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In 2011, my company Reach Personal Branding turned 10. In the early years of the business, personal branding was seen as a luxury—reserved for CEOs and entrepreneurs. As personal branding became a little more visible and better understood, marketers jumped on the "brandwagon."

Today, professionals in all job functions view personal branding as a proven technique for enabling career success and personal fulfillment. The philosophy has remained the same, but the way we build our brands and the workplace trends related to personal branding are evolving. Each year, I compile those trends for you early-adopter marketers so you can stay ahead of your peers as you build and express your brand.

Here are the first six of my 12 personal branding trends for 2012.

1. Headshots Everywhere

There was a time when only actors, models, and senior executives had professional photos of themselves taken regularly. Well, thanks to personal branding, the need for virtual visibility, and the universal desire to connect a face with a name—the professional photography business is booming! We now expect to see a photo alongside a blog post, on a social network profile, and accompanying an online article.

People are less likely to click on a LinkedIn profile if it is missing a photo and are less inclined to believe Web-based content if the contributor's photo is missing. Yet many people are still reluctant to post their photo. Some fear age discrimination or harassment, and others just haven't invested in high-quality photos. (Have you seen really weird avatars or photos that clearly were taken at someone's party—after a few too many cocktails?)

Social media companies realize the importance of connecting a face with a name and are developing apps to make that easier. For example, Plaxo now allows you to take any contact's photo and view it in your Outlook and iPhone contacts. Many more apps will offer similar capabilities. And the next frontier—face recognition—will add a whole new twist to Google image searches!

What does this mean for you?

If you haven't done so already, get professional headshots and upload them to your Flickr account (remember to name the images with your name so they appear in a Google search). Take a series of photos with different clothes and poses because your photo will appear in many places, from your Google profile to your YouTube channel or your Flavors.me page. You don't want someone doing a Google image search to see 20 copies of the same photo of you. As the old adage goes, first impressions last. Make sure your headshots are of high quality and express your personal brand.

2. Personalization of Work

When I worked at Lotus, a software company that is now a division of IBM, we did a lot of research on consumer preferences related to IT and learned that people wanted to use the same hardware and software they use every day at work... at home.

Today, that concept is turned on its head. People, especially Gen-Yers, want to use their own technology—what they use regularly at home—at the office. I call that trend "the personalization of work." More and more, the imaginary line that separates work and life is disappearing. Over the past decades, work has invaded life (e.g., checking work email on the weekends, having conference calls with Asia at midnight, and so on). Now, we're seeing the reverse happen.

Many years ago, Tom Peters and Dan Pink wrote that we would all be free agents, moving from project to project, or role to role—much like consultants and solopreneurs do today. The personalization of work is a trend that supports that new paradigm, in which you are a one-person brand with all the tools and resources you need to do your job (even if you are working inside a company).

What does this mean for you?

Employees: Your tools—everything you use, touch, carry, and surround yourself with—are part of your brand. They send a little message to those around you about who you are. Choose tools that are consistent with your brand, and help reinforce what you want people to know about you.

Employers: If you want competitive advantage in hiring the best and the brightest, meet candidates where they are. Ensure that your IT and legal departments are ready to have employees show up on day one with their iPads or other preferred devices. Think of other ways your employees would want to bring their lives into work, and understand how to make that work for the company and the employees.

3. Personal Publishing

Blogs and other online portals have allowed more people to get their work published or to self-publish articles and content. Newspaper and magazine editors are no longer the exclusive gatekeepers to the information we read. Now, book publishing is going the same way. Sure, credibility comes along with being published by John Wiley & Sons or Random House, but readers rarely actually look at the imprint.

Book publishing has changed forever. When I interviewed bestselling author Seth Godin for the Reach Personal Branding Interview Series, he told me about The Domino Project. Although he has published dozens of books with major publishing houses, he has decided to forgo the "middle man" and work directly with Amazon.com—the distributor.

The Domino Project will get relevant books to market faster and more cost-effectively. My company is going to launch our own publishing arm in 2012, and it will produce and release books written in conjunction with our Reach-certified strategists. That is part of an irreversible trend.

Amazon.com sold more e-books in 2011 than books made from trees, making it even easier for you to publish. With e-books, you don't have to worry about the messy multi-step printing process to get your book in the hands of (or in front of the eyes of) those you seek to influence with your message.

What does this mean for you?

If you have been thinking about writing a book, there's no better time than now to put pen to paper or finger to key. The fear of publisher or agent rejection does not have to be a factor. Numerous services are available to support all steps of the book-development and distribution process. A book is one of the best tools for demonstrating thought leadership and extending your personal brand.

4. Crowdsourcing for Professionals

You're only as good as the collective opinions of others. Independent contractors have always understood the value of client feedback and testimonials. Now, with the ease of requesting and providing recommendations, careerists must also be mindful of the importance of external reviews.

Virtually every new social network or app allows users to request and showcase reviews. LinkedIn (the first to have that feature) calls them recommendations. BranchOut and BeKnown call them endorsements. Honestly.com calls them reviews. Regardless of what you call them, such reviews are becoming increasingly important to those who are making decisions about you. A Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey found that 90% of consumers trust peer reviews. Although no research (to my knowledge) has been done about that topic as it relates to people, I predict we will quickly become accustomed to using crowdsourcing to make decisions about professionals.

What does this mean for you?

Get out there, and get testimonials, recommendations, and endorsements. Make those endorsements visible via various social media sites and via your own website. People will be doubtful of those without any external recommendations. And remember, people who evaluate your performance will have more and more opportunities to share their experience, so always deliver your best, on-brand work.

5. Personal QR Codes

Quick response (QR) codes are taking off in all kinds of ways that weren't originally anticipated. For example, according to brandchanel.com, it's now possible to place extremely large QR codes on the tops of buildings that will be photographed by the satellites that feed Google Maps and Google Earth. Those QR codes will be digested by Google's mapping systems and will cause companies' logos to appear when someone looks at their building's images. Though you may not put a giant QR code on the top of your house, as a career-minded professional or entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to use QR codes to point others to your websites, blogs, and other relevant career marketing content. I have seen QR codes on resumes, on business cards, and on networking name badges.

What does this mean for you?

You have a great opportunity to direct people to the content you want them to see. Especially if one of your brand attributes is "innovative," think about how you can use QR codes to direct people to what you want them to know about you.

6. Personal Logos

Tiger Woods has his TW logo. Oprah Winfrey has her 'O.' And someday, you will have yours, too—a stylized version of your name. Thanks to websites like 99Designs.com and crowdSPRING.com, it's easy and inexpensive to create your personal logo. In previous trend lists, I discussed having your own personal brand identity system (PBIS)—font, images, color, etc. 

Your logo is an important part of the visual vocabulary of your brand. As we move closer and closer to the free agent nation, you'll need a way to represent your personal brand via a logo. Your logo can be used on your website or Web portal (about.me, flavors.me), your resume, your stationary, or your thank-you notes—anywhere you're looking to express your brand.

What does this mean for you?

Determine if having a stylized way of using your name is right for you, and then think about what emotions you want your logo to evoke and what message you want it to send. Once you have your logo, use it consistently to create recognition and memorability.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of William Arruda

William Arruda is a personal branding pioneer, the founder and CEO of Reach Personal Branding, and the author of Ditch. Dare. Do! 3D Personal Branding for Executives.

Twitter: @williamarruda

LinkedIn: William Arruda