You probably don’t need me to tell you how important first impressions are in all areas of life but are you aware that when you first meet someone, you have a seven second window?
Seven seconds! This minuscule “first impression window” puts self-awareness high on the list and highlights the importance of understanding how you’re showing up for others, because that is exactly where your personal brand lives – in the minds of others.
Seeing as we’re on the subject of windows, you may find it helpful to think of your personal brand like a shop on a crowded high street or in a busy shopping centre. If you were walking past and saw yourself in shop form, would you stop and take a closer look? What can you see in the window and does the display accurately represent what’s going on inside? Do you sense that people feel drawn to come in and browse your wares? And once they’ve seen what you have to offer, is it likely that they’ll end up making a purchase? If you gave them that all important first impression and they had a positive experience, did they then make a point of telling their friends?
Your personal brand is the entire shop. First impressions are the determining factor in whether you stand out among all the other retailers on this metaphorical high street and your story is the component of your brand that creates the ‘pull’. Your passion or expertise becomes the products or services you’re selling and the combination of the story, the window and the shopping experience defines how you’ll leave people feeling. When you align all of these aspects, you can attract and build a vibrant community, your business grows and your shop becomes memorable; leaving people with a lasting impression.
“Attract people by the qualities you display. Keep them by the qualities you possess”
Your outward appearance is the most obvious and easiest to tweak but that is only one part of how others perceive you and if there’s a mismatch, people will sense it. Your story is what makes you distinctive. No-one else has accumulated the same collection of experiences. They haven’t seen life through your eyes nor have they walked the same path. Your unique perspective is ultimately what will set you apart from every single one of the 7 billion+ people on this planet so it’s equally important to know which parts of your journey to share and how you’re going to tell that story in a way that is both authentic and engaging.
Getting people to engage with you is a lot easier when you bring your humanness to the forefront. It replaces barriers with trust, rapport and human connection. For example, if you have kids, other parents can easily relate. If a challenging childhood shaped your outlook, others who went through something similar can effortlessly connect. If travelling the world opened your mind to a new way of thinking, those who have travelled – as well as those who aspire to – will find common ground.
When it comes to careers and business, there can be resistance around sharing personal stories and showing vulnerability. We’ve been conditioned to be ‘professional’ but that doesn’t mean we can’t be ourselves. After all isn’t every employer, client, colleague and consumer also a human being? We can no longer operate in a linear B2B or B2C world. People buy people and all relationships are H2H – Human to Human.
When the people who work with you and who buy from you are able to access the qualities you possess, you’ll attract authentic human connections. So if you’re looking to up the ‘memorable’ factor and grow your career or business; don’t opt for the safety of a shiny façade, have the courage to show up as YOU.