If you have to be the one seeking out people, then you're losing.

Staff Writer

I hear people all the time say things like, “Why would we invest in personal branding for clients when there is no measurable return?”

What if I told you that there is a way to measure the return on personal branding? All the time spent on social media, the photos you share, the tweets you send off, and the articles you write. These things really do pay you, and that I know it for a fact.

You’re winning when you no longer have to email every company you know of trying to sell yourself to a recruiter, but rather when people start coming to you.

That’s the return.

What used to be enough isn’t anymore.

Personal branding is the practice of marketing yourself, on and offline. Because simply graduating from college or university isn’t enough anymore. Unfortunately, your resume in a stack of papers looks just like all the rest with an undergraduate degree, a couple internships, and maybe some volunteer hours.

But what happens when an employer looks you up on Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc? Or even better, what if they already know you from one of those networks.

That’s called personal brand.

Just a couple of kids.

Over the last several years I’ve seen the fruit of this happen in front of me. I somehow crossed paths with two kids that completely opened my eyes to the power of personal branding, and from there I never overlooked it again.

My fellow Inc.com columnist Nicolas Cole was 22 years old when we first met. “Influencer marketing” was becoming all the buzz at the time but nobody really knew how to leverage it into something that would be truly valuable. So I challenged Cole to master every social media platform that was worth diving into.

For three months he focused one at a time on each channel. First Instagram, then Twitter, then Quora, etc. Cole racked up thousands of followers and knew every social channel like the back of his hand. What we found out is that that platforms were fleeting, and individuals were leading. The channel was only a vehicle for allowing others to understand who you were. It wasn’t about earning a lot of followers on social media, but rather positioning your voice in a way that demanded respect.

Cole went on to write and publish his own book, start his own content marketing agency and was named one of the top digital marketers to watch for by Forbes.

I thought maybe I got a little lucky with Cole. And that anybody can get struck by lightning once, but could we do it again?

We hit a point where wanted to create more visual content in-house. We experimented with hiring a few freelance photographers that had reached out to us for project-based work, but one of them really stuck out to us, and I wanted to learn more about him.

Alex Tan was 20 years old when he stepped into my office. While he really didn’t know anything, he sure acted like it, and that’s what I liked about him. When I asked if he had finished school, he said: “No, I left because I know this is what I want to do and the classroom wasn’t going to give me this experience.”

These were the type of people I wanted, so I hired him. I decided I would do the same thing I did with Cole just to see if it’d work. And it did.

Tan learned to write, take photographs, and create content at such an intensely high level of quality that he started getting calls from some of the biggest digital ad agencies in the world. His work couldn’t be ignored because he challenged himself to invest the hours into his craft and share his work on every outlet possible.

But it wasn’t the talent that attracted the agencies, it was the way he personified himself. People felt as if they knew Alex. He created a trust with the people that were following him online by providing value. It was his personal brand that made him attractive.

Alex went on to be recruited as a content creator at an agency in Los Angeles. He hosts his own podcast and is still hustling like crazy in his “free” time.

My point is that there are more ways now than ever to create a name for yourself. By putting in a little bit of time and effort, Personal Branding can completely change the course of your career for the best.