While most people consider how their reputation impacts their path through life, less common is people considering the importance of their personal brand.

Your personal brand is the image, identity, strengths and characteristics by which you wish to be known, and is defined by consciously crafting that image among your community and peers.

This differs from your reputation which is the actual perception that people have of you based on their – and others – experiences and interactions with you.

When you are considering your personal brand, you should also assess how it might impact your reputation, as your personal brand helps shape how others perceive you. In fact, the two combined are one of the most significant influences on the success of your personal and professional life.

First Impressions and Personal Brand:

First impressions, where your reputation does not precede you, is one of the most critical ways your personal brand can influence your success.

Within only a few seconds, people will make judgments about your competence, confidence, professionalism, trustworthiness, and social status. And if you make the wrong first impression it will be difficult to change.

However, with a personal brand that has considered how you would like to portray these and other attributes as part of your first impression, you will be far less likely to make a bad one.

How To Shape Your Personal Brand

Set Goals: As with almost everything in life, what you want your personal brand to represent comes back to your goals. Those looking to excel in the corporate world will have a completely different personal brand to an aspiring professional surfer. Once you have defined your goals, you can start to shape your personal brand around those goals.

Map Your Current Personal Brand: Next you should clearly identify what your current brand projects. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, values and qualities and then consider how to bring these into your personal brand – in relation to your goals.

Physical Appearance: Your physical appearance is one of the most important factors of your personal brand and ties directly with people’s first impression. How you dress, your grooming, style and body language are all powerful branding signals.

Body Language: Your body language is directly correlated with your physical appearance. How you stand, walk or sit, your facial expressions, gestures, all impact your brand and how you are perceived.

Online Presence: Social and digital media has provided incredible opportunities for shaping your personal brand. Ensure clear, concise and well presented information is presented across all channels.

Networking: Actively engage with your communities and peers across both digital and offline channels. Join events, clubs, online forums and channels and add value to conversations around areas of interest or your specialty.

Consistency: Branding – whether business or personal – is about message consistency and repetition. Mixed messages will cloud and confuse your personal brand.

Seek Feedback: Ask trusted people whether your personal brand reflects what you wish to project, and respond positively to criticism and feedback.