How many times have we heard “First impressions are critical?” Whether we are talking about marketing or business in general, you only have a few seconds to make an impression. That’s the way we are wired! We look at someone and quickly form an opinion about them. It is only as we spend time with someone and get to know them that that initial impression is changed.
There are thousands of articles and books that discuss the importance of first impressions.
So why do we list our contact information on sites like LinkedIn and post a photo of ourselves standing in the garden or at the beach, in a dark room in the house, in our shorts, or next to a pet? The people who look at your photo on LinkedIn are looking to work with you in some fashion or are looking to hire someone with your credentials. Even if you are not on LinkedIn to look for employment, your listing may result in a job offer better than your present one.
Maybe you are looking for a photographer or someone to work on your landscaping. Even though you are searching for someone in a field not requiring “dress up”, there is still a first impression. Your looks are not the first impression. How you present your looks is the first impression. I have often told my son and other friends that wearing jewelry and having visible tattoos are not wrong, but they make an impression. People initially react to the impressions you make. Your co-workers may share your need to express yourself, but a new boss may not. Creating a professional image that will make a great first impression will influence getting a job, being hired for a service, or being considered to provide a product in the marketplace.
I have a friend that always wears overalls in his work. He doesn’t need to wear a tie in his photo. But to make a professional business impression, he needs a well-lit studio photograph on a background, cropped to enhance his features. If I was wanting to hire someone to oversee my farming business, this person’s impression would have an edge over a shot of a farmer on his tractor in the shade.
With the increasing popularity of the iPhone and other photo-capturing devices, there is a tendency to use an image that was grabbed in a moment instead of going to a professional studio and paying for a quality portrait for business listings. Even though these cameras are ideal for capturing and presenting special moments in our lives to our various publics, they are not adequate to present a professional image that will make us stand out in the crowd. With more and more media outlets, more and more people participate. The professional image is even more important than in the past.
Lastly, the professional image is important to us. Whether you are an executive of an insurance company or the maker of cupcakes sold in local eateries, you are in the business marketplace. You are your own executive! The image you project is not only what others see, but what you see and ultimately what you are.
A number of years ago, I attended an event with executives and others in the advertising industry. At the time, I was primarily operating a black and white processing lab. I arrived in my jeans and flannel shirt. Looking around, I realized I was the most casually dressed person there and that most of the attendees were in coats and ties. Somewhat humiliated, I discreetly left the event. On the way back to my office, I decided to represent my business as an executive rather than a lab tech. From then on, I would wear a coat and tie when I visited clients. Even today, I wear a sport coat most of the time when I shoot assignments or visit clients. It affects how I see myself. Does it affect others who see me?
Most people don’t know whether I am a lone photographer, a business executive, or owner of a multi-million dollar enterprise. But my first impression is that I am a business professional. Having a professionally created photograph to use with LinkedIn and other outlets is “Job 1” when it comes to making a favorable impression in the workplace!