I am constantly amazed at how little money most professionals are willing to spend to promote and market themselves. Like this kind of investment — investing in yourself — is crass, egotistical, and over-indulgent. Our actions and accomplishments speak for themselves, right? We’re sick of hearing about this “personal branding” thing. After all, we’re not cars or soft drinks.
Many VP level executives making well into six figures wouldn’t think twice about spending hundreds of dollars to play 18 holes of golf, or go to a stadium to watch their favorite professional sports team. But spend a few hundred dollars on a professional head shot — or $500 to $1000 on a professionally written résumé? NEVER! Why?
This is YOUR career! Accept responsibility for it. Just because your employer won’t spend the money to send you to a professional photographer to get a decent head shot made, don’t cop an attitude. Spend your own money and start collecting the dividends from your investment… in yourself.
LinkedIn profiles with pictures receive 50 to 70 percent more click-throughs than those with no picture. Yet, as we all know, most of the pictures we see on LinkedIn are amateur photos; pictures from special events like weddings (with invariably someone chopped out of the picture), vacation shots, poorly exposed and grainy cell phone shots taken in a bar or restaurant, low resolution blurry shots from who-knows-where. If this describes your head shot on LinkedIn, what does that say about you? Not much.
Let me ask you a question. Do you want to make and immediate and positive first impression with the recruiters viewing your LinkedIn profile? Use a professionally made head shot, looking directly into the camera, wearing business attire. With very little effort, you’ve just leaped over 60 percent of your peers and potential competition, demonstrating to that recruiter you’re someone they can feel confident in representing.
Several weeks ago I met with an author/career coach in New York to discuss recording an interview for TotalPicture Radio. Obviously, I had reviewed her LinkedIn profile, (she had a professional head shot), and I made a mental note of what she looked like. When she came up and introduced herself, my jaw must have dropped. She was 15 to 20 years older than her LinkedIn profile picture, and unrecognizable.
Which brings me to this — primarily directed toward my fellow baby boomers: It is what it is. When it comes to aging, my friends, It is what it is. Don’t hide behind a 20 year old photograph. A large part of the whole motivation for connecting with people on LinkedIn, cultivating relationships through online networks is to turn those virtual connections into face-to-face meetings. Right?Don’t make that first in-person meeting awkward and embarrassing for all concerned by using terribly outdated photographs in your online profiles, which have little relationship to your current appearance.
When reaching out to connect with people on LinkedIn, make it personal and relevant. To quote from my friend, Donato Diorio’s LinkedIn profile, “LinkedIn invites: Reach out and tell me WHY you want to connect. If your invite starts with: "Since you're a person I trust" OR "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn".... well, if it's not worth your time to personalize, it's not worth my time to accept.”
Part of the motivation for writing this came from Bill Kutik. If you know Bill, you know that he doesn’t mince his words. At a nice lunch overlooking the Saugatuck River in Westport, Bill said to me, “You need to update your LinkedIn picture. You don’t look like that anymore. Get with the program.” He was right.
Remember, you are ultimately responsible for your career. Your job and your career are not the same thing. Take the time and make the effort to proactively manage every aspect and detail of your online identity and reputation. Invest in it. Nurture it. Promote it wisely, and often. Contribute to relevant LinkedIn industry groups and blogs by sharing your knowledge and expertise. By doing so, you stand a far better chance of accomplishing your goals. On your terms.