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If you aren’t a teenager and want to be taken seriously and professionally, perhaps a photo of you in a bikini or shirtless isn’t the best social media profile picture no matter how good you look.

Your profile photo is the first introduction to you. The wrong photo can easily convey the message that you aren’t serious or professional. You don’t want a potential employer to search for you, find your photo and say to themselves, “She doesn’t look like she’s fit into our culture.”

As this article from Neil McKenzie on the blog for Creatives and Business, LLC aptly points out, your profile picture is one of the most important visual elements for an effective social media or web presence. It creates a tone for your brand.

“It is the first thing people will see when they visit your profile or ‘About’ page,” he writes. “Many people will make an opinion of you from your picture and this will influence whether they want to connect with you on social media or spend more time on your website. Make sure that your personal image makes people want to know more about you, your art and not turn them away.”

With that in mind, here are some things to avoid in your profile photo:

  • badly lit photos (overly exposed, dark, etc.)
  • brands on shirts
  • badly cropped images
  • blurry photos
  • a photo that isn’t of you
  • old photos (your photo should be recent and represent how you currently look)
  • photos of you and another person, especially without their permission. (You don’t want the potential employer or business associate to guess which one you are)
  • bad body language (you want to come across as open and friendly, not sour and standoffish or worse desperate for attention)

If you aren’t sure what kind of message your profile photo sends, try asking a trusted friend what the photo would make them think about you. Ask that person if he would want to be friends with you based on the photo alone.

Above all else, it’s better to fail with an overly professional image on Twitter and especially LinkedIn that a party picture that is better left on your bookshelf.

Image from: aphasia.org

Image from: aphasia.org

While nearly all of these can be summed up with two words: kindness and consideration, sometimes it takes more than 140 characters to share words of wisdom. These are the long versions of some of the #ProTips I shared on Twitter yesterday.

1) Don’t ask for easily accessible information. This also means don’t ask for something you’ve already asked for recently. For example: email addresses. Before you contact a colleague or professional contact for an email address, try Googling or at least searching your own past messages. Email addresses aren’t hard to find. (See this post on finding an email address.)

2) Don’t be unrealistic in your requests. If you want help, make sure it will take the person you are asking for help from less than 10 minutes. Whether it’s a presentation review or resume edits also make sure that the person you are asking for help from:

  • has the time 
  • doesn’t have a conflict of interest
  • isn’t something they have clients for

3) Don’t ask for something for free if the person you are requesting help from usually gets paid for the same service. Instead of asking for free help, think about what you can offer in return. Maybe it’s just a cup of coffee. That’s ok. But at least acknowledge the hard work the person has done to build their client base and be honest. Telling the person you are needing help from, “I can’t afford your usual rate, can we work something out?” is better than assuming the person wants to help you for free and having the advisor bristle at your request. Knowing whether or not the advisor typically charges for the service means doing a little research.

4) Do be considerate, asking for helps from 20 people makes you look desperate and as if you didn’t do your research. Your ask should be specifically targeted to the specific person, not a blanket request. Make sure to include as many details as possible about what you need help with and why. It’s better to err on the side of over information that not enough.

5) Do understand the person you are asking for help from will research you. That means you should make sure your LinkedIn and Facebook work history are as up to date as your resume.

6) Do be gracious if the answer is no. Don’t burn the bridge, you never know when that might come back to bite you. Most importantly, burning the bridge you asked to be on is not the wisest idea, especially if you ignored advice #4 and did a mass request and then were indignent when the person researched you, asked questions and gave an honest answer. In this specific case, all 20 people you originally asked for help from will see you burning the bridge and probably start to question if they want to help you at all.

7) Don’t ask for someone to teach you what took them years to learn. You should not expect to become an expert html coder in time for an interview. For example, you should not expect to become an expert in public relations or analytics in just a few days. If you follow no other piece of advice, this is the most important. If you don’t, your request comes across as insulting.

8) Don’t ask for help in fooling an interviewer. Know that when and if the person helps you, he or she is putting his or her name and reputation on the line and that might mean telling you, this isn’t a good use of your talents. A hint that this might not be a good fit, is if you are trying to learn several new skill sets just for an interview. (See advice #7)

Am I missing anything else that needs to be on this list?

In 2013 this post really shouldn’t have to be written. Sadly, it does. Not two, but three hiring managers recently confided that they’ve received resumes from job applicants with serious spelling errors. Not cover letters, but resumes. Yikes!

If you aren’t a strong speller, get to know spell check in your favorite word processing program. Even if you are a strong speller and winner of elementary spelling bees, use spell check. Then walk away for at least an hour and read it backwards from the last word to the first. Are any words wrong? Did spell check change a word to one you didn’t want? Have an English major or copy editor friend read your resume and make sure they don’t see anything wrong.

Do the same for your cover letter and any email correspondence that you send with your cover letter and resume as attachments. Nothing turns a hiring manager off quite like misspelling the company name, your alma mater, or your own name.

Full disclosure: As an eager, new graduate, I didn’t follow this advice. I hurried cover letters out the door and erred on the side of quantity over quality. When I received the email response below, I stopped that practice cold and never looked back.

One caution: I’m a sticker for punctuation and language usage. Hey, I already told you I was a  dinosaur, and maybe there aren’t many of us left. But I’d suggest you take a very careful look at your intro letter. And/or, have a really anal English major look it over.  It couldn’t hurt.  And it might just be the grain of sand that weighs the scale in favor of hiring you over someone else. One fact: If I wasn’t also a Mizzou grad, I wouldn’t have bothered to respond.”

After I got over the initial embarrassment, I took his advice and not only reread my letter, but had a copy editor review it. I kept in touch with this agency owner and while he never had an opening at the same time I was looking, his advice has always been spot on.

corporate jargon

Before Pinterest, to create a bulletin board, you had to cut out magazine articles and photos. I used to stuff these clippings into folders and when recently cleaning out a closet came across a job search folder from 2007. In it was the above gem.

While the original article in the November issue of Self Magazine by Janene Mascarella translated five of the most common corporatese into plain language  was directed at interviewing, you can use the same tips and suggestions in your cover letter. Keep the job description in hand when you write the letter and underline key phrases and repeat them (if applicable). Then if you do score an interview, get out the job description again and review it once more.

In case you can’t read the scan, the details are below. Italics are additions to the original reporting.

  1. Meticulously detail-oriented means “you always follow through and not just follow up,” says David Nour, a consultant in Atlanta. Think: putting ideas into action after a meeting. Prove you’re it by asking about the company’s challenges in the interview, explain how you’ll meet them.
    This is still really good advice. By asking about the challenges and providing solutions or at least how you’ll work within those challenges means your interviewer will be picturing you in the company. 
  2. A team player means you care less about personal glory than about seeing the company succeed. If someone is slacking, you’ll forgo blaming and offer to help. Prove you’re it by including a collaborative project in your portfolio and specify how you contributed to it.
    You can also explain how you work with different personalities and contribute to the team environment in your current or past positions. 
  3. Strong analytical ability means you can glean valuable insights from raw data and use them for the company’s gain by, say, seizing on a trend before the competition. Prove you’re it by describing a work situation in which you brilliantly solved a thorny problem or blazed a new trail.
    It’s finally cool (at least in most circles) to be good at math and analytics (thanks social media!), don’t be afraid to show how you created a spreadsheet that displayed a trend or gave you the proper insights to make a decision. You don’t have to be working on a budget to use numbers.
  4. A dynamic go-getter means you’re high in stamina (but nit hyper), motivated and focused. You will channel your energy to the work hustling to get it done. Prove you’re it by underscoring your drive by describing how your responsibilities have grown with each position held.
    Don’t be afraid to say you look at deadlines like a challenge and always strive to meet expectations. Explain how you find work arounds for the inevitable road blocks that come up in projects. You can also give examples of how you work well independently or with minimal supervision. 
  5. Superior interpersonal skills means you’re ubertrustworthy and intuitive. Understanding a client’s needs and collaborating to meet them come naturally to you. Prove you’re it by showing stellar people smarts on the interview by asking at least two sincere questions.
    You can start with the challenges question from the first tip. You can also reiterate how you’ve worked on sensitive (without divulging too much information) projects or with a large team. This is rally code for minimal drama. The company wants to hire someone who won’t make interpersonal waves and will strive to get along with every one.

What do you think? Are these tips still relevant?

About Aurora

My father named me after Sleeping Beauty. The princess theme stuck. Unfortunately, the only castle I can claim is the one in Disney Land. These are the musings of a princess without minions, knights or fairy tales. I have to do my own bidding.

The views in this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or clients.

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