I feel compelled to acknowledge that this post is an outlier. The SpeakWell is about all things spoken. This post, however, is about your online presence and how that influences career success. This is the first in an ongoing series of Do’s and Don’ts of online personal branding.

Over the course of the summer, I have had the pleasure of working with some smart, talented and committed people who are in the midst of a job change.  They are either fed up with their current job, or they are itching for a new challenge.  Either way, they are motivated to achieve their goals.

With each person I have had the LinkedIn discussion.

Me:  “Are you on LinkedIn?”

Client:  “Yes”

Me:  “If I search for your name right now, will I like what I see?”

Client:  “No, probably not.”

Each of these individuals has broken the following commandment:  “Thou Shalt Not Create a Half-assed LinkedIn Profile.”

I won’t bore you with the statistics of how recruiters “find” candidates online, but I will semi-lecture you on the importance of creating a compelling and complete profile.  Everything that follows has been altered to maintain anonymity, including the use of the infamous black bar made famous by Glamour Magazine.

Let’s start with the head shot.  Why is it, in the decade of the Selfie, that there are still people on LinkedIn who do not have a professional head shot in their profile?

LinkedIn HeadlessHow does this look to you?  Don’t answer. I already know: this person is lazy or they are hiding something.  Either way it’s not good.

But wait, there’s more!  It’s not enough to upload a photo. You need to choose the right one. The most popular advice is to choose a photo of yourLinkedInWedding smiling self.  That’s true, but it is insufficient.  How else to explain photos like this one?

Just because you are smiling and you like the way you look in the photo does not mean it’s right for your professional profile. Save it for Facebook.  When it comes to LinkedIn, you want a photo that translates easily to the workplace, not the reception hall.

Moving on to the meaning of “head shot.”  Unless you are an artist and you want to stand in front of your latest masterpiece, don’t waste valuable real LinkedIn Wall Artestate with a full-body shot with background images. The only impression your viewers will walk away with is your taste in wall art. While this image conveys a comfortable, casual leader (hands in pockets, in his own work environment), it doesn’t allow us to get a mental picture of him so we recognize him when we meet him in person – another great feature of a LinkedIn profile photo.

Those were all the “Don’ts.”  Now let’s look at the “Do’s”  Quite simply, it’s a head shot of you smiling, wearing something that resembles your work attire, with no distracting Joe Folkmanbackground images. My advice is to copy Joe Folkman. Joe is co-founder and president of Zenger Folkman, an organizational development firm. He is a respected authority on assessment and change, and he gave me permission to share his photo. It’s a great blend of the key elements: close-up head shot, a genuine smile, creative angle, and nothing distracting in the background. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this image conveys trustworthiness and approachability – two important qualities you want to convey with your image.

If your LinkedIn profile has a photo with the above elements, then you are dismissed early from Online Marketing class. If your photo box is blank, or it doesn’t meet the key criteria, you must stay in class to fix the problems or risk being held back.

Next up:  The Headline and The Summary sections.

– Barbara

Barbara Roche