How to build a professional brand on LinkedIn: Avoid using out-of-date photos and make the most of hobbies and interests

You’re more likely to think someone is interesting and trustworthy if you can see their face
Do you remember being told not to judge a book by its cover? Perhaps it’s true, but there’s a reason that publishers have such large design teams. Of course, a person’s value can’t be established by their appearance alone, but the reality is that, as professionals, we’re always selling our skills and experience. Our professional image builds our metaphorical “shop window” and it’s important that it helps us to display ourselves appropriately.
LinkedIn’s new study, New Norms @ Work, has found that, in the UK, we’re increasingly aware of the power of our image. We found that almost half of workers would judge a colleague by their appearance. Women feel under particular pressure, with more than a quarter believing that they are more likely to be judged on what they wear than men.
Younger workers too are acutely aware of the impact of their presence in the workplace. The desire to look and sound right has meant they risk being known as a “yes generation”. More than half of those aged 18-34 who we surveyed would describe themselves as “yes employees” and less likely to challenge authority. This is double the proportion of older workers, who are more likely to object and challenge. So how can you hone your image and maximise your professional presence without losing your identity?


You are more likely to think someone is interesting – and trustworthy – if you know what they look like. LinkedIn profiles with pictures get 14 times more views than those without, so make sure you put a face to your name. You want people to recognise you when they meet you, so a photo from ten years ago probably won’t cut it. Millennials change their profile pictures most often on LinkedIn and they’re the demographic that gets the most profile views.


Your professional image should be true to you and your history. If you’ve faced a particular challenge in your career, showing how you overcame it is one of the best ways to illustrate your determination or problem solving skills. Our study revealed that less than a quarter of 18-34 year olds would admit to having been fired, but it’s best to be honest about your experience. If you feel something will have a really negative impact on your career then avoid mentioning it, but don’t lie.


If you can explain your skills and experience clearly, you’re in a good position to negotiate your way to a promotion, a pay rise or responsibility for a specific project. Don’t rely on being able to reel this off in the heat of the moment; make a list of your specialities with examples, strengthened by supporting work where possible. Including all your skills on your LinkedIn profile will mean everyone in your network – and potentially 17m UK members – can see what you have to offer at a glance.


It’s important to showcase how good you are at your specific role, but don’t ignore voluntary work, unpaid placements, hobbies and interests outside your industry. They all contribute to building an interesting and engaging professional brand and are what makes your approach to your job unique. You can list them on LinkedIn as you would paid experience, and upload examples of things you’ve achieved outside work.


One of the most effective ways of boosting your professional reputation is sharing your expertise with your network and beyond. Publishing on LinkedIn can establish you as an expert in your field and set you apart from other professionals in your industry. Just make sure that you keep things relevant and succinct – and that you have a valuable point to make. If not, sharing content from other people or sources will also show you’re interested and engaged.
Darain Faraz works at LinkedIn.

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