The biggest issue I've seen when it comes to personal branding is a lack of adequate research and strategizing. Rather than "ready, aim, fire," I often see "fire, ready, aim."

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Developing a personal brand is similar to product branding. The goal is to differentiate yourself (the product) in the market so that you can attain your objectives (land your dream job or climb the career ladder). The process includes defining your brand and brand attributes, positioning your brand in a different way than your competitors, and then managing all aspects of your personal brand.

The biggest issue I’ve seen when it comes to personal branding is a lack of adequate research and strategizing. Rather than “ready, aim, fire,” I often see “fire, ready, aim.” People tend to get so excited that they forget to do their homework before taking action. To avoid missteps, take the time to work through these six steps:

1. Define your overall aspirations. Be specific and clearly define your goal. Is it to become known as the best project manager in a certain industry? Get a job as creative director at a large advertising agency? Become VP of marketing?

2. Conduct research. Take a look at those who are where you want to be; how are they conducting their personal branding efforts? What can you learn from what others are doing (whether their efforts are good or bad)? Who are your biggest competitors, and what are they doing to brand themselves?

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3. Determine your brand attributes. What do you want your personal brand to convey? Which adjectives do you want people to associate with you (as the product) and why? In what niche of the market do you want to become known?

4. Assess your current state. How do people perceive you? How large is the gap between the current you and the person you want to be? What needs to change, and why?

5. Create your game plan. Your plan should include more than just branding yourself in social media; it needs to include all aspects of you as a product. Defining your plan needs to include the tangible and intangible characteristics of personal branding, including your appearance, behavior, and verbal and non-verbal communication.

Your plan should also include identifying the specific social media aspects you’ll use to convey your personal brand — such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, and/or a personal website — and how you’ll use each to build your brand.

6. Manage your brand. Proactively manage all aspects of your brand, ensuring that they are in sync and continue to reinforce your brand attributes and market niche.

With a little thought and strategizing, you can use personal branding to help you attain your career aspirations.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.