How often should you change your LinkedIn profile photo? (The answer may surprise you.)

“New ‘Camera”‘” by Sherman Geronimo-Tan on Flickr

There’s no question that a photo is a must-have on your LinkedIn profile. What’s less clear, however, is how often you should change your photo. If you listen to the conventional wisdom, the answer would seem to be “frequently,” based on the premise that a new photo will attract new attention.

Well, this is another case where the conventional wisdom isn’t all that wise. While it may seem to be a good idea to switch your photo every now and then, the truth is that you should only do so infrequently. Why? Well, our eyes are drawn to faces–that’s just how we’re wired–but we’re even more drawn to familiar faces. And that means a profile photo that we’ve seen before will stand out from those that don’t register as quickly.

That’s not to say you should never change your photo. The key is to do so only when there’s a good reason to, not just because you think you should. For example, you should consider changing your photo if…

  • Your appearance changes dramatically. One goal of your profile photo should be to make it easier for your connections to identify you in the real world. If you grow a mustache, change your hairstyle, or put on or lose a considerable amount of weight, it may be time for an update.
  • Your photo doesn’t represent how you want to be seen as a professional. Since LinkedIn is a niche network, relevant only to your professional life, your photo should depict how you want to be seen by your professional contacts. If your photo is more relevant to your personal life–a shot with your spouse or at the beach, for example–you should choose something more LinkedIn appropriate.
  • You haven’t changed it in a couple years. This may sound like a contradiction given that I just said you don’t want to change it out too often, but it’s just as bad to never change it out at all. The fact is, our appearance changes subtlety over the years–more than we tend to notice–so there’s a good chance an old photo can look dated. Once a year is more than often enough if none of the variables mentioned above applies.

So, the next time you go to change your LinkedIn profile photo, make sure you know why you’re doing it. If you can’t say what’s motivating the change, it may be better to do nothing at all.

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