AT&T understands the importance of promoting its brand. So do Toyota, Disney and McDonald’s, just to name a few.

But individuals often don’t understand just how critical it is for them to promote their personal brands as well. In fact, their careers depend on it.

No one from the CEO to the secretary can afford not have a strong personal brand (online and off), if they want to succeed in today’s job climate. A personal brand – much like those corporate brands – tells the world about you. It’s a way of selling yourself and your image in a way that leaves a positive impression.

Personal branding is not a new idea. The article that Tom Peters wrote in 1997 titled “The Brand Called You” which helped give rise to the popular idea that an individual can be just as much a brand, as a soft drink or laundry detergent. People such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin were carefully nurturing their brand images decades and even centuries before it became fashionable.

Even though personal branding has been with us for decades, the advent of social media as a daily part of all our lives, has brought it to the forefront and made it a priority in today’s wired world.

There are several reasons why it’s important for everyone to follow Churchill and Chaplin’s lead and cultivate a personal brand. A few of those reasons include:

You need to outshine the competition.

The job market is a competitive place and it’s easy to get lost in the clutter of all those other applicants. You can stand out from the crowd by carefully crafting your brand with elements that can range from the way you dress to the way you tell the story about the accomplishments you have achieved.

Social media is forcing your hand.

It’s critical to make sure your online presence (including Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) represents you in the most powerful and professional way. Why? Because potential employers will check them out to check you out. According to a 2015 CareerBuilder poll, 52 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. And not having social media accounts isn’t a good option because 35 percent of those employers say they are less likely to interview someone who doesn’t have an online presence.

A negative image could undermine your career goals.

While social media sites can help promote your personal brand, Leland says, they can also be your worst enemy. That same CareerBuilder study reported that 48 percent of employers chose not to hire someone based on social-media content. So ditch inappropriate photos, references to drinking, critical comments about former employers and anything else you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see.

Anyone who plans to wait out the personal-branding trend until it passes needs a new plan. It’s no longer an option in career management. If you don’t define your personal brand, someone else will define it for you.