Professional personal branding in the digital space

Personal branding

Whilst researching for this article, I find myself going through my LinkedIn network, searching for inspiration among the hit and miss of profile pics. To my immediate relief, I’m not disappointed, there are some shockers out there (mentioning no names). It’s a never-ending world of shocking too, ranging from the badly pixelated, to the simply inappropriate. Some, are simply not realizing the importance of professional personal branding in the digital space.

Undeniably, LinkedIn is now commonly referred to as a ‘Social Network’ and is undoubtedly, the Facebook of the professional world. But, herein lies the difference – it’s not for socialising. It’s about branding yourself professionally; for colleagues, clients, employers, future employers, and even to show your old boss, who gave you hell when you worked at your local branch of a well-known fast food restaurant as a teenager, just how far you’ve come in life. LinkedIn is a professional network in an evolving digital space.

As a former Training and Development professional, I’m used to seeing all sorts of photos on LinkedIn and on candidates CV’s. I can safely say that not much surprises me these days. Working internationally, away from the realms of ‘British properness’ has also expanded my filter of acceptance. My other discovery is that the so-called ‘shocker’ is not limited to those in the world of operations; it extends itself into the boardroom as well. I come across directors with selfies, PA’s with holiday snaps and accountants at sports events.

Due to the continuous expansion of the digital space, CV’s are now being replaced by LinkedIn profiles or other online portfolios. More than 20 million companies are listed on the site, alongside 14 million jobs. It comes as no surprise that 90% of recruiters regularly use LinkedIn. A recent study found that 122 million people have received an interview through LinkedIn, with 35.5 million having been hired by a person they connected with on the site.

Because of LinkedIn’s ability to recognize Boolean operators and filter results according to metrics, such as company, number of years of experience, function, and seniority level, the platform easily tops its competitors for helping people make essential business connections.

Despite the advanced search capabilities of the site, it’s still necessary to optimize your LinkedIn profile page. Step one of this process is adding a Professional photo which on average will get a user 14 times more views than other types of profile pictures

Serial Entrepreneur and Author, James Cann highlights’ the importance of the first impression:

A complete LinkedIn profile speaks volumes about the person’s level of professionalism. A completed LinkedIn profile can indicate to recruiters that this person has the complete package. If someone who just graduated from university has a professional photo and completed profile, this would indicate to me that this person is an up-and-comer and go-getter. These individuals get the importance of brand – essential to any role in any company

There is nothing wrong with the industry-appropriate image either. It is much more preferable to see a foreman stand in front of his project onsite, than with an uncomfortable smile in a suit he hasn’t worn for 10 years. Or if you’re in the world of graphic design, a photo to demonstrate your skills and creativity. This enables recruiters and employers to see the genuine you. It ticks that vital box in the first impression category – empowering your presence in the digital space.

And then………. there’s the story of the un-photographed, those with no profile picture. HR professionals and recruiters will spend more time on profiles with a picture; they want to know who they are dealing with. It is important to have as much information as possible without wondering if the candidate is telling the truth. And, ask yourself, are you more likely to move away from a social media profile because that person does not have a picture?

The lack of a picture leaves you with no identity, instead, you are kindly provided with the default picture which thankfully on LinkedIn, is a male silhouette. On twitter you are an egg, which, if we were to be put with all the other eggs, would make it very difficult for someone to tell us apart.

Ask yourself the next time you log in; is your professional personal branding right for you? Do you have that all important career changing interview coming up and is the picture of your selfie with your bestie really going to give you an advantage in the interview room? A digital profile on LinkedIn has replaced the conventional CV and is now the first impression you make. Let’s make it a good one.

An opinion piece.