A friend recently asked me what makes a good LinkedIn cover photo and why he should have one. The short answer: Photos help tell stories -- in this case your career story.

Just as a news organization wouldn't publish a paper or website without photos, you shouldn't leave a big blank space at the very top of your professional profile. This is prime career-building real estate. Use it or lose the opportunity to tell your story visually and set yourself apart from the crowd -- of about half a billion LinkedIn users.

Choosing the right photo.

Now what makes a good LinkedIn cover photo? Here's what I told my friend and what I tell clients who hire me for LinkedIn makeovers.

Your cover photo should be eye catching and contribute to your story. And that could be just about anything other than the LinkedIn default cover image of geometric shapes set against a blue background.

The right cover art for you could be a branded image that matches your company's marketing collateral. That's what I use -- a pattern of red and blue G's and black quote bubbles that are part of the branding for my public relations company, By George Communications. 

If you don't want to use your company's art or that isn't available to you, search for royalty-free photos on sites like Unsplash.com and Pixabay.com.

You could chose an image that represents what you do. For a nutrition coach I found a colorful photo of vegetables at a market. For a sports marketer, I used a photo that depicts silhouettes of runners on a mountain, though we'd also considered images of a finish line or the marking of a white line on a grassy field. For a pharmacist, I found a photo of an old apothecary cabinet, because being too literal would have meant a photo of a bunch of pills -- not good.

Your cover photo could be a nod to your location. For a Bank of American mortgage banker, the Charlotte skyline was a no-brainer.

And at the very least, your cover photo should be something that speaks to you -- the North Carolina mountains, skyscrapers, a favorite pattern, your school colors.

Details matter.

You know that saying about a picture being worth 1,000 words? Well, considering that LinkedIn allows for about a third of that in your actual summary story, why wouldn't you take a few minutes to upload cover art?

One last thing to consider. Details matter. Having a cover photo shows you have paid attention to the details. It's visual proof that you aren't like everyone else with the boring blue backgrounds. It conveys a certain desire to tell a complete story and to use all the tools and advantages at your disposal. After all, who cares more about your career than you?

Published on: May 1, 2018