When it comes to one’s professional marketability and success in landing new opportunities, there are obviously a ton of different components that factor into the mix. Without question, education and experience play a critical role. So does networking. And one’s resume. And the degree to which one is able to consistently produce great work and demonstrate this to potential employers via references, recommendations, and tangible work samples.
One small piece of the equation that often gets overlooked, however, is the importance of having a quality professional photograph of yourself. While sure, this element tends to be more critical for folks targeting management/executive positions — or who are actively seeking to establish themselves as consultants and thought leaders in their field — having a great photo can pay dividends for almost any professional today given the role of LinkedIn and other social media sites in the hiring process.
Case in point? If you’ve got a moment, and are a LinkedIn user, pay a quick visit to the link you’ll find here where you’ll be shown a list of people that the site suspects you might possibly know and want to connect with. Scroll down the page and look at various peoples’ photographs. See any difference in quality? Which ones would you be drawn to if you were a potential employer or recruiter? Which ones would turn you off? And would you agree that on first blush, one’s eye goes immediately to this key visual element and that we all probably form impressions about each individual, consciously or subconsciously, based on how their photo comes across?
To me, having analyzed thousands of photos on LinkedIn and other sites from a personal branding standpoint, I find that the keys to a good mugshot are as follows:
• Take the photograph outside or near a window where some natural light is present
• Don’t stand against a wall; separate yourself from the background by at least a few feet
• No selfies! Get a professional photographer or qualified friend to take the shot for you
• Dress professionally, but not TOO formally (aka suit-and-tie) unless your role demands it
• Avoid old-fashioned “prom picture” poses; sit or stand in a natural, comfortable way
• Feel free to be more creative (e.g. a prop, funny background, etc.) if it fits your brand/personality
• Smile and do your best to look friendly/approachable; it makes a huge difference
All of this being said, and while there are tons of quality photographers out there who do a great job, one local professional I’ve recommended for years is Tara Gimmer — who hosts a “headshot special” event each month where she’ll take an absolutely killer photo of you for only $129. She’s got some upcoming headshot sessions taking place in early February, in fact, but they tend to sell out quickly — so if you need a new photo, consider checking out her site here and signing up!
Oh, and one more tip. If you hate getting your picture taken as much as I do, and wrestle with the challenge of picking the “best shot” to use for yourself on LinkedIn and other social sites, pay a visit to www.photofeeler.com. This innovative (and free) site allows you to upload several photos of yourself and have a group of anonymous folks vote for which of your images radiates the most positive qualities such as confidence, fun, and likability. Don’t worry — no negative feedback is allowed on the site, whatsoever, so you’ll be able to get some valuable and objective input without your ego getting bruised!