do I really need a photo for Linked in?

So last week I was kindly requested to take photographs of some of our senior executives, so they could update their various online profiles, both internal and external. I brought my camera in and diligently grabbed a series of portraits. I then cleaned them up, worked some Picasa magic (we don’t have Photoshop here), cropped, resized and sent them on. The execs will soon have new photos. The box has been checked. Good. But why? Do they -we- really need a photo for Linked in? Or anywhere else?

“I don’t see the point, I don’t care”, I’ve heard it all

“I don’t have a photo on Linked in, I don’t see the point”, said the Exec. To which of course I countered “It’s so that people looking for you will know they’ve found you”. Simple, right?

But the truth is, I had the exact same discussion with another friend (the wife of one of my best friends) just this Sunday.

“I have a distinctive CV and in any case, I’m the client, I just don’t care.”.

Which has made me wonder, just how necessary is it to have a Linked in profile or any other kind of profile at all?

5 reasons I enjoy being online

Oh all right fine. Here are 5 reasons *I* enjoy existing online.

  1. I like interacting with people, and twitter (for instance) is a public place where anyone can interact with me.
  2. I have a lot of interests and no one group of people can “satisfy” my curiosity and thirst for knowledge and random educational, philosophical, explorative discussions. Existing on twitter is an open invitation.
  3. Expressing myself, whether to share joy, sadness, the thrill of a discovery or the rantings of a badly designed system, is a need. I love sharing. It makes for a discussion, for an interaction, for exploring new concepts, and learning more about life.
  4. My Linked in profile exists so that anyone who wonders who I am and what I can do can have an answer. The answer *I* choose to give them. I’ve never lied about anything I’ve done. If anything, I try to hide the geekiest things; I’ve been a systems administrator and set up an entire offices’ computer network. I never want to do this again, and you will not find it on my CV or LinkedIn. In fact, I’m only using it in this example if you promise to forget about it right away. “Forget about what?” Oh, good!
  5. If you’re on a soapbox, people will wonder why you’re on a soapbox. Having a blog with something to say establishes you as someone who has something to say about a certain topic. Nothing more. Are you an expert? Maybe. Maybe not. But you’re interested, and vocal, and have a point of view. Today, with the marketplace saturated with dubiously-skilled people, having a clear voice helps you be noticed. Anyone with some knowledge of the field will be able to tell whether you’re right or are busy making a fool of yourself. Not everyone on a soapbox is worth listening to.

So that’s why I’m online.
We started this talking about photos. Let’s go back to that.

my first website photo

eurydice_1998
I first put a photo up on my website back in 1998. It was this photo here. It was taken with my Rollei 35s, back in 1998, on film, printed, scanned, and (shabbily, really) edited in Photoshop. I also used it on LiveJournal, where I hosted a personal blog.

Why had I done that, a decade before “social media” and the cult of the personality started? Because that website was about _me_ and I wanted to be sure that whoever went on it knew it was one person’s point of view, and nothing more. Also, that the person owned a cool camera and knew how to manipulate images. Or something. I was 19. “Digital pioneer” might be a slight exaggeration.

make sure they know who they’re meeting

And I think that today, that’s more or less precisely why photos are good. They put a face to a name. They ensure everyone knows who they are listening to. If they call you, they can picture you talking. They know it’s your voice and not a corporate drone. It creates a more vivid image, and makes you more memorable, it makes you human.

It also helps know who it is you’re about to meet and shake the right hand when you meet them. It gives you the opportunity to be respectful. Or rather. You are giving others the opportunity to be respectful to you.

Why would an executive partner want this? Because in the era of social media and the cult of the personality, social strata have been flattened, VPs talk to interns, CEOs follow bloggers, and generally everyone is starting to be evaluated on a person-by-person basis. So if you’re not out there, if you cannot be found online, at some point nobody will know you exist. Unless the media give you a voice, you’ve got to find your own, and mark out your territory using your identity: and that’s as simple as a photograph.