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Forewarning. Your LinkedIn photo.

Forewarning. Your LinkedIn photo.

 Ticket or barrier to entry? What you really need to know.

Are you familiar with the Lake Wobegon effect?

Lake Wobegon is a fictional town created by Garrison Keillor to provide the setting for the long-running radio broadcast, Prairie Home Companion. Lake Wobegon is also the setting for many of Keillor's stories and novels.

It is described as a small rural town in central Minnesota, and it is peopled with fictional characters and places, many that have become familiar to listeners of the broadcast.

The events and adventures of the imaginary townspeople provide the prolific Keillor with a wealth of stories, that are humorous and at times touching and thoughtful.


The Lake Wobegon effect, a natural human tendency to overestimate one's capabilities, was coined by Professor David G Myers in honour of the fictional town. 

The characterization of the fictional location, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average," has been used to describe a real and pervasive human tendency to overestimate one's achievements and capabilities in relation to others.

 Lake Wobegon

To support the view that people in general need to believe that they are above average (the Lake Wobegon effect) one author points out that in a survey of high school students, only 2 percent of the students reported that they were below average in leadership ability.

And the same principle can apply to your perception of your LinkedIn photo.

You may think your image is one which is strong, good looking and above average however is it?


So what? What's at stake?

  • Your standing and reputation in the world - in the community in which you work, your peers, subordinates and superiors, your customers, suppliers, press, associates and the broader ecosystem in which you operate
  • Your earnings - How you are perceived may have implications as to whether you are viewed as being - the best or worst in your category i.e. top or bottom of a salary band
  • Your promotion potential - are you seen as a role model, do you have the credibility
  • Winner or loser? Are you a winner or a loser? Are you being given the best or worst projects, jobs, tasks etc?


As headhunters, we are tasked with assessing the personal as well as practical qualities of candidates - and for the high impact roles we recruit into: Sales, Leadership, Consulting... and in this context we are familiar with personal branding and executive presence.

When people see your photo, whether right or wrong they form an opinion about you and if you don't have one - they'll think you're simply not into all this social stuff and don't care about your on-line professional presence. So how you present yourself and the image you project may have very big implications!

So what works best?

The following qualities are those which are best accepted, most likely to open doors rather than be a potential barrier to entry and ultimately help you fulfill your career goals.

Contextual - at different times you may wish for your LinkedIn profile and therefore photo to project different messages. For example if you are in job search mode or seeking a promotion, or perhaps seeking to redress a perception that you are a bully or pushover and reflect the people / customers / suppliers you are dealing with ~ serious vs creative..... And things which may be happening at the time, for example in a disaster.

Approachable - friendly and easy to talk to. You are best projecting an image which suggests you are: welcoming, pleasant, agreeable, congenial, open, helpful versus stern, indifferent - common pitfalls would be for example not smiling or having a stern look, not looking at the camera i.e. looking away to the side, wearing sunglasses

Professional - this does not have to mean formal. However you don't really want to look like a clown.

Current - Employers want to hire, promote and retain people who know what is going on which means they are up to date NOT out of date. Therefore, you should look current and up to date, and avoid sporting a dated hairstyle, set of clothes or perhaps backdrop to the photo itself.

Positive - People want to make enquiries with, connect with and work with happy folk - ideally you will be smiling in your photo.

iStock 520794298

Positive first impressions count, so make them strong positive ones not inferior or feeble ones. You do not want to come across as being weak, insipid, wishy-washy, bland or flat you which are associated with being inadequate or ineffectual.

If you would like to find out more, about "Developing your executive presence" then read our FREE white paper (PDF)





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