‘A picture tells a thousand words’ and ‘You do not get a second chance to make a first impression’ are two clichés that we all accept for good reason: they are true.
Why is it than that so many of us fail to present ourselves in a good light on line?
A few facts to consider:
- Selling anything, (including yourself) you must look like someone from whom your potential customer would be happy to buy! The first place most people look these days to assess any proposition is the web profile of the person making the offer. Even if it is just a connection request, it would be rare, on LinkedIn at least, to accept a request of any sort without a look at the profile. I can only speak for myself, but I never accept a request from someone I do not know without assessing several parameters on their profile, significant amongst them is a photo. No photo, no acceptance, lousy photo, usually no acceptance.
- The days of secure long term employment are well and truly over. Much has been written about the transformation of the working environment over the last 10 years, books, academic research, articles, public policy white papers, piles of it. Forget the research, and consider what you know from your own experience: is the certainty of long term employment greater or less than 20 years ago? Assuming the answer is “less’ what have you done about your own prospects of generating an income? ‘Personal Branding’ is another of the clichés I dislike, but that does not mean it is nonsense, just over-used. In an uncertain world, it makes sense to present a profile to those who might come into contact with you in some way that offers them the foundation on which to build confidence, likeability, and perhaps trust, just in case it is ever needed.
- Most jobs are never advertised. Ask Mr Google and you get conflicting answers, anywhere between 50 and 80% of jobs are never advertised. Whatever the right answer, most people get jobs via their personal networks that are never advertised. In my experience, jobs that are advertised are probably not more than 30%, and many of them are not seriously looking for candidates, as the job has been effectively filled internally, but processes require that an ad be placed for so called equity.
- The web has made applying for a job so easy that any ad for a reasonable job attracts sometimes thousands of applications many of them auto-applications. Recruiters act accordingly and have automated the culling and response processes so to avoid the chop and get through the initial cull, then actually get an interview is a significant achievement. Without a fully completed profile, and particularly a photo, preferably one that has been shared by others, your ranking by head-hunters bots will be compromised.
- Our digital networks are now so wide that the old adage of ‘It is not what you know that counts, but who you know’ has been altered. It is now more like ‘not who you know, but who they know that counts’. In 1973 A study by Mark Granovetter, a sociology professor at Stanford called ‘The strength of weak ties‘ found that in a study of job seekers, that the majority got their jobs from what we now call their second and third degree connections, not from close friends or random connections, which I guess would include job ads. In 2016, this would have to be a far stronger relationship given the digital development that has taken place since the seventies, digital dark ages.
- The two biggest networks, Facebook and LinkedIn are almost ubiquitous. We all have an account, and most of us use them in some way. Facebook has 15 million plus active Australian users, many with several pages, active in many groups. LinkedIn, as the premier commercial networking site, differentiated from the socially focussed Facebook has 4.4 million active accounts in Australia. Do you think you should be ‘constructively active’ on these platforms??
- Humans are visual animals, we absorb, relate to and remember visuals way better than copy. Why then would you have a photo in your profile that did not show you in the best light possible? An acquaintance of mine had a lousy photo taken with a phone on her LinkedIn profile, and wondered why her connection request acceptances were so low. After some badgering she spent a few dollars and had a professional photo done, and her acceptances shot up 35% almost overnight, no other change. As her income depends on generating sales leads, she has just made life a lot easier and more profitable.
- Your strong connections are likely to be much like you, similar interests, background and acquaintances. However, it is far more likely that your weaker connections, those with whom you share little will be a richer source of networks that may be of value to you than the closer connections. Obviously however, the weaker the connection, the less likely they are to be willing to refer you. Clearly just leaving it to chance is a tougher master, so tweaking everything you can, and specifically your photo, seems pretty sensible.
In the light of these facts, let’s think about your profile, and how to maximise the impact it has the first moment someone sees it.
- Do not make it about you, make it about them. Sounds counter-productive, but obvious when you think about it. Everyone has a favourite word, and know it or not, most peoples favourite word is the same one: ‘Me’. It is all about Me me me!! Problem is, nobody else really cares about you, except perhaps your Mum, and close family. Therefore when someone scans your profile, the more comfortable they feel, the more likely they are to dig a bit deeper, and the way to make them comfortable is to relate in some way. Putting your resume up as your profile is the biggest and most common mistake I see.
- Get noticed. How do you get noticed? How do you make your profile stand out?
- You have to give people a reason to notice.
- then a second reason, having noticed, why they should care.
People have no time, and are bombarded with messages, so if you do not get noticed, and give a reason to care in the headline, they are gone.When you think about it, the ‘headline’ on line is almost always your photo. It is what is seen first by most visitors, makes that first impression for a first time visitor, and delivers reassurance for the returning visitor.
- Be focused. This means you have to be very selective about what you say, being all things to all people never worked. Finding some way of communicating this focus is really challenging, until you remember that humans are visual animals, we absorb and process visuals remarkably quickly. The challenge then becomes one of visual communication, what subtle messages are contained in the visual. Two things your visual should communicate:
- In what way you are different, relevant, remarkable.
- What is in that difference for those visiting the image, in what way can those differences be of value to the visitor.
Pretty subtle stuff.
Most people just use a photo that someone took of them that they like, sometimes it is the one they took of themselves on their mobile.
My advice is always to have a professional take some shots. A professional in any field are just better at what they do. I write a lot, and think I am OK at it, but I am not a professional, I am a strategist, not a writer. My sister is a writer, and sometimes she takes one of my posts, usually one I think is pretty good, and covers it in red ink, like my 3rd grade English teacher. Annoying, but always accurate. What results is inevitably a better post, subtlety different, but still my post, my voice, my idea, just articulated better!.
It is the same with photography.
When you want one that really works, get a professional to do it.
All my clients use Sam Affridi, he delivers those subtle things that make a difference. Call him for a chat, and tell him I suggested you call, see what a difference he can make to your profile.