Woman taking a duckface selfie

Six pictures that can damage your career prospects

Elizabeth Bromstein|

You’ve probably heard about the latest leak of naked celebrity photos, which includes pictures of Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton.

While nobody seems to know how a hacker from the group 4chan got ahold of the pictures – be it through iCloud or another route – one thing everyone seems to agree on is that it’s an embarrassing situation for all involved and a “flagrant violation of privacy.”

I’m somewhat surprised that this is news. Another day, another naked picture of a famous person…who cares? But a lot of people do, apparently. I’m also a little surprised at the number of people out there who are taking naked pictures and videos of themselves and storing them on their phones, which we all should know are hackable by now.

In light of this current event, here is a list of the sorts of pictures you might take of yourself, post online, and/or share through your phone or social media that could have a negative impact on your career.

The naked picture (or explicit video). You’re not Jennifer Lawrence so strangers are less likely to hack your phone and post your pictures online. But what about your archenemy/disgruntled ex?

While there is certainly an argument to be made that employers would be silly to hold such a thing against you, the reality is that some might. Unless you’re a supermodel or celebrity and part of your PR plan involves taking naked pics and “leaking” them online, I think one should probably take naked pictures of oneself in moderation.

Then, of course, you should keep them private. Not texting them to people or posting them to social media, and making sure your phone is not synced to anything, are probably first steps.

The selfie: A Facebook or Instagram page with an endless stream of selfies makes one look like a needy narcissist. While your Facebook friends might be willing to indulge this need by telling you how “hawt” you look over and over again, a potential professional connection or employer will likely be turned off. One selfie is fine. A selfie in which you’re posing with someone else, also fine. Each additional lone selfie lowers your professional credibility by 10% for a total credibility level of 0 after 11 selfies. It’s science.

So, if you absolutely must take selfies, keep them to social media that employers are less likely to see. Under no circumstances should your LinkedIn profile picture be a selfie.

The duckface selfie: The duckface selfie has a much bigger cred-lowering factor. You may be allowed a total of two on Facebook or Instagram, as long as there is the suggestion that you are just kidding. Any and all additional duckface selfies immediately lower your cred to 0.  Be aware that a potential employer may disagree with this equation and immediately dismiss you based on one duckface selfie.

Under no circumstances should your LinkedIn profile picture be a duckface selfie.

The shot in which you’ve cropped someone else out and left yourself: If you ask 100 hiring managers to describe a “professional photo” not one of them is going to describe a picture in which you’re standing next to someone you have cropped out – and yet many people use such a photo for their LinkedIn profile.

This leads to too many uncomfortable questions. What process lead to this decision? What sort of personal relationships do you have that you’re cropping people out of photos? Who was the other person? Are you still speaking? Is this really such a fantastic picture of you that you absolutely had to use it? Why don’t you have any other good pictures?

I would avoid this picture altogether and keep it off any and all social media. It makes you look like a bit of a weirdo.

The drunk picture: It should go without saying that posting pictures of yourself drunk and/or passed out is a bad idea – on Facebook, on Instagram, pretty much anywhere. It’s not that drinking is necessarily bad – who among us hasn’t been a few sheets to the wind this week at some point? It’s that posting pictures of yourself in such states makes potential employers question your motivation for doing so. Also, it looks stupid.

The blurry picture: There is a bizarre number of LinkedIn profile pictures out there that are too blurry to really make out the person’s face. All anyone is going to wonder when they see this photo is what you are hiding. Take a clear picture. Own your face. I’m sure it’s beautiful.

I’m not suggesting you can’t have fun with pictures. I’m suggesting that you be aware of the potential pitfalls of taking and/or posting certain types of images. I’m also suggesting that your LinkedIn profile picture should be clear, clean and professional looking – and of just YOU.

And under no circumstances should your LinkedIn profile picture be a blurry, drunk, naked, duckface selfie in which you’ve cropped out someone else and left yourself.

 


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