We all have a professional network, big or small. It may be people we know well and have worked with at some point. Or people we’ve met briefly at a conference and agreed to keep in touch. Or people who have reached out to us to connect on social media channels after seeing our profiles.

While you may not think you have a “personal brand”, you do have a professional reputation.  The idea of having a personal brand may have invoked thoughts of vanity in the past. But not in this technology enabled social media world we live in.

So, what is your personal brand? Are you consciously creating it? How do people see you publicly online and in person? What are you known for? These are all questions you should be able to answer.

One of the first ways I thought about it was when I re-initiated my Twitter account several years ago and had to write my profile. At the time, my account was private. A colleague who was advising me on social media told me that was my first mistake. Twitter is meant to be public – I shouldn’t have to approve who can follow me. More importantly, he said my profile should capture in just a few phrases who I am and what’s important to me.

I recently saw a blog post by Janet Mesh from one of our partner firms, Healthcare IT Leaders, titled “How To Boost Your Career With An Online, Personal Brand”. I was reading along thinking, yup, yup I do all that. Then I was pleasantly surprised and grateful to see that I was used as an example. Thanks Janet and Healthcare IT Leaders!  And thanks to all those who gave me encouragement and advice to get started in a focused way building my social media presence several years back.

I know a 30+ year old who has always avoided Facebook thinking it is too personal and invades your privacy (let that sink in given all we know now). But I know he looks over his wife’s shoulder at pictures of family and friends when she is checking Facebook. Professionally he recognizes that Twitter and LinkedIn are useful for building his client base, so he works those channels regularly and diligently.

Your reputation and credibility are something you need to own and manage. They are core to your professional success.  So how do you do that? Carefully. Know how to leverage the different social media channels. And know that as a professional it’s all in your public record if someone wants to go looking for it.

Be authentic and be consistent. As you build your professional network in person and online, everyone who describes you to someone else should be saying the same thing. And it should be positive!

Your network and reputation are priceless. Don’t take them for granted. Develop and nurture your network.

“Building Your Network and Personal Brand – Leveraging Social Media” is just one of the many topics I will be covering in the upcoming online course, “Equipping Emerging Leaders for Success” aimed at women early in their career.  We’ll explore what it takes to build it, how lack of confidence can be a factor for women and discuss practical tips. This course is just one of the offerings of C-change – a new service from StarBridge Advisors aimed at developing women leaders in health IT. You can learn more about C-change and this course here.

This piece wsa originally published on Sue Schade’s Blog, Health IT Connect. Follow me on Twitter at @sgschade