Picking the Right Pic for Your Professional Networking Pages

Jill has been in the profession for a few years now and loves her job at a large medical center in a major American city. But with a staff that numbers in the hundreds, she doesn’t see a lot of room for advancement. So she’s thinking about looking for a position at a smaller facility where she might be able to move up the ranks.

Her first order of business: set up a LinkedIn account. She gets it up and running, and then is faced with that blank space for her photo. What should she choose? And does it really matter?

Yes! Smiling, professional, brightly lit.

Yes! Smiling, professional, brightly lit.

Yes, it does matter, say employment experts. In fact, the photo you select for your LinkedIn or other professional networking pages — like AARConnect — might be even more important than the experience and qualifications you list there, because it is going to be the very first thing a potential employer will see when he views your page.

Here are seven tips for picking the right pic —

Make it professional: Yes, you may have spent a fortune on your wedding photos, and certainly you love your kids and pets and you had a great time on your recent vacation. But those kinds of photos don’t belong on a professional networking site. If you’re looking for a clinical position, use a photo of yourself dressed in scrubs or a lab coat, with a stethoscope around your neck. If you’re wanting to move up into management, dress in business casual or above. And it goes without saying that all attire must be clean and pressed.

Smile: While you do want to appear in professional dress, you don’t need to adopt a serious demeanor. You want your photo to convey the energy and enthusiasm you have for your career, so look directly into the camera and smile.

Body language: It’s also important to sit or stand up straight and strike a pose that says to the viewer: here is someone who can get the job done.

No. This isn't the time for your wedding pictures.

No. This isn’t the time for your wedding pictures.

You, you and only you: Your profile page is just that – YOUR profile page. So unless you have a picture of yourself accepting a major respiratory care award from a recognizable leader in the field, only have yourself in your photo.

Quality counts: You don’t need to spend money on a professional photographer, but you do need to make sure your photo is in sharp focus and pleasing to the eye. A cell phone shot may not elicit the best results.

Color is better than black and white: To most people, black and white photos look more “edgy” or “artsy” and that isn’t the message you want to send with your profile pic. Stick to color shots instead.

No cheating: Most of us surely looked better five or ten years ago than we do today, but it’s best to use a current photo on your page. You don’t want prospective employers to think they’re going to meet a 35-year-old only to come face-to-face with someone who’s clearly pushing 50.

What’s the worst decision you can make when it comes to your profile pic? Experts say not having one at all is number one. If all someone sees when they visit your page is your name or one of those blank silhouettes, the first thing they’ll think is that you are not really engaged in the site — and thus might not be that engaged in your career either.