It may sound vain and even overwhelming, but when it comes down to growing your career, how people see you really does matter. It has the power to propel you forward or hinder you significantly when it comes to both your career growth and to your earning potential. More importantly, the only way for you to shine and bring your unique gifts to life is by allowing the world to see and embrace these gifts — by branding yourself personally.

Most people aren’t aware that they have a personal brand or that they are broadcasting it to the world 24/7 — every second of the day, even when they sleep. Think about your LinkedIn profile, your other social media handles and how your colleagues perceive you in the workplace. Your personal brand is everywhere.

While it may sound daunting at first, the truth is that facing your current personal brand gives you the opportunity to narrow it down and reinvent yourself deliberately, so that you can achieve a meaningful career and lifestyle that’s more in line with who you really are.

How? There are three steps:

1. Ask Yourself, “Am I Reflecting to the World the Version of Me That I Want to Showcase?”

Is the personal brand you are projecting to the world now helping you further your career — or could it be keeping you from that promotion and bigger paycheck?

What are people saying about you when you’re not in the room?

The answers to these questions clue you into the brand that you share, without even thinking about it, and they might be the reason you need to take charge of it, especially if it’s hurting your chances for advancement.

2. Realize That a Brand Is a Feeling…

… Others’ feelings, that is, when they’re around you or learn of you from others.

It’s true that you can’t control other people’s feelings, but you can understand your audience: the people who understand and appreciate you, the people who see the gifts you bring — the people who resonate with your personal brand.

The more you curate your personal brand, the closer you’ll be to evoking a feeling with your name, which is really powerful. As an example, consider what feelings the name “Oprah” evokes. Oprah’s personal brand has made her one of the world’s most influential (and wealthiest) women, and something as simple as her name evokes the feeling of her brand.

In today’s world, it’s important to take your personal brand seriously if you want others to take you seriously. Oprah wasn’t born influential or rich. She took charge of her personal brand and polished and nurtured it over time. You can, too.

3. Define Your Personal Brand

You want your personal brand to show the positive impact you can have on other people and the world around you. A note of caution, though: A strong personal brand is not the same thing as self-promotion. It’s easy to confuse them, because they both showcase and market you to the world, but there’s a difference: Personal branding is all about putting yourself out there in the service of others, and self-promotion doesn’t serve anyone but you.

Remember: Your personal brand shows what you have to offer, and it holds the key to how far you will go in your career. Your brand is broadcasting continuously, and whether you know it or not, like it or not, anyone receiving that signal is going to use it to assess your abilities, your skill level, your confidence and your credibility.

Regardless of where you stand now, it’s never too late or too early to start generating a strong personal brand that sets you apart from the competition.