This is one in an occasional series of interviews I’m doing to help you get the most out of your photo session.
Colleen McKenna is a career coach with a timely focus. Her company, Intero Advisory helps business professionals craft and navigate their professional brand for awareness, business development and recruiting. She saw the potential for LinkedIn as a business tool early on, and she’s helped thousands of clients use it find talent, increase revenue and connect to other users.
She was kind enough to answer five questions for me about the best way to use LinkedIn, and her insights about why using a professional image on your profile matters.
Camille Wright Felton: If you do a quick search on the web on “tips on creating a LinkedIn profile,” many of the articles or infographics you find include "add your photograph." I noticed you mention that frequently on your own site. Why is including a photograph so important?
Colleen McKenna: LinkedIn is about people connecting with people and it’s much easier to do that when you can see the person you are connecting with. It’s a pretty human reaction and most of us are visual. Seeing a person creates an immediate connection.
Beyond that, it shows you take LinkedIn seriously and a level of professionalism. It shows you use LinkedIn well. And, finally, at this point, the expectation on photos is greater than ever. Now is not the time to not have a photo on LinkedIn or any other social or business platform.
CWF: What do you tell your clients about choosing an appropriate photograph for their profiles?
CM: I tell them it should be updated (every year to year and a half) and represent you in a positive manner. It should be only you, it should be as professional as you can afford, no other people cropped out of the photo and not hokey or silly.
I recommend a professionally done photo where lighting, makeup and composition are all working together to create the best you.
CWF: Do you think there’s any value to using different photographs on different venues? For instance, having a more casual look for a photo you’d use to advertise a speaking appearance at a retreat versus a formal look for a business profile.
CM: Yes, absolutely, that works for many and makes a great deal of sense. I do tend to have one or two shots that I use across the board. I am not a social media expert so I am primarily using LinkedIn and Twitter and my goal is to create one look across several platforms.
CWF: What advice would you give to someone about how his profile photograph plays into creating a professional image?
CM: It’s often the first element sees on any network, certainly before all your content and before they may hear or speak with you. It tells me who you are―creative, conservative, casual, dated etc. and that is important. You want to control that message as much as possible and a photo is a good way to do that. I spoke with someone whose voice and experience didn’t jive with her photo and I finally asked her about it. She looked so young. She laughed and said that photo was 15 years old. She was in the financial services industry. Not sure when she met with someone who saw her LinkedIn photo would be amused. It did not build trust.
I am a bit offended when people don’t look like their photo.
CWF: I recommend to clients to bring two to three outfits to wear for photo sessions with me. Do you have any suggestions for what someone should consider when choosing what to wear for their LinkedIn profile photo?
I think their clothing should be simple and not busy. I always prefer solids and I hear red is terrific and provides a great shot of color. I think trying different outfits is great and perhaps you choose two great photos in different outfits and change your photo up, that’s kind of fun and keeps you current.
I do like outside shots. I don’t like hokey though. A salesperson on the phone, not so much.
For more on the best way to use LinkedIn to advance your career or improve your company, head to Colleen's website, InteroAdvisory.com