How has Covid-enforced homeworking affected your image?

By Pelican MD Cheryl Bennett

3 minute read

Key takeaways:

  • If you’re considering updating your Linkedin profile pictures to reflect the ‘new normal’, think about how you want to be seen professionally.
  • Your profile image should be as individual as you, but there are important distinctions between images intended for your professional network and selfies shared with friends.

When Lauren Griffiths, a 39-year-old human resources consultant and mum from North Carolina, posted about why she changed her LinkedIn profile picture to one of her homeworking in a sweatshirt with tousled hair, it triggered mixed reactions. Some thought she didn’t look professional while others commented how refreshing it was, stimulating a series of profile image changes from other ‘LinkedIn-ers’.

So has COVID-enforced homeworking changed the way we think about the workplace, and if so, should our profile pictures reflect this?

Professional vs personable

If you’re thinking about updating your own professional profile and are unsure of how to strike a balance, my advice is this: your image should represent you as you want to be seen.

Whether you are a mountain climbing instructor, a motivational speaker, a warehouse manager, a biochemical engineer or a nanny, it should reflect what you want to say: ‘I am serious’; ‘I am approachable’; ‘I am professional’; ‘I am organised’; ‘I love children’; or even ‘I am fun to be around’.

Top tips for taking the perfect profile picture

I remember my best friend’s dad saying to me before my first job interview ‘smile and make sure you make a good first impression’. Excellent advice. As they say: ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’. Here are some other old sayings that will help you get it right in this brave new world.

  • ‘Physical appearance matters’ – get a second opinion

Don’t underestimate this. Our perceptions matter so much that it’s actually illegal to ask for applicants to provide a photograph when recruiting, other than for security purposes. This is to help avoid discrimination and unconscious bias. So, ask yourself when looking at your own profile photo – would I hire this person? If not, why not?  If so – based on what? It might be useful to get a colleague or friend to review your photo before posting it.

  • ‘Body language is 55% of our communication’ – get it 100% right

I have a friend who is a barrister and is currently working from home, appearing in court via Zoom. She wears her black gown, ensures she has her make up on and is well-coiffed, presenting everything her client and the court expects. From the waist up that is. She also has her slippers on, out of sight of the camera.

Does how she looks really matter? In a word – yes. Research shows if someone’s body language doesn’t match the words spoken, we won’t believe the words. We place an awful lot more importance on body language (55%) and intonation (38%) than the words we use (7%). Within a nanosecond of meeting someone we make judgements based on how they look, non-verbal cues and even the clothes they wear. So, your profile picture carries a lot of weight.

Equally, don’t underestimate your appearance on Zoom. Ensure you present yourself in those business meetings or presentations on Zoom exactly as you would in a personal meeting. Don’t dilute your message. Why show up for a work meeting unshaven and in your cut-off jeans if you wouldn’t do this at work?

  • ‘A picture paints a thousand words’ – paint an appropriate picture

Not everyone has been ‘home-working’. Some people have carried on in the office/factory/warehouse. Nothing has changed for them. What is their impression of you in your PJs? Whether in a profile photo or a Zoom meeting, make sure the viewer sees only what they want to know to make the right judgement about you.

  • ‘People ‘buy’ people’ – don’t misrepresent yourself

We all want to look our best on a photo. When we post a photo anywhere we want others to think that we look nice too. But ‘nice’ shouldn’t mean ‘sexy’. I have seen some profile photos on LinkedIn from experienced selfie-takers that might be better suited to Tinder or Instagram and are definitely not sending out the right signal. So yes, look your ‘best’, but not your ‘going out clubbing best’.

Think about the company’s image as well as your own

Earlier this year, we made a decision as a business to ensure our LinkedIn profile banner was in line with our corporate image, whilst individual profile photos could be just that; individual but professional.

Why? Because I firmly believe that when people search on LinkedIn they should see something which represents our organisation, but also the individuals working here. Let’s face it, LinkedIn is a business networking site and not a social site like Facebook.

 

Cheryl Bennett is a management coach and development specialist. Trained in mental health awareness, she can also provide bespoke training both live and virtually. For more details please contact the Pelican team.

Pelican Communications is a specialist in the environment & CSR, food, packaging & logistics and trade association sectors and offers a range of services such as strategy, design, content creation, public relations and people development. Contact us for marketing and communications expertise.

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