Chewbacca, a Tired Bird and the Invisible Man

LinkedIn, Profile Picture, LinkedIn Profile Picture, Bad Profile Picture, Personal Branding, Poor Personal Branding, First ImpressionMy blog post title this week sounds like either the start of a bad joke or the start of Johnny Carson’s Carnac the Magnificent comedy routine.  Sadly, it’s neither.  It’s a brief list of who’s invited me to connect on LinkedIn recently, based on their profile pictures.

What does that say about their professional, personal brand?  Afterall, LinkedIn claims to be “the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 225 million members in over 200 countries and territories.”  Are any of those profile pictures professional?

Since I don’t know these people (yet), have not been introduced by a mutual connection and did not receive a customized invitation, their profile picture is a big part of my first impression.  Do I need them in my network?  Do I want them in my network?  Perhaps.  Or, perhaps not.

A simple definition of personal branding is how people market themselves and their careers.  It helps demonstrate what sets you apart and what your unique value proposition is.  A strong personal brand can position one as a subject matter expert and provide enhanced credibility.  Naturally, it’s a big part of a successful job search.

So what do these profile pictures say about their personal brand?  Is their profile picture supposed to convey proof of humor?  Could it be misconstrued and leave an impression they might be overly snarky?  Are they “rebels” defying the corporately conservative profiles of millions of LinkedIn members?  And in the case of the individual with the default “ghost image” picture, it makes one question if they’re trying to hide something or simply lack the technical knowledge to change the picture.  Unfortunately, neither makes a good first impression.

It’s always a good idea to review your own personal brand.  Are you making a positive, professional first impression with your picture?  Are you clearly communicating your unique value proposition with your profile content?  The world is too competitive today to have a poor digital footprint.  Find a trusted colleague or friend and have them review it to make sure your personal brand is strong.

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Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and… Arthur Catalanello

Carnac the Magnificent

To borrow from an old Johnny Carson bit called Carnac the Magnificent, the answer is “Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Arthur Catalanello.”  My Red Sox-loving friends would surely answer, “Name three losers from New York.”  😉  I however, would proudly answer “Name three people who reached a professional milestone in 2011.”

Of course, I make the above comparison very tongue-in-cheek.  I’m about to reach 1,000 connections on LinkedIn.  While I’m not the first nor last to accomplish this, I do view it as a significant accomplishment for a few reasons:

  1. 100% of my connections are professionals who I have either met in person, worked with in a client-vendor relationship, or have had significant correspondence with.  I am not an open-networker, so I know my LinkedIn network.  I even state that requirement on my LinkedIn profile.
  2. I started to network in earnest in January 2009 when I was looking for employment.  I’ve learned that networking is something you should do all the time, not just while unemployed.  I try to embrace the mantra of “networking for life” and I continue to grow my network monthly.
  3. I’ve been able to use my network to facilitate valuable introductions for many people.  Effective networkers embrace a “give to get” philosophy.  When’s the last time you pro-actively did something for a member of your network?

I’ve met open-networkers (will connect with anyone who asks), closed-networkers (will only connect with the closest of friends or colleagues) and many in the middle of those extremes.  Which approach is best?  I’ll leave my opinion for another post at a future date.  The short answer – you need to be comfortable with your approach.  I am.  Are you?