These days it's imperative, from middle management through to chief executives, to understand that you are a "brand".
The further up the corporate tree you climb the more you become a focal point for your company, as well as a brand in your own right. I am writing this while flying to Christchurch, and on the inside cover of the inflight magazine is a Working Style advertisement featuring Mainfreight chief executive Don Braid.
LinkedIn has done a lot to convince people of their brand identity, with a page focusing on their career and achievements rather than a single focus on their company.
Developing a strong online "personal brand" will become increasingly important for recruitment decisions. In the world of Lady Gaga and the Kardashians, the cult of personality is more powerful than ever.
Ways to improve brand awareness
Hannah Samuel, professional speaker in the area of reputation, believes personal branding is important because it creates a form of "shorthand" about who you are and what you do.
"The more 'niche' or specialist we are (ie. the more focused our brand), the more easily remembered we are, which is a good thing in a highly competitive world."
If you are going to develop your profile this way, ensure you complete your profile fully, as it's frustrating coming across a partially completed page.
LinkedIn specialist Linda Coles says: "LinkedIn is the way of the future in regards to personal branding. It allows you to network very easily, highlight some of your success, as well as allowing other professionals to comment on the high quality of your work through recommendations."
Joining groups of like-minded people is very important. It helps you develop your all-important network and get feedback and research in your field.
As well as this, using groups allowed me to get published in the Harvard Business Review after a call from the editor for specialists. This in turn strengthened my brand online.
Starting a LinkedIn group can stamp you as a leader in your chosen field but remember that you have to be hands-on in its management and strict with those who lead the group into areas off the subject.
Blogging your way to success
Blogging is another great way to develop your profile online.
When recruiters complete a search for you, if you have written thought-provoking articles, you will be seen as an authority in your area. For example, a human resources manager writing about international trends in training and development will be seen as a professional who takes his or her career seriously.
Hannah says: "I've been blogging at TrustBite.co.nz since 2006 about once a week on topical issues around reputation, trust and integrity.
Again, because the blog is very specialist/niche, and has strong search engine optimisation, anyone searching for comment on any of these topics will likely find my blog among some of the first search outcomes listed.
"There are numerous occasions when I've been contacted by media representatives or others who've read a post and asked me to comment further - on radio, TV or at a live event.
"The other great benefit I've found from blogging is that it creates a discipline in terms of forming and articulating an opinion. It enables me to dig deeper and sometimes present issues in ways people may not have considered."
Over the past two years I have gained 23,000 subscribers to my podcast channel on goals and personal development across almost 50 countries. Podcasting is great as it's easier to generate subscribers with iTunes and iPhones. The only negative is that it is really like on-demand radio, and you do not get a lot of feedback.
Online news and magazine articles
Getting published in on-line versions of traditional media, such as the Herald, lifts your profile considerably.
Leading international media outlets are prepared to take more of a punt with a person on their online blog than they might in their printed edition, allowing you to get international exposure. Such an article becomes searchable through Google, again increasing your profile.
Twitter and FaceBook
I have not focused on two major ways to develop your online brand - Twitter and FaceBook - because they deserve articles of their own.
Suffice it to say that you should ensure everything you load into these sites is highly professional, and points strongly to you as a professional.
The magic bullet?
Successful online branding is a powerful tool and will become even more powerful as our identities and profiles move online into the digital and social media space.
However, Hannah adds that "the reality is that the brand or persona you create is less powerful than who you really are.
"Our behaviour speaks louder than our words," Hannah says, "and this is the true test of whether we can build a sustainable and powerful personal brand moving forward."
Whether you are climbing up the corporate ladder, are self-employed or developing a career as a specialist in a particular niche, having a strong brand in the online marketplace is essential.
As we move forward into the 21st century, it's only going to become more important.