Keeping A Professional Image Online

A recent segment on ‘The Ellen Show‘ got me thinking about the importance of your online image. In the clip, you can watch as Ellen DeGeneres surprises members of her audience by showing embarrassing photos they posted on Facebook. Some are mortified, others are strangely proud. Below are a few take away points from Ellen’s mischief.

1: Picture This

It is widely understood that you should never put a picture on your résumé for fear of the employer basing decisions on your appearance. Yet, this advice is somewhat dated and uncontrollable in a world full of social media. Your future employer can more than likely find a picture of you online. The key is controlling what images are available as they begin that inevitable search.

A screenshot of what it looks like when you pair your Google+ profile with Google’s search engine.

I recently wrote about controlling your reputation online. Once you start distributing content online it will be important to have your image attached to those postings. Google+ can help you claim your online content and bring attention to your authorship. Twitter can help you connect with readers and generate an open discussion. But what photograph should you choose?

2: Get Professional!

First, the differences in a photograph taken by a professional and one taken on your iPhone can be night and day. A professional photograph will ensure proper exposure (ISO), color balance, lighting, angle, and more. You can see below a side-by-side comparison of a photograph my wife took with an iPhone 5 and one taken by a professional photographer with a Canon 5D Mark II.

Left: iPhone 5 | Right: Canon 5D Mark II

The difference is noticeable. If you don’t have a professional-grade camera, I bet you could ask around and find a friend with one. Then, you just have to convince them to be your photoshoot photographer!

Secondly, the bottom of the photograph should start from the mid chest region and continue to the top of the head leaving a small amount of headroom at the top of the photograph. The added room in the photograph will allow for resizing and creating an individual thumbnail for each social network. For instance, Twitter uses a variety of different avatar sizes ranging from 48×48 px to 73×73 px to 256×256 px and more. Facebook ranges from 50×50 px to 160×160 px to the original image size. LinkedIn’s profile images range from 30×30 px to 80×80 px to 200×200 px. Your goal is to have a photograph that can be used widely enough to fit each of your needs.

Third, it is important to use photoediting software, such as Photoshop or GIMP, to experiment and view the image you selected in a variety of sizes. This will prevent you from choosing an image that will cause you to look distorted when automatically resized by websites across the web.

3: Control Your Privacy Settings

Privacy settings are becoming more important. Websites such as Facebook, Google+, and Path are leading users toward implementing staggered levels of content sharing. Understanding the network’s privacy settings and when they are changed is crucial to keeping your private life separate from the public’s view. Potential employers might have common Facebook friends that could open up a wider view of your profile updates, friends lists, likes, and more.

Try creating a second Facebook account to see what you can access on your profile, or your friends’ profiles! Additionally, keep track of technology news to follow the latest alerts as to when social networks change and update your privacy settings.

4: Cleaning Up Your Digital Trash

Do you feel like your online presence has been trashed and you need to take out the garbage? There are options to have the content removed from across the web. Lifehacker has an excellent, in-depth guide to “Fix Internet Embarrassments and Improve Your Online Reputation.” Additionally, you should create Google Alerts. Alerts will notify you via e-mail whenever your name, company, or anything else, pop up somewhere on the net.

But, you want to be careful. According to Forbes, if your profile is too clean and perfect it will put up red flags that too much is being hidden on your account. Make sure you walk the fine line between sharing personal details that you don’t mind being public – what Forbes calls “public private.”

Ellen might give out iPads for embarrassing her audience members, but you shouldn’t expect a potential employer to be as generous.