Many of us grew up in more or less protected environments, surrounded by the love and company of family and neighbors who knew us well. We effortlessly built up a network of friends and schoolmates as we progressed through the educational ranks until the time came to join the workforce. In this scenario, and especially if you stayed local, you had plenty of contacts to draw from and many eye-witness referees who were only too happy to vouch for your character. It might have even been the case that your prospective employer was acquainted with your family and a member of your church, country or sports club and/or extended network. We tend to overlook the many thousands of people who have never ever needed to complete a résumé in order to obtain their first job. I should know: some of my closest relatives belong to this category.

The above scenario was mainstream for many folks living in rural, provincial, small town areas and secluded communities until not too long ago. In some cases it still remains so. And in this scenario, personal branding is not perceived as a necessity and may even have a bad press and be considered the domain of celebrities or the overtly ambitious, over-achieving types who want to make it big in the city and leave their community and their roots behind them.

Due to multifarious reasons, some of us decided (or were forced) to leave the small community cocoons we once belonged to. It may have been as a result or disaffection; we may have found the small town atmosphere stifling or lack of opportunities may have driven us out; we may have been the victims of discrimination or made a few mistakes that made us unwelcome and looked for a new start elsewhere. Be it as it may, one day we moved to a new place and suddenly felt that the spotlight was on us. We found ourselves divested of all the local networks we had once relied upon. No one that would mean much in our new setting was ready to put in a good word for us. In short: we were nobody, had to earn our credibility from scratch and people were not necessarily inclined to believe our story. And that’s the moment when it dawned on us how unwise and short-sighted we had been not to have built a personal brand that would have eased the transition and the pain that comes with it.

Personal branding may sound like a luxury to you in your current predicament. You may not perceive the need to invest the time and effort needed to discover, create, communicate and manage your brand and master yet another skill or set of skills other than the ones more closely attached to your desired position. Until you find yourself in an environment where you have no clout, no kudos, no nothing. Then, all of a sudden, personal branding becomes the rubber ring to cling to if you are not to sink in an ocean of obscurity and worthlessness.

Personal branding is not a luxury, but an essential ingredient of your personal and professional success in a 2.0 world. Having built a tried and tested, credible personal brand is one of the best insurance policies you can have in our uncertain world. We never know where life is going to take us. But wherever that is, your personal brand will be your best companion and the first resource to fall back on. And every effort you put in in this lifelong endeavour will pay off when you most need it. So get started today and be ready for when the spotlight is on you.