Q. I have learned I need a LinkedIn profile to conduct an effective job search; I have my jobs, education, and even one reference from my old job on my profile. Some people say I need a picture, but doesn’t that just set me up to be too old, too fat, or just not right for the job? I’d rather put in a symbol or leave it empty.
A. Your LinkedIn profile is your professional presentation, and your picture is part of that. Leaving the “ghost,” or the shadow that shows no photo has been added, indicates an incomplete project. That is not the message you want to provide to potential employers. Adding a great photo enhances your online brand and makes you more approachable. To make sure that happens, you need to select the right picture.
The right LinkedIn picture is a photo of the professional you. Unless you wear a tux in your everyday job, do not choose a picture of you in a tux — or wedding dress or bathing suit. You also don’t want to have a segment of someone’s arm around you from a photo you cropped.
If you are in a creative field, feel free to have a super close-up that has an artsy appeal. But most people should have a head shot on a day you look your very best. Make sure your hair looks good. Make eye contact and smile — for real. Your attire, makeup, and jewelry should be professional and not so overwhelming that they draws attention. Ask your colleagues for feedback.
Is your profile an advertisement to attract a potential employer or a personal statement? For example, profiles of a person wearing a cowboy hat might play well in some areas of the country, but maybe not in Boston. Remember, LinkedIn is the professional site. If you want to showcase other skills — you on a surf board or riding a horse — Facebook is the place.
So start taking potential profile pictures, get feedback from friends and colleagues, and use it to complete your professional profile.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners,
a career management firm in Boston, and serves on the board of Career Partners International.