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“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. We’ve all heard the expression and, although it’s generally true, there are times when that first impression doesn’t necessarily determine the future of a relationship. There are often further opportunities to interact with the other person, the outcome of which can easily outweigh the first impression. When it comes to an employment search or career advancement, however, you’re rarely afforded those opportunities and your first impression is likely to be lasting, if not permanent.
Of course, you know this, right? It’s why you check and double check your appearance in the mirror before you walk into an interview. It’s also why you practice your smile, your handshake, and your personal “swagger”, all in order to make a first impression that dazzles the interviewee and lands you the job of your dreams! That’s the idea, anyway. There are, however, other ways to make a first impression, even without knowing it. How?
By using social media to your advantage. If you have an online presence via social networking sites (SNS), you put yourself on public display with very little control over who “sees” you or when. The potential harm to your personal and professional reputation which can be caused by posting inappropriate items or photos on Facebook, Twitter and the like are well-known,
Less obvious but no less relevant to our discussion is your LinkedIn profile. Given that employers, recruiters and professionals alike are making greater use of the professional social network, your LinkedIn profile has the potential to make countless first impressions which, if unfavorable, you may never have the opportunity to rehabilitate. And that’s assuming you’re even aware judgment has been passed on you.
Which brings us to something many are uncomfortable with: The LinkedIn profile photo. First, make no mistake, your profile should include a photo, no matter how much you “hate” having your picture taken. Any recruiter, employment counselor, career coach or H.R. professional will tell you that it’s important that you create a complete LinkedIn profile. They’ll also tell you that if it doesn’t include a photo, it’s incomplete. A great photo of you, even if you’re not “Bachelor/Bachelorette” beautiful, is much more professional than no photo at all (and let’s not even talk about an avatar, icon or other image).
There are several reasons for this, and the first one is easy: when you send a LinkedIn invitation to someone you know, they often rely on the photograph to remember who you are. Without one, they may not make the connection.
The second reason is that a photo makes your profile more personal. The purpose of LinkedIn is networking and everything about your profile should be engaging and invite conversation. A blank space where your photo should be is anything but engaging.
Finally, any recruiter will tell you that she is far more likely to click on your profile if it includes a photo. Can you really afford not to take advantage of every opportunity to attract a recruiter’s attention? Even better if the photo is one of you engaged in your work…even just sitting at your desk.
Which brings us to another common expression: “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Which is another way of saying “not just any picture will do”. Remember that your LinkedIn profile picture will draw the immediate attention of (and make a first impression on) anyone visiting your page. If you want that photo to work for you, there are certain things to remember:
No “selfies” allowed. Regardless of whether you have a photograph professionally taken or one that was shot by a friend or family member, both are highly preferable to your cellphone shot taken at your favorite hangout or some outdoor location you visited, no matter how beautiful it might be. And, really, do you want a LinkedIn profile photo that shows the arm of someone you cropped out of the picture?
They’re trained professionals, don’t try this at home. If possible use a pro photographer Yes, we know, that costs money. So does your resume prep, a new “interview” suit, etc. Consider it an investment in yourself.
Head shot-real smile, hair combed, eyes forward and open! You’re sitting for a photo, not contemplating the mystery of life. Pose accordingly.
Dress for success-Business-like. Avoid gaudy jewelry, Mickey Mouse tie, etc. If your work involves a profession-specific uniform, it is okay to be photographed in it so long as it is done appropriately.
Keep It Simple. No pets, no kids, no staged law library setting.
Remember: A lasting first impression should not be LOL.