One of the hardest parts of LinkedIn is finding a good photo for your profile. So here’s some pointers on how to get one that works for you.

There is only one rule for Linkedin profile photos – you MUST have one! No more excuses – if you don’t have a photo, it looks like you’re trying to hide something – and it makes it difficult to identify you amongst others with the same name (there are over 100 Steve Cummins’ on LinkedIn – can you be sure I’m the “right one”?)

Beyond the one rule, here’s five guidelines you should consider:

1) Be Professional. This isn’t Facebook, or Twitter. This is your on-line resume. So – no photos with your spouse, pet, baby or a pint of beer (even if it’s the good English stuff)

2) Be Honest. It should look like you, not a glamorous version, or a younger version. Make sure your best friend’s first reaction isn’t surprise when they see it!

3) Dress Appropriately. It depends on your profession, location and the image you want to portray. At a minimum, Business Casual. A tie and jacket might be a appropriate, but not if you work in – let’s say – car sales, where you want to seem approachable, or in a youth-related market. Ideally, choose something that’s close to how you typically dress for work. And make sure you have a plain background – no distractions!

4) Size is Important. Too small or far-away, and it won’t show well as a thumbnail. Too close-in and it can look scary.

5) Pay for a Shot. You might be lucky to take a good photo at home. But chances are the lighting will be off, you won’t be wearing the right clothes, or there’ll be something distracting in the background.

It’s well worth it to pay a little to get a professional shot. Even a $10  passport photo at your local photo shop or CVS will probably be decent. That’s not to say that all non-professional shots are all bad. But for something as important as your on-line professional profile, do you want to take that risk?

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