Several years ago I began working to beef up my LinkedIn profile. As part of that process I chose as my profile picture a studio shot taken of me with my daughter, Lily. It’s one of my favorite pictures. We are both flashing genuine, authentic smiles. It’s clearly a professional, quality photo and I thought it was a tender way to provide a tiny glimpse into me as a complete person.
This apparently flies in the face of how one is supposed to use LinkedIn.
Since I chose that photo I’ve constantly encountered articles, blogs, and tips sheets on what should (and should not) appear in a LinkedIn profile. Almost every one includes some variation of “Don’t have other people in your photo.” And last year, when I asked a professional consultant to review my LinkedIn profile and offer feedback, she mentioned it right away.
“I love it, but it may work against you.”
Her feedback made me nervous. Will people think I’m unprofessional? Does it signal to potential clients that I’m not aware of the culture of LinkedIn, or of professional presence in general? Is it overkill? Is it possible that a photo that includes a child will make a would-be client uncomfortable? I wrestled with these questions for a time and the more I thought about it, the clearer my perspective became:
All of that is complete, total, unadulterated crap.
First and foremost, the most important job I will ever have has a one word title: Dad. I work hard every hour of every day to raise a daughter and son that place a premium on kindness, intelligence, generosity, warmth, ideas, discovery and dignity and respect for all people. It’s hard work. And I love every minute of it.
It’s also worth noting that the work I do professionally is remarkably similar to the work I do as a parent. I work with healthcare managers to help them become better leaders. Leadership is about building relationships. About creating the conditions that allow others to thrive. Leaders work to understand each person’s unique wants, needs, and skills, express feedback and opinions without making values judgments, and bring out the best in others. Leaders pursue their own growth and development every day. Leaders are self-aware. Leaders recognize there is always something they don’t know and that their success depends entirely on others. They value teams and colleagues and put people first in everything that they do. It’s not a stretch to say that I’m trying to instill in managers the same qualities I’m trying to instill in my children. So yeah, it’s a lot like parenting.
But that’s not why I ultimately decided to keep using the photo. It’s quite simply this: It’s one of my favorite pictures. We are both flashing genuine, authentic smiles. It’s clearly a professional, quality photo and provides a tiny glimpse into me as a complete person. And if someone out there thinks I’m unprofessional for using that photo, or that there’s no place for it on my profile, I probably wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.
Last week I had a new photo taken, which you see above. It’s just been uploaded to LinkedIn. And I love it.