Dear LinkedIn: Is My Armpit Bad For Business?
(This post has recently caused a stir on LinkedIn. I'd like to share it with my fellow beBee subscribers.)
* * *
I’ve been posting my essays on LinkedIn for a year. The site’s subscribers (you!) have been enthusiastic and supportive, my interactions – productive. I’ve acquired many wonderful contacts and a handful of friends. My profile photo hasn’t seemed to hamper me, but perhaps I’ve been naïve.
* * *
Seventeen months ago, I hired a photographer to take my picture. Time was of the essence; I was approaching my fifty-seventh birthday. I wasn’t getting any younger . . .
I contacted a professional who’d posted her add on Craigslist. I reviewed Melanie’s website and liked what I saw; her work was perceptive and direct. I thought that Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone (a popular pocket of shops, avant-garde artist studios, and bistros located a few blocks from the beach) would make a great backdrop for a photo shoot. Melanie drove from LA and we met at The Lark restaurant. I was relieved I’d hired a woman to snap my pics. I knew I’d feel uncomfortable posing for a male photographer. With Melanie behind the camera, I'd no fear that my crow’s-feet and wrinkled knees would be silently ridiculed. I trusted Melanie to capture me : an attractive and imperfect middle-aged woman. She took a lot of photos. Twenty made the final cut. I utilized one photo for the cover of my soon-to-be-released book. Another became my LinkedIn profile pic.
Seven weeks ago, a LinkedIn connection messaged me about my profile photo. She wrote that she didn’t think it represented me well. She believed I was prettier than my picture. She also believed that I would receive more on-site success with a new photo. Then, she suggested different photo ops I might try: a comedic wink with sunglasses positioned halfway down my nose, a traditionally professional look, or me waiting in a meadow for Mr. Right to ride up. (On a tractor? On a white steed?) Her motive, she insisted, was to offer friendly advice from one woman to another. She said she was a fan of my LinkedIn posts.
I replied: Thank you for your kind and candid email! I had no idea that I’d be on the brink of fame if it weren’t for the fact that my profile photo is holding me back! But, since I do not have another pic to replace it, I’m afraid it will stick around – and continue to hold me back – until I have another taken. I certainly do appreciate that you follow my posts, and more so, that you send me such great girlfriend advice. You are swell!
She responded that she hadn’t known how to broach the subject more sensitively. She admitted that she should've asked a friend to review the email before sending it. Then, she apologized for trying to help and confessed that she’d made a poor job of it.
I emailed to assure her that everything was cool, and her apology, unnecessary.
Our exchange had been puzzling – slightly odd – but no big deal. I forgot all about it.
Until five days ago . . .
Apparently, my “LinkedIn adviser” remained vexed at my nonchalant attitude, or maybe she was sincerely worried that my profile photo jeopardized my business (or the timely arrival of Mr. Right). Therefore, she called in the reserves; she appointed her friend to message me: If you send the original I’ll touch out the line at your armpit . . . it’s a giveaway for things you might want to be left unseen.
Ah ha! It was my armpit they were after!
Did one lil ’ ole armpit deserve this much attention?
I responded: Thank you for your generous offer to Photoshop my armpit. (That was a first!) I understand that my armpit doesn’t look like the pit of a thirty-year-old woman – I’m fifty-eight. My book – “Miss Matched at Midlife: Dating Episodes of a Middle-Aged Woman” is about a middle-aged gal (me!) who goes on over 150 first dates; therefore, I need to look the part ;-) I’ll let you know when my book is launched in June. Thanks again for your concern :-)
That wasn’t the last of it.
She replied: Let me know if you’d like it diminished or offed ;-)
I wrote: You ladies have supplied me with a fabulous topic; many thanks to both of you! I have decided to write a LinkedIn post asking my contacts (over 3,000) to weigh in with their opinions on my “unsightly” armpit. Whatever the majority says wins out. I may be looking you up to Photoshop my pit, after all. Don’t worry, I won’t mention either your name or "Jane’s" in my post ;-) Look for my new post on LinkedIn at the first of next week.
Soon afterward, she forwarded my original profile photo with a “modified” armpit that rivals the perfection of my four-year-old granddaughter’s. She included this statement: Remember, it’s not ‘unsightly’ . . . it’s distracting from the main focus of the image. Your eyes.
I truly believe these two ladies are well intentioned. Yet, the question remains:
Is my armpit bad for business?
* * *
I await your candid comment, dear reader.
Thank you! ~ Rebecca Brockway