by Deborah Proctor
Are you looking for a job? Actively networking as you consider the next stage in your career? How do you connect with recruiters and get that all-important personal interview in this impersonal digital age? The difference between a job seeker and a successful job seeker may come down to one thing — the photo you post in your LinkedIn profile.
As Career Services Professional, Jill Wesley, mentioned during an interview for our post about personal branding, "The image you project online is very important and professional photography is part of that image."
Personal finance expert and author, Jane Bryant Quinn, agrees. In a recent article entitled "Looking for a Job? Go Social"* she gave tips for job seekers in this digital age. Discussing the importance of setting up a digital profile, she added, "Post an appropriate head shot. Recruiters won't even look at profiles without one."
So what is an appropriate head shot for LinkedIn and other online media profiles? To project a professional image - whether you are young and just entering the workforce, or you are established in your career path and seeking a change - you need a professional portrait, one that presents you and your personality in a manner that fits the career path you are seeking. If you have any doubt, just peruse a few online profiles and notice the difference between those with professional portraits and those with party or stand up against the wall photos. Which person would you be more likely to hire?
"OK,"you admit that a professional career portrait is important,"but what do I wear or bring to the portrait session that will set me apart?"
BJ Pfieffer, President/CEO of Enterprise Solutions Technology Group, in Madison,WI, recommends the traditional suit or blazer with dress slacks, skirt or dress. " It is always better to make the best impression by erring on the side of dressing up rather than being too casual."
That being said, Focal Flame Photographer, Clint Thayer, encourages his career photography subjects to "be comfortable in your own skin or style." If you are not comfortable in the clothing you choose, your photographs will show it. "Yet, you need to have the mindset that you are using this portrait for something" whether that is to present a professional business image for your LinkedIn profile or a casual portrait on location for creative purposes.
Pfieffer agrees that personal branding with photographs is "an interesting way to showcase one's career specialty as well as personal style" but this needs to be appropriate to the industry.For example:"an artist might have a photo of him/herself working on a project (or a series of photos as the project is developing) for a professional site, but for a personal site they might include photos of how the creative process affects their choice of clothing or space" which may be messy.
So bring that professional clothing (suit or blazer and dress slacks for men, with a skirt or dress with 3/4 or long sleeves for women) and use accessories (bow tie, scarf, conservative jewelry) to add a little personality. Start your session formally, then relax a little — take off the tie, take off the jacket and sling it over your shoulder, change to a sweater, or add a hat or signature jewelry to make a creative statement.
Before your portrait session, research the field you intend to go into. Wesley recommends, "check out the profile photographs of others in your field." Pfieffer suggests, "go stand outside a company where you would like to work as the employees are leaving for lunch and observe."Both recommend applying the lessons you learn and matching the corporate style.
As a photographer, Thayer takes that one step further. His goal is to create a portrait for you that says, "This is me!" Whether through clothing choices, poses, or location — photographing his clients in their office or another locale — each Focal Flame career portrait is professional, but lets your individual personality shine through.
For a checklist of what to bring to your career portrait session, see "What to Wear, Bring, or Remember for Your Career Portrait Session."
Help that new graduate set themselves apart from the crowd and land their first job by purchasing a gift certificate or scheduling a session.
* June 2013 AARP Bulletin/Real Possibilities