College students learned years ago that they should be careful when choosing which photos they include on their Facebook pages. Drunk at a frat party? Probably not. Helping poor kids learn how to read in an inner-city church? Bingo.
So it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect that a mid-career grown-up might exercise a bit of judgment when selecting the photo to use for their LinkedIn profile. After all, the site’s tagline is “The World’s Largest Professional Network.”
Our firm holds an annual seminar for soon-to-be college graduates to help them figure out how to conduct an effective job search. We do it as a nice gesture to our clients who wring their hands at this time of year, wondering how they are going to get junior off the payroll.
Every year, we place more emphasis on the power of LinkedIn, advising these new grads to have a substantial profile on the site. With the National Association of Colleges and Employers recently reporting that employers expect their level of new-grad hires to remain flat, those entering the workforce can better market themselves with a fully optimized, professional-looking profile.
In order to give these new grads examples of profile photo do’s and don’ts, we logged into our own accounts to survey our connections’ pictures in hopes of finding some questionable choices. It turned out to be easier – and more surprising – than we’d anticipated.
First of all, we stopped counting the number of profiles with photos featuring people holding one or more fish (that they presumably had caught on a fishing trip, but who knows?) when we got to 50. Honest to God.
Another popular theme: people who opted to go shirtless in their photo. Thankfully, all of them are male and most of them are in pretty good shape.
We found pictures of people during their childhood, entire family portraits, animated avatars, action shots from whitewater rafting trips and lots and lots of pets. It was tough to pinpoint the most ill-advised profile photo, but we felt the winner was the person in a bar who looked like he had just completed a serious product sampling program.
If your job is to be creative and you can only be successful if you grab people’s attention by standing out, you might have a case for using your LinkedIn photo as a tool to do so. For the rest of us, let’s set an example for this year’s class of college graduates who are just entering the workforce. Soon enough, they will figure out the forces in the workplace that lead someone to use a picture of himself from the 1950s standing in front of a Christmas tree on his LinkedIn profile. Until then, let’s keep a smile on our faces and the cats (and fish) in the other bedroom.