Want a sure-thing investment? Invest in yourself. This may include taking care of your health, learning new skills or increasing your education level. Your investment reflects the image you want to portray to the world. That is your "brand".

The book, "Managing Brand You", by Jerry S. Wilson and Ira Blumenthal details steps for personal branding success. It applies the same branding concepts makers of consumer products use to control their brands to people. In this world of Facebook, Linkedin and other social media, controlling your personal brand has never been more important. Listed below are methods for managing your brand.

Life Goals

The recent recession may have changed your views about who you are. A middle-class suburban professional or an entry-level urban dweller may both experience a mismatch between who they currently are and who they want to be. For example: if you believe you are "middle income", you want all the stuff you think middle income folks have (a house, 2 cars, 2.4 kids, etc). Other examples include: buying your dream car even if you can't afford it, struggling to pay the mortgage on a condo in order to live in your favorite part of town, and buying a club membership to prove that you can.

Wilson and Blumenthal suggest setting goals and constructing a roadmap to where you want to be. Life goals translate into financial goals as the journey either costs money or involves sacrificing financial gains. (Learn more in Life Planning - More Than Just Money.)

Career Control

With national unemployment rates running around 10%, it's tempting to feel like you have no control over your career. You may believe you are qualified for a job, but don't have the skills, knowledge, or experience employers are looking for. To find a new job, workers have to develop a new self image and tweak their existing brand to become employable or start their own business. That process means taking a leap of faith to adapt or change careers.

You may not be able to dictate exactly what your job title currently is, but you can manage your image by the way you perform your job. For example: if you are an entry-level worker, show enthusiasm and interest in company activities. If you used to be a mid-level manager and are now a contract worker, perform above and beyond expectations to impress your customers. (For more, read Starting A Small Business In Tough Economic Times and Tips To Beat Tough Interviews.)

Lifestyle Choices

Lifestyle choices impact your degree of fulfillment. Lifestyle includes everything from your favorite restaurants to leisure activities to where you choose to live. Commercial marketers create trends. You can do this too. For example: instead of standing in line to get into that extra expensive night club, invite as many people as you know out for a night of bowling. If you do it on a regular basis, it will be come the "in thing to do" for you and your friends. Think of other ways to resist following the crowd and display a style others would want to imitate. Finding a niche is more important if you are a business owner.

Guerrilla Marketing

Once you know who you want to be, tell everybody. Marketing gurus create marketing plans that include internet ads, radio ads, celebrity endorsements, etc. that all use the same motto and logo to support their product brand. You can do the same thing with a personal business card, all of your online profiles, personal websites and blogs, and the way you introduce yourself. If you use your personal motto often enough, your co-workers, friends and family will use it to describe you. (Learn more about advertising in Advertising, Crocodiles And Moats).

Your brand determines your definition of success, and how you manage your brand impacts that success. Don't leave it to chance. Take control of who you are.