Article

Jay Denhart-Lillard
Jay Denhart-Lillard 1 February 2016

Can A Bad Profile Picture Sink Your Career?

We all want to shine our brightest on our social media profiles, and one secret may be to have a great picture.

Okay, maybe it won’t sink your career, but if your profile picture actively working against you and your goals, you’d want to take action, right? We all should try to shine at our brightest on our social media profiles, and one secret may be to have a great profile photo.

We’ve all probably noticed that when we update our profile picture on Facebook we tend to get a lot of like’s within just a few minutes.

Well it shouldn’t surprise you, because as a species, we are super-visually oriented. Pictures are not only worth a thousand words to us, but they can convey emotions and messages better and faster than any written or spoken explanation. We like to see our friends on display, and so a great profile photo tends to get noticed and appreciated widely.

And if you’ve ever been looking for a specific package in a store, you have product marketers to thank for eye-catching packaging that helps you quickly find what you’re looking for. The design of the package has to express the personality of the brand, present the logo in a positive way and even communicate some product benefits. That’s a lot of work for a few pictures and graphics to do, but in a sea of products, the brands we like tend to stand out to us. That’s branding in action.

For your profile photo, it’s even more critical. Because of our evolutionary programming, we can automatically read pictures of faces even faster than we can scan all that complicated packaging design. Which means that choosing the right profile picture is an important endeavor. It has to capture your personality and the brand image that you want to project.

Before picking your perfect headshot, first think about your objective and purpose. On LinkedIn, professionalism is the name of the game, so you’ll want to be well-groomed, dress accordingly, and have a clear professional headshot. Avoid using logos and other competing images in the frame so that you remain the focus of the shot. On your private Facebook account you can upload all your party pictures but the same cannot be said for LinkedIn. Choose your picture wisely to project the right image and message to your audience. If you’re not sure how to get that “just-right” picture, here are a few key pointers that might help:

  • Always have a clear, mostly empty contrasting background so that you stand out well
  • Always present you at ‘your best’ – ask for feedback from your friends: “Do I look my best here?”
  • Make sure the picture is tightly framed enough to be called a headshot, or head and shoulders picture only – no full-body poses
  • Check to be sure that the photo is clear – not blurry
  • Avoid drab colors, but wear a color palette that nicely complements your skin tone and hair color – remember that the clothes are not what you’re displaying: it’s about you!
  • Look friendly and inviting in your photo
  • Always try to relax, smile and showcase a genuine happy face
  • Don’t forget to update your picture on a regular basis as you age and change

"Are you sure that's still you?"

This last point deserves a little more emphasis.

It is always better to have a recent picture. Over time, we all grow and change, so let your profile picture change with you, too.

You can control the privacy settings on both Facebook and LinkedIn (but not on Twitter), so keep that in mind if you’re at all worried about who can see your profile picture. 

But it may help you to think about your public profile as that is your visual signature and brand identity – so it makes sense to remove most of these filters on your professional profiles unless you have specific concerns.

It may sound crazy, but having a bad photo can reduce the chances of making a new connection, and according to LinkedIn a page with a profile picture is seven times more likely to be viewed than a page without one, so you really can’t afford to ignore its importance. First impressions matter, and you don’t want a lousy photo to turn away opportunity -- so make sure your picture is working for you, not against you.

Yooniko (a brand of Metamorph Corporation) is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.  

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