A picture is worth a thousand words; but could it also be worth a thousand likes? What about a thousand sales? Not long ago first impressions were made by a friendly phone call or a personal visit complete with a smile and a handshake. But today, first impressions are often left to a social media connection or even worse…no social media connection at all.

According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and about 43 percent of employers use social media to check on current employees. And for those of you who are NOT on social media at all, you’re NOT doing yourselves any favors. Studies show that if a person can’t be googled or social media stalked in cyberspace, then they cease to even exist to Millennials.  This is fine if you work in a behind the scenes position that you’re planning to retire from but if you’re career searching or in sales, and you want people to find you approachable, confident, and friendly, then you definitely need to be “social” and you can start with your social media profile picture.

Your profile picture is key to your personal brand and online networking. It has an impact on your job opportunities and ultimately, your career. It should represent you as you would represent yourself in a first interview or business meeting, your first opportunity to make your first impression.

Show YOUR face. Don’t show a cartoon or your favorite dog breed. If you wouldn’t send Betty Boop to your job interview on your behalf, then she shouldn’t represent you in your profile picture. YOU represent YOU. And make eye contact with the camera like you would make eye contact with a client. People want to see if you’re confident and professional, so post YOUR face.

Frame yourself. Make your face front and center. Not too far away, not half of your face, not from ten feet away, and definitely not awkwardly close. You’re not going to be trusted to make well-centered decisions on behalf of your customers if you can’t even center yourself!

Smile. At least a little. If you would smile at an interview, then you should smile in your photo. Looking stern and unapproachable won’t land you any followers, friends, or sales.

Dress the part. If you’re a salesperson, dress like one. Although done correctly, very little of your attire would even make the cut, it’s still important. Unless you’re auditioning for Baywatch, spaghetti straps are a NO! The same goes for too many accessories and too much makeup. If you wouldn’t put a hibiscus flower in your hair for an interview, then it shouldn’t be in your profile photo. And leave the hats to the cowboys and bakers.

Background. Because you ARE being judged by your picture, you probably shouldn’t have a local sports bar in the background. Not that there’s anything wrong with frequenting a sports bar, but do you really want a neon beer sign to represent what you’re about? Choose a simple background that doesn’t steal attention from YOU.

Get your brand on, subtly. Especially if you’re in sales. Wear brand colors or a shirt or tie bar sporting your company logo. Let potential clients know that you stand behind the company you represent. Do not wear clothing with any other writing, logos, or busy patterns. Leave those selfies for weekend posts, not profile pictures.

Consistency. Use the same profile picture for all of your professional social media accounts. This makes you much easier to find, especially if you have a common name. Leave the photo with the grandkids and labradoodle for your personal pages.

Quality. Don’t use a grainy, low-resolution photo. If you won’t take the time to post a quality photo of yourself, then how can customers or employers trust that you will take the time to do quality work for them?

If you want people to take you seriously, then you need to take yourself seriously. Paying a bit of attention to your personal brand (YOU) is worth the time and effort.