Okay, close your eyes for a second. And then open them because you can't read this if your eyes are closed. Now, imagine you're at the drugstore because you've run out of toothpaste. Annoying, right? Now, think about facing the wall of toothpaste in front of you. Which do you choose?

Chances are, you grab the same brand every time. Why?

It's likely you go for the same type of toothpaste because it's a brand you know, trust and of which you enjoy the minty freshness. You don't want to try another brand. You have everything you need right there.

What the Heck is a "Personal Brand?"

When we talk about a "personal brand," we're describing a way to differentiate yourself from the other toothpastes on the shelf. Better packaging, informational design and yes, a minty-fresh scent mean people know what to expect from you before buying.

Personal brands make sense from a career perspective: They let prospective employers try before they buy – that is, get to know you before hauling you in for an interview.

Even if you plan on being self-employed, your personal brand gives more information to your clients and paints you as an expert, which can help you catch more work.

Think of your personal brand as a commercial for you. Which toothpaste would you rather buy: The one who's slogan is "You should try this toothpaste. It's good and stuff"? Or, the one that tells you all about its ingredients, its benefits and comes in a snazzy sparkly package?

Yeah. Us too. Your personal brand can show off your skills and dress up your accomplishments to further your career... that is, when it's cultivated correctly.

Tips for Creating (and Maintaining) a Solid Personal Brand

1. Check Out Your Online Presence

The first step to your personal brand? Google yourself (let's pretend like you've never done it before). Log out of your social media accounts and pretend you're an employer or client: What do you find when you look up your name?

If it's your professional blog and a clean Facebook page, awesome. Your brand is protected. If you find angsty Myspace pages, angry Tumblr rants and pictures from your last party of you passed out with human anatomy drawn on your cheeks? Not great. Clean up your online presence so that someone Googling your name likes what they see on a profesh level.

2. Create a Personal Website

Think of a website as a resume... plus. You can't possibly cram all of your awesomeness on a piece of paper, so a personal website lets you add examples of your work, non-educational experience and current content that gives employees and/or clients a better idea of who you are and what you can do.

3. Create Content

Destined to be a world-famous wedding planner? Write articles about the latest trends and DIYs. Wanna be a big-time graphic designer? Show off your Photoshop skills.

Creating content (for your website, natch) not only shows off your skills, but it paints you as a Wizard of Oz-level expert in your chosen field. It's like putting your ingredients on your package to give peace of mind to whoever's buying your brand.

4. Get Active

Now that your personal brand has a landing page and some articles, it's time to get out there. When clients and employers Google you, it's cool if you're an active member on a related forum, participated in offline events, you chat with people in your line of work via Twitter or you have an active blog. Get in touch with others in your field – you'll make new friends and create a more solid personal brand overall.

5. Be Authentic

The worst thing you can do to your personal brand?

Fake it.

There are a million and one polished, plastic and falsified versions of people doing what you want to do. The best edge that you have is being yourself. If you're pretty funny, it's OK to let that shine through in your brand. Skip the corporate speak (and please never mention worlds like "synergistic" and "paradigm" because, ugh) and remember that if people are buying into your personal brand, they're basically buying into you as an individual. Might as well be one, right?

Personal branding might seem like the latest career buzzword. And sure, it's pretty new and a little trendy, but it's also a pretty brilliant idea.

When companies and clients are faced with a wall of toothpaste, make sure you're the most attractive and trustworthy tube and their decision becomes way easier.

Cavity protection won't hurt, either.

Interested in this and 7,384 more tips on career survival? Check out "Hitting Stryde: An Early Career Survival Guide"

By Jae — Chief Smile Evaluator

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