job or trying to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field, having a strong personal brand is now a vital part of professional life. But how do you curate a stand-out brand that will help you get ahead in the market? Here are six essential steps to building your personal brand that you can take today that will pay dividends for your future career.The Importance of Personal BrandingThere is now an expectation to be able to find out more information and verify the credibility of a brand or product online, which is exemplified, for example, by the way TripAdvisor and Airbnb have become so prominent in holiday planning. The same expectation now exists for people, and in this case, the product is you.This is especially true in IT, an extremely competitive industry where employers are more tech-savvy. In Jobvite’s 2020 Recruiter Nation Survey, 72% of recruiters said they used social media channels to source talent. This means that your social media profiles, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and even Instagram, can influence whether you are considered for a role.Job tenures in IT also tend to be shorter than in other industries, due to an increasing amount of work being project or contract-based. Consequently, branding is even more important for IT professionals than for those in other sectors. If you’re not taking care of your brand, you may unknowingly miss out on your next big opportunity.Attracting TalentPersonal branding is equally as crucial for organisations. Potential customers, employees or even buyers are going to be looking at the strength of your workforce, and in today’s competitive market, company culture is a key attraction for potential employees. Because of this, the days of employers hiding their workforce from public view are long gone.Six Steps to Building Your Brand1. Defining Your BrandThe most important thing to do before you start building your personal brand is to decide what you would like it to represent. It’s important to ask yourself the following questions:At the end of the day, if you are unclear on what your brand is, then this will be reflected in the brand itself and you will come across as unfocused to your audience.2. Social ProfilesWhen building your personal brand, it is critical to go through all your social channels and make sure that they are credible. A stray swear word or unprofessional picture can really damage your chances of obtaining a new role.Once you have checked your existing online content, ensure that you get to review every post you’re tagged in on Facebook before they’re posted to your timeline. You can change this in the “Timeline and Tagging settings” section of Facebook’s settings menu (below).Once you’ve taken full control of your existing brand, it’s time to start strengthening it. A great place to start is on LinkedIn, as this is a vital social channel in the professional world. If you don’t have a profile, we would advise you to create one and make sure you take it to ‘All-Star’ status. Including the following information will help ensure your profile is findable and credible.Most people stop once their profile is at ‘All-Star’ status, however, this can limit your LinkedIn profile to being a shop window. To get the most out of LinkedIn, it is a good idea to start building your network.First, connect with all the people in your existing network. You can do this by manually searching for people or importing your address book from your email account. Next, join a number of groups that are relevant to you, such as alumni or industry-focused groups.Beyond that, you should start expanding your network by connecting with industry peers, such as those you meet at conferences, or even people you haven’t met but who are part of your local industry. Most people these days are open to connecting with others who share similar interests or skills.In IT, it can also be useful to look at more specialised social networks, such as GitHub or Behance, where you can showcase your work and build a more detailed portfolio. Nowadays, many hiring managers expect to see code from you, so GitHub is a great place for this. Behance is more geared towards visual or design-centric work, which makes it a great tool for showcasing UI/UX and web design work. Take a look at these GitHub and Behance pages for a good example of how you could set up your profile.3. Communicating Your MessageOnce you’ve constructed a professional online profile, you can build on this by establishing yourself as a credible voice in your industry. People such as Bill Bennett and Jason Kemp have used blogging as a tool to build a great personal brand. Though we’re not suggesting you need to be at their level, they’re good examples of the positive impact blogging can have on your brand.Start expressing your thoughts and opinions by blogging on social networks, such as LinkedIn Publisher. You can also create your own personal blog or website with tools such as Medium or WordPress.When deciding on a topic to blog about, think about topics that are pertinent at the time. Whether that’s a project you’ve worked on or a conference you’ve attended, or just something that’s been on your mind. As long as it is relevant to your audience, it can turn into good blogging material. Once you’ve decided on a topic, do a little research on it. Find similar articles to see where your concept is different so that you can emphasise these unique aspects.Regardless of where you are in your career, if you consistently provide good insight, you will become a thought leader in your industry.4. Getting HeardOnce you’ve written your blog, you have to share it with people via channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn in order to get your brand out there. This will get the people in your network clicking through to your content. In addition, ask people in your network to share it with the people they know. This dramatically expands the reach of your content and thus, your brand.Another way to extend the reach of your brand is by guest blogging. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with credible outlets within your industry and see if you can write some content for them. Guest blogging gives you instant credibility by associating you with an already established brand, and also gives you an opportunity to promote your blog or social profiles by linking to them.5. Branding is a Marathon, Not a SprintThe digital landscape is always changing, so it’s important to ensure that your personal brand is dynamic enough to keep up with the constantly moving environment of social media. Letting your social accounts grow stale with outdated information is a sure-fire way to undermine the initial work of setting them up and making them appealing to employers and fellow professionals.Expand your blogging strategy to a greater social media strategy, and stick to the schedule you outlined. Get into the habit of making small updates to your social profiles regularly, and whenever you get a blog idea, note it down so that it doesn’t end up on the eternal backburner. This will keep your audience engaged and ensure that your online presence does not get neglected and become outdated.6. Follow Through OfflineIt’s crucial to remember that your personal brand doesn’t just exist on the Internet. Building a credible online brand is all well and good, but it amounts to nothing if you don’t carry it through in person.At work, or at conferences and events, present yourself the same way you do on your impeccably branded social media accounts. Industry events, whether they’re formal conferences or Meetups, are a goldmine of networking opportunities. For more on how to get the most out of these, have a read of our guide to capitalising on local industry events.Bringing your online brand through to in-person interactions will reinforce the credibility you have built up online, and further your brand across new networks. This can lead to more opportunities, such as speaking engagements, as you meet more people and establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.Final ThoughtsBuilding and maintaining a strong personal brand will help you network with other professionals, position you as a credible voice in your field and produce career opportunities that may not have come up otherwise. If the idea of building your personal brand seems daunting, don’t worry, here are three easy steps you can take right now: Define your personal brand. Go through your Facebook profile and take control of what is public. Identify three thought leaders in your field and see how they have branded themselves.If you need help in crafting your personal brand, get in touch with the team here at Sourced.