Chances are, unless you knew me personally, you’d never heard of me until September 2008 at the earliest. That’s when I became’s national entry-level careers columnist, even though I’ve been in the career space since 2002.

Between then and Spring 2009, I subscribed and unsubscribed to this very blog, as the importance of personal branding on the future of my career just didn’t seem to want to set in. Finally, it hit me like a ton of bricks with the release of Me 2.0, and I started preaching to students about why they need a personal brand—often reaching out to Dan Schawbel to quote in my column. In September 2009, I finally started taking my own brand seriously.

Determine your expertise

To borrow the slogan of Help a Reporter Out, everyone’s an expert at something. I left the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in communication, which lead me to a career in public relations. So, that’s one natural area of expertise for me.

So, where did this career stuff come from? I first became a hiring manager for junior-level positions in 2002, around the same time I launched —a niche job board for internships and entry-level jobs in public relations. I found I loved combining my two passions—public relations and career advice. The two actually go hand-in-hand quite nicely, as a big part of securing a job is self-promotion.

I’m often asked why I’ve stuck with young professionals rather than moving on to executives (where I would make more money). The answer is simple: I feel I can make a bigger impact helping future leaders than those of today.

So, even though I’ve now branched out to help students and recent graduates pursuing all career paths, I’ve certainly carved out a nice area of expertise for myself.

Get a soapbox

There’s no one right way to build a personal brand, but I recommend after you determine your expertise you find a “soapbox”—a platform through which you can reach your target market. Whether it be a blog, a YouTube channel, a national column or all three, you need to be heard. It’s that old “if a tree falls in the forest” adage.

In the beginning, it’s probably best if you plan out the first 30-90 days of your soapbox messaging—an editorial calendar of sorts. That way, you can stay focused and on-message.

Drive people to your soapbox

When I became a columnist for, my editor made it very clear they would not be helping drive traffic to our content—that was part of the responsibilities of being a columnist. So, I started a Twitter account in November 2008. Today I have more than 8,100 followers and am on more than 320 lists. And, despite the amount of activity on my account, I spend no more than an hour per day devoted to social media. For the most part, I’m sharing content that is not my own—I let my followers do that part for me. After all, if I’ve provided great content, they’re going to want to share it. That’s the relationship we’ve built over the last year.

Get off your soapbox

At some point, it’s time to get off your soapbox, so to speak, and out into the public. Network! I’ll admit I don’t do as much of this as I should. (If you read Alexandra Levit’s December 6 Wall Street Journal article you’ll understand why.) But, it’s important to get some “face time” with your audience. If you have the opportunity to speak in front of your audience about your area of expertise, even better!

Put your soapbox on autopilot

Eventually, and I believe I’m just reaching the cusp of that point, your personal brand will be known to a point where people will come to you asking for advice, interviews, etc. And this is the ultimate goal of all your hard work, right?