Try this right now: Open up a Web browser and Google your name. Finished? What appears about you is what customers, employers, recruiters and prospects will see. It's your brand.

Recruiters and employers are discovering people on social media they'd like to employ, while prospects and customers are discovering people on social media who can solve their problems.

So, based on what appears, are you a credible brand that inspires trust?

Job seekers and people open to a job change

According to Talent Trends 2014, that's about 85 percent of you reading this column! Armed with powerful search algorithms, employers and recruiters are conducting online employee searches for people who have the exact skill set as you do, without advertising for an open position. If your social profile has the right keywords, you could get a call about an opportunity you never considered when you got up this morning.

If you are currently engaged in an active job search, then beware that 9 out of 10 employers look at prospective candidates on social media before they make their offer, according to research by Reppler. And nearly 70 percent of employers have rejected candidates based on what they saw when they visited a candidate on social media.

Sales and marketing professionals

Did you know customers and prospects have already completed more than half of the buying process online before they ever engage a sales professional, according to the Corporate Executive Board? They've already searched for products and services that can solve their problems, and now are ready to engage at the personal level. A high percentage of prospects research sales representatives before speaking with them.

Will they see a crisp, professional brand that says you are worthy of their business and trust, or will they see that you tweeted something derogatory three years ago about their company and its products?

The brand called you

Whether you knew it or not, you've been building all five elements of the "brand called you" for years. People's first impression of you is really their impression of your brand, based on what they've learned about you from your online presence — or observe in the first 20 seconds of meeting you.

In short, everything that is public-facing and search-facing should be branded and consistent. Consider the following 12 items as part of your branding:

  1. Appearance — your attire, grooming, what people see when they see you.
  2. Blogs and articles you've published.
  3. Business cards.
  4. Career search documents — such as résumés and cover letters.
  5. Sales proposals and other sales information.
  6. Your voicemail greeting and every message you leave.
  7. Every email you send plus your email footer or signature line.
  8. Your one-minute introduction (aka elevator pitch).
  9. Portfolio — either physical, virtual (online) or both.
  10. Your social network profiles, beginning with LinkedIn (the one network you must be on).
  11. Your thank you and follow-up communications.
  12. Website — your personal, professional website.

If you don't brand yourself, someone else will

If nothing appears about you in a search, then guess what brand prospective employers and customers will associate with you? Nothing! Zilch! You've become a "zero brand," and that isn't good. If a search produces something unprofessional about you, your brand becomes "No! Stay Away! Nothing more to see!"

But if a search reveals a positive, polished and professional profile, it tells customers and employers to consider you further

Everyone needs a LinkedIn profile as a minimum, and it must be complete (LinkedIn will walk you through the process to build it). Other networks on which people in your profession (or intended profession) post a professional profile are also a benefit. Having a blog is a plus, and links to and from your blog and profiles are key to being found online.

That way, when someone searches for your name on Google, up pops multiple listings for you, from which customers and employers can view your brand.

As an example, suppose you were searching LinkedIn for someone with project management expertise and this profile popped up?

How would you describe this person's brand? Would you call him in for a job interview for a key role in your company? Would you seek him out to buy from? Do you trust his brand or take him seriously?

Guess what By answering those few questions about your initial impressions, you've just branded him.

Bottom line: If you don't brand yourself with a positive, polished and professional profile, everyone who searches for you will assign an unflattering brand to you.