It is no secret that in the business world handshakes are an important part of making impressions on people and there is even scientific data backing that up.  However, these days with markets, client prospects, and job opportunities being more global than ever it just isn’t always possible to shake someone’s hand, look them in the eye and give them a clear indication of how trustworthy and cooperative you are.

I distinctly remember as a job applicant over a decade ago interviewing with hiring managers on no less than two continents usually via phone.  LinkedIn was in it’s infancy as was Facebook, selfies weren’t even popular yet and it was generally somewhat odd if you had pictures of yourself available for the world to see in the business context.  In short, they knew nothing about me other than what my resume told them and the words from my delayed voice over a weak cell phone line.

Today the process of engaging a prospective employer or client is much different.  There is mostly likely information about you somewhere online and it is very common in the professional context for a client or employer to use LinkedIn or your social media sites as a first-stop in checking out who they just got an email or resume from.

When they go to your profile what do they see and what is the first thing they look for?

According to LinkedIn themselves the #1 thing that can hurt that initial impression is not having a profile picture or one that sends the wrong message.  I’m going to throw myself to the wolves here and use my own example.

jr-fur-vestAs much as my own friends love this picture of me it is definitely not going to win me any points with potential clients or employers.  It is at least several years old with terrible picture quality and I’m drinking at a bar.  It also looks like I managed to borrow a fur vest from a female friend but I digress.

Unless you’re in the nightlife industry it is safe to say this is not the picture you want as the first things folks see and even if you were I would argue there still are better more professional choices.

Your profile and picture specifically is your virtual handshake when someone looks you up and does a 10-30 second judgement on whether to work with you or not.  Most folks do not want a handshake from someone who looks half inebriated at a bar/wedding or is sweaty from just hiking out of the Grand Canyon yet I still see these types of images all over LinkedIn and other places where one relies so much on their personal branding.

LinkedIn-profile-pic-005-3Visually, the kind of person you do want to shake hands with is someone who is generally well groomed, and has an overall engaging and welcoming appearance and expression on their face.  I don’t clean up so bad, do I?

There are several ways to get to that point but the best and easiest way by far is to hire a professional headshot photographer.  It is their job to make you look your best in a professional context.

To take this a step further, this virtual handshake goes on without you even knowing it.  You never know who is checking out your profile and seeing how you stack up against the many other hiring prospects or providers offering the same services you are to your clients.  This is to your benefit though.  We can’t be everywhere all the time nor can we be awake 24 hours a day – but our profile and visual representations can be.  The visual component of your personal brand and this virtual handshake can work for you even while you sleep.

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