Many people conflate “image” with “personal brand,” when, in reality, they are two separate things. Your personal brand is the experience that people have with you, and the story you tell about who you are and what you do. Your image is your visual representation, and it is a crucial component of your brand. Before social media, you wouldn’t know what your client, doctor, or prospect looked like until you arrived at your first appointment. In the Digital Age, most people do up front research into the backgrounds of people they will be working with, and one of the results of that research is often a photograph. In fact, many recruiters will not even contact someone who does not have a photo on their LinkedIn profile. Now more than ever, it is vital that your image supports your brand.
For starters, your LinkedIn profile must absolutely include a photograph. Without one, you do not exist. That is, if you do not have a photo on LinkedIn, then you clearly do not understand its importance and how it is used. An amateur photo is fine, as long as it portrays you in a professional context. Do not use your driver’s license photo, pictures of you with your children/mother/fraternity brothers, or photos of yourself at the beach.
You want to present yourself as polished and professional, so be sure to dress accordingly. This is no longer the Mad Men era, and as such, dress codes have relaxed. However, it is best to err on the side of being dressed “too well.” I have noticed that a style initially heralded as “business casual” has transformed into what can best be described as “I give up.” Most companies do not have a Facebook Hoodie-and-Converse-All-Stars kind of culture. Most companies’ cultures and dress codes lie somewhere between that of a white shoe law firm and a startup. I’m sure you’ve heard the piece of advice that you should dress for the role you want, not the one you have. This is good advice because when you dress more formally and more stylishly, you are afforded more respect. Respect is integral to building your brand.
When you go out and meet people, give a firm handshake and be sure to make eye contact. Both of these things enhance your image and build your brand. When you look someone in the eye and give them a firm handshake, it says that you are trustworthy. Your image and your brand work together. Build them to create your stellar reputation!