If you want to find out more about someone—a first date, a potential employer or employee, an influencer on social media—what’s the first thing you do? You Google them. And what you’ll discover is their personal brand.

Personal branding is the new normal. It’s no longer reserved for celebrities, politicians, or reality TV stars. In 2016, you need to be conscious of what your personal brand is, because whether you know it or not, you have one. And if you’re not deliberately branding yourself, the outside world is branding you.

Choosing Yourself

We’re living in what investor and entrepreneur James Altucher refers to as the “Choose Yourself era.” Taking control of your personal brand is the smartest way to secure your professional future.

Take YouTube powerhouse Michelle Phan, for example. As a young student with a passion for makeup, she applied to a department store’s Lancôme counter for a weekend position. She was rejected.

A few years later she was hired by Lancôme, but not to work at a beauty counter. She became their first official video ambassador after her relatable makeup tutorials on YouTube were viewed by millions.

Phan “chose herself” by putting her creativity out into the world and not waiting for anyone to choose her. No one gave her “permission”—she just did the work consistently. Now her brand is worth an estimated $84 million.

Solid personal branding will allow you to hedge against an uncertain job market and uncover opportunities.

If you’re an entrepreneur or working on a side hustle, your personal brand is critical to your business growth. Even if you’re a happy full-timer at a company you love, solid personal branding will allow you to hedge against an uncertain job market and uncover opportunities you may not otherwise have access to. Focus on what you want to build in terms of your brand (e.g., skills, experience, credibility, reputation, trustworthiness, exposure) and you’ll be ahead of the game for opportunities now and later. It’s never too soon (or too late) to get serious about building your personal brand!

As an employee-turned-entrepreneur, I’ve come up with five steps for creating a personal brand that packs a punch and feels true to you.

1. Define your “shtick.”

Are you a travel-obsessed photographer? A yoga teacher who helps students find their bliss? A quirky writer with a passion for Hollywood entertainment? Get clear on what you love and make this the foundational message you share with the world. It will likely change over time, but just start with something that feels right today.Craft an elevator pitch about your passion, stating who you are and how you serve others. For example, a graduate of my side-hustle course crafted this:“I’m Louise, a personal trainer. I help busy LA moms fit into their pre-pregnancy jeans and feel strong and sexy in the process. I do one-on-one training over a 12-week program. My clients say I’m the best because not only do I help them create Jennifer Aniston-esque abs and arms, but I support them in taking care of themselves first.”When I was a full-time employee, I still introduced myself as a life coach. I wanted to be known for this (not my corporate job).

2. Share it with others.

Why do people follow you and engage with you? Funny enough, it’s not because of you at all. It’s about what you do to educate, inspire, and entertain your audience. Check out some the feeds of “Insta-celebs.” Notice how their feeds are consistent in look, feel, and style.You Might Like{{displayTitle}}They might veer a little to give you a personal peek (like a cup of coffee in bed or a vacation snap), but overall the comedians stick to jokes, the fashionistas stick to looks of the day, and the life coaches geek out with inspirational quotes (guilty). Stick to one or two mediums that best suit your style. A couple well-managed accounts are much better than a half-assed post on multiple mediums every seven weeks.

3. Create, create, create!

Original content creation is and always will be king. Executed-upon ideas are the currency of the new economy we find ourselves in. The good news? You’re basically three clicks way from creating a blog post, a video, and a point of view as an online commentator. Don’t shy away from using your voice—your uniqueness is your value!Don’t shy away from using your voice—your uniqueness is your value!As a professional in any field, you can use LinkedIn to publish ideas about your industry, making you an instant thought leader. Or be bold and create a website on WordPress or Tumblr this week—I dare you. If you hired a branding coach, they would hold you accountable for doing this within seven days. So get to it!

4. Show up and connect.

Who else do you look up to in your field? Connect with them! As much as I’d love to have a cup of tea with Oprah, I try to connect with personal development coaches and writers on my level all the time. I join their Facebook conversations, comment on their articles, tweet their witty one-liners, and build virtual friendships. Your community of like-minded people can help you succeed by sharing ideas, connections, and advice. We’re all wired for connection, so there is no need to be shy in making the first virtual move—leave a comment or introduce yourself via email to someone you look up to. Over time other people will appreciate your engagement and reciprocate.

5. Don’t forget real life.

Nothing—nothing—beats an old-fashioned personal connection. If more than a decade in corporate sales taught me anything, it’s the value of relationships formed in living color. The best part? You make lifelong friends this way. I never really worry about “work-life balance,” because to me, there’s no separation. I love my work so much, so how can that be separate from my life? It’s a massive part of who I am.At a party I hosted recently at my home, some of my clients came, as did my neighbors, colleagues, and editors. These folks are all my beloved, treasured, dear friends. How freakin’ awesome! In fact, that’s how I’ve come to measure success—when the line between work and play is so beautifully blurred it’s nonexistent.

The Takeaway

If you want to take charge of your success and take advantage of opportunities now and in the future, make building your personal brand a priority. Be an authentic person and friend. Know what you stand for. Be clear on how to explain how you serve the world and don’t be shy about it. Share your ideas, thoughts, and creativity.Give to others. And keep your phone in your pocket next time you’re at a party—you never know who you might meet.

Most importantly, don’t hold back being yourself! There never has been and never will be another you, and that is your power.

Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for her free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!