You benefit from a strong and current professional image whether or not you’re looking for a new job. Don’t wait until you’re considering a professional change to think about your public persona and how you’re perceived by others.
When you take time to assess and enhance your professional image, you’ll gain a competitive advantage, whether you aim to seek new clients, business opportunities, speaking engagements, managing accounts or — of course — consider a new job or board role. Executive and board search firms, who proactively seek out talent, may take notice of your current and consistent presentation, too.
Strengthen your professional image by evaluating and updating your:
1. LinkedIn Profile
Since LinkedIn is one of the most relied upon sources of information about you, your profile should reflect accurately who you are as a professional today. Update it with new career milestones, skills and experience, as well as board positions, published articles, speaking engagements, certifications and awards.
2. Headshot (Literally, a Professional Image)
Wherever you post a headshot (your company website, bio, LinkedIn profile and other social media), use a current one. If you speak at events, lead workshops or contribute to the media, provide your marketing/PR contact with a current image, too. The picture used should portray your current appearance, not how you looked 10 years ago (e.g., before a change in hairstyle or switching to eye glasses). If you meet someone at an event and then connect afterward on LinkedIn, ask yourself, “Am I easily recognizable?”
Consider what character qualities the picture evokes as well. Do you look approachable? Decisive? Like an executive?
You should know the answer to, “Where is my bio posted?” and, by extension, “Is it up-to-date there?” Your bio may be on your company website, an organization for which you serve on the board or volunteer, as a member of the leadership team of a professional association, as part of a speakers bureau or a college site as an alumni leader, just to name a few.
A strong bio will describe who you are today (which likely has changed since you joined the organization) and include your current title, notable recent accomplishments, professional recognition, certifications, appointments etc. Out-of-date information reflects poorly on you and the associated organization (such as if you were promoted to CFO, but VP of Finance remains listed).
4. Social Media Activity
If you’re on other social media (besides LinkedIn), update those accounts, too. If you haven’t logged onto Twitter or Facebook for a few years, or you signed up for Instagram only to post two pictures at the outset and never update it again, disable/delete the account. Abandoned public accounts demonstrate lack of caring or interest, even if that wasn’t your intent.
5. Email Signature
On business-related email signatures, at minimum, include your email and phone number, but omit the obvious labels “Email” and “Phone.” Skip quotes, images and gifs, which may not display properly for recipients and usually are not professional. Including logos can be tricky too, so make sure you check how they display to others outside of your organization.
(And remember, for communication about potential job opportunities, use a personal email that is clearly associated with your name – FirstLast@XXX.com. Your current employer wouldn’t be happy to discover you’re using staff email to pursue other opportunities!)
Assess what you wear to the office, meetings and events. Choose dress that reflects your job level, industry, geography etc. Also, consider the people with whom you’re meeting and dress appropriately.
If you say to yourself, “I should’ve worn a different outfit,” or, “Gee, I really need to get that new suit,” do something about it! Consider a shopping trip and make sure that you feel good in whatever outfit you buy. How you feel about your outward appearance impacts your confidence and influences how you come across to others.
Take the time to consider the impressions you make upon others and assess, adjust and maintain your professional image. Putting your best foot forward professionally is just as important in daily business life as it is when pursuing a new job or board role. A strong personal brand is essential to sustaining a positive career trajectory.