Dear J.T. & Dale: I hate photos of myself, but everyone says I need one on LinkedIn to get a job. Is this true? — Trish
J.T.: Yes. Your profile is seven times more likely to be viewed if there is a photo. We all hate photos of ourselves, but just remember, you are your own worst critic. The key is to find a nice headshot where you are smiling naturally. No need to have professional photos done — just grab a friend and have him or her snap a hundred photos of you smiling and laughing. By the time you’re done, there’ll be one in the mix worth posting. Don’t let self-consciousness about a photo hold you back!
DALE: If that option works, great. However, your question reminds me of a recent experience at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, where my niece had curated a delightful exhibit of photos from the 1970s — “Suburbia,” by Bill Owens. (There are samples at SMOCA.org. Check out the Tupperware party.)It was the opening reception, and I wanted a photo of her in one of the rooms she’d worked on. I used my iPhone. I snapped several photos, and then a friend of hers, a professional photographer, walked up. I asked him to take her picture for me, and he took several, using my phone. All were much better than mine. Same person as a subject, same room, same lighting, but, bingo — big improvement. My point is that, even with a casual photo, a professional can make all the difference. A pro understands the language of the eye and of the first impression, and it could be worth the time and money to get a photo you can post proudly.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I really want to work for Google. I hear they pay well and have incredible benefits. How can I get my foot in the door? — Reed
J.T.: Argh. I get this question all the time, and it makes me cringe. Don’t get me wrong — Google is an amazing place to work. However, getting a job there is as tough as winning the lottery. Moreover, my bigger concern is that you aren’t really thinking through why you want to work there.
DALE: Imagine that you were stuck in an elevator and the guy in there with you was Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. So you say, “This is providential. It’s my dream to work at Google.” What is Brin going to say? Probably, “That’s great. WHY?” And if you come back with, “I hear it pays well and has incredible benefits,” he’ll start looking around for the trapdoor in the ceiling to get away from you. Google hires people to help Google, not to do them a favor. The same is true of every employer on the planet, with the possible exception of one owned by your mom or your uncle — and I’m not sure about them. The point is that you have to be worthy of a great employer.
J.T.: Further, should you get a job at Google, the internal competition and level of expectations are exceptionally high. Should you decide to opt out and leave, you’ll be stereotyped, and every interviewer will look at you skeptically, thinking, “Who’d leave Google?” So, rather than just daydreaming about Google, step back and think about what it really will take for you to be successful in a job. Then, research employers that will enable you to have success. And remember, Google was once just another anonymous startup. Perhaps the next Google is out there, waiting for talent like yours. Find it.
DALE: I’m glad you mentioned the company’s future. Most job hunters never consider that factor, and in a bad job market it’s easy to take a job wherever you can find one. However, I know a lot of talented people working for lagging companies — they have a first-class seat on a plane that’s never leaving the gate. On the other hand, I know people with average talent who are advancing rapidly. Your career rides with the company you keep.Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Send questions via email at jtanddale.com, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.