Georgina Ustik and Callum Booth
Look, LinkedIn sucks. You know it, I know it, even humans grown in huge Matrix-style vats somehow intrinsically grasp that LinkedIn. Is. Not. A Good. Thing.
But, like with other Bad Things (think bros, country music fans, and nazis), LinkedIn has its own particular and peculiar aesthetic. This is perfectly encapsulated in one circular inch of pixels on almost every page of the site. We’re talking, of course, about the famed LinkedIn photo.
During an office conversation, we got to thinking: what do the LinkedIn profiles photos of LinkedIn execs look like? How LinkedIn are they? Are they the most acutely LinkedIn shots of all? Or do they somehow rise above the riff raff? Eschewing the aesthetic chains that shackle us laymen and transcending into something magnificent?
And, more than that, could we rank the LinkedIn photos of LinkedIn execs to discover which LinkedIn exec had the most LinkedIn photo? And in doing so find out whether the company’s top employees truly live and breathe the LinkedIn aesthetic?
Yes. Yes we could. And that’s what we’re about to do.
We need to define what actually makes a LinkedIn photo quite so LinkedIn. The site has their own guide, but, as we rarely follow rules, instructions, or cautionary safety signs of any kind, we decided to make our own.
Yes, we may ignore these rules we’re about to lay out – as any good judge would ignore the law in search of petty, personal revenge – but we should have them all the same.
So, here are the five magical categories that govern just how LinkedIn a LinkedIn photo should be, according to us.
- An underlying sense of dread: There’s something about the LinkedIn stare that separates it from anything else known to man. Soulless eyes, empty smile, and a creepy, off-kilter, endlessly aching void of pain…
- Business-chic style: Depends on the type of company, but polo shirts or work shirts with the top button released. Or, the old person’s favorite, a full suit and tie or pantsuit in dulcet colors. No statement pieces or vibrant colors, because your LinkedIn summary should be all the statement you need
- Overly photoshopped: Matte, flawless skin despite never sleeping. Gleaming, white teeth despite smoking forty a day. A glow like Gwyneth Paltrow on her hundredth day of juice fasting. In other words, the work of heavy-handed graphic design interns
- Ken & Barbie doll hair: A do that somehow straddles the divide between incredible expensive and so generic it’s invisible
- A plain, faux-professional photography background: You ever get your photo taken at a mall stand for a parent’s birthday? Know the weird, single-color background they make you pose in front of? This is exact generic mall-aesthetic is key in the world of LinkedIn photos.
Now we know the rules, lets begin our countdown from the least LinkedIn photo, to the most LinkedIn photo. HERE WE FUCKING GO.
#8 — Ryan Roslansky, Senior Vice President of Product
What makes Ryan the least LinkedIn photo in this list? Easy. You can see his entire torso – a very no-no move in the wild world of LinkedIn. Plus, that background? I can see details. Things. Corners. Gradients. Not LinkedIn in the slightest.
Yes, he’s looking at the camera with a dead-eyed gaze. Yes, he’s got that single unbuttoned shirt in that business-blue. Yes, he looks like a hotel manager about to downgrade your room after you complained about a rat in your soup. But no, this is the least LinkedIn looking of any of these LinkedIn photos.
#7 — Mike Gamson, Senior Vice President of Global Solutions
Ah, Mike. Mikey, if I may.
We need to talk, Mikey. Just because you have dimples as deep as the Mariana Trench does not mean you’re wiling your way to the top of this list, buddy.
You may have thought your startup-y plain t-shirt (shirt? sweater? who cares?) would get you points, but we’re not fooled. This photo looks like it was taken in some Silicon Valley keg party in a BDSM dungeon.
Is that a fleck of beer on your cheek? I can’t see it, but I’m sure he’s holding a joint in his hand.
Nothing wrong with these things of course, but I know a party pic when I see one. I was drunk in my LinkedIn pictures for years. I’m still a little drunk right now. Game sees game.
#6 — Steve Sordello, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Steve is your friendly uncle who introduced you to Fleetwood Mac. Steve has a scarily wide selection of different woodworking tools in his garage. You’re pretty sure you once saw your Uncle Steve pick up a dove with a broken wing and – in one practised motion, like an artist using a paintbrush – twist its head clean off.
Yes, Steve looks like a stand-up kinda guy. And therein lies the problem. The dread that truly defines LinkedIn – the artificial cold stare, the barely muted desperation that comes from forcing yourself to be a certain way that leads to your soul fluttering into the distance – is missing here. He’s not even looking at the goddamn camera.
He might have the background, the shirt, but by not gazing at the camera like a hostage, he’s escaped having the most LinkedInLinkedIn photo. Bless.
#5 — Jeff Weiner, Chief Executive Officer
Oh Jeff. Considering his name, I guess we have to begin with the obvious — on a scale from 1 to hot dog, how much does this man’s face resemble a weiner?
Just call this guy Oscar Meyer.
Jeff looks like one of those guys who spent his high school getting straight A’s, playing on the varsity football team, and being friends with everyone. I bet he owns a golden retriever who never shits on the carpet. And calls his mother every night and actually enjoys it. This guy is straight out of a Glee musical number.
You know how I can tell? His eyebrows. I proffer you can tell a lot about someone by the shape of their eyebrows. I mean, Donald Trump? TERRIBLE eyebrows. Like glued on bits of baby hair. Meryl Streep? Elegant forehead hairs. But I digress.
Jeff’s are strong — bushy yet shapely, wild but tame. In fact, his entire facial hair situation is perfectly coiffed into being “messy”. But something sinister lurks beneath.
Jeff’s hair is trying too hard. Just LOOK at that jaunty eyebrow — it’s practically crawling off his face trying to escape. He has the face mane of a man who has acts like he just came back from a jog, but in reality he’s paying a small child (“intern”) with his LinkedIn money to trim and comb it for him while he sleeps in his sci-fi cryogenic anti-aging chamber.
As for the rest of his face, what more is there to say? His fleshy, piglet pink skin contrasts perfectly with the “natural” background, his smile is big yet nonthreatening, his lilac shirt is an excellent choice. Despite it being a bit low res, he looks less like a wax figure from Madame Tussaud’s in this LinkedIn photo than others I’ve seen of him.
All in all, it looks like an ad for a real estate agency.
#4 — Mohak Shroff, Senior Vice President of Engineering
Ah fourth place. The bronze-bronze position (unless you think bronze-bronze makes silver, which it totally doesn’t and I don’t have time to sit here and explain to you quite how wrong you are). Mohak has a lot going on here to make himself the most LinkedIn LinkedIn photo.
Looking straight at the camera? Check.
Unbuttoned polo shirt? Check.
Single color background? Check.
What’s stopping him from being standing on the podium then? Well, he looks too goddamn nice. While gormlessness gleams from his every hold and crevice – it’s a far cry from that thousand-yard, “I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe” stare that characterizes the most LinkedIn of LinkedIn shots. In most walks of life, looking like you’d give someone you caught robbing your house a cup of hot chocolate isn’t a good thing, but, in this rare instance, I guess it kinda is.
Touché, Mohak, touché.
#3 — Christina Hall, Vice President of Global Talent
Black and white photos are not very LinkedIn. Black and white photos are people trying to be cool, edgy, and authentic – you know, prime wankers. LinkedIn is all about color saturation levels turned up so high they scald your corneas and end up giving you radiation poisoning.
Yet, despite this, Christina hits number three on our list. Why? First, that hairstyle is what you get when you sacrifice seven scalps to the god of business hair. Look at the volume, the shape, the precision – that’s an expensive fucking haircut. Yet, at the same time, if I got you to close your eyes and describe it, there’s no way you could.
Next, look at that gaze. Off-center, aching, and endless. Is she smiling? Is she grimacing? Is she happy? Angry? Hungry? Her expression exists in the no-man’s land of LinkedIn. It’s uncomfortable, it’s simmering, it’s the same look Roman emperors had when deciding the fate of a gladiator.
Then, let’s consider how the portrait is framed. Just like how the best poets test the limits of form without breaking it, Christina adds a few jazzy details to rise above the rest.
First, we have the fun rise of her left shoulder (the right as we look at it). It adds a little bit of middle-of-the-road color to the black and white photo, embellishing the LinkedIn vibe.
Then the necklace. Oh my, the necklace. Those thick links make a very chain-like piece of jewellery. So, is Christina making a comment that the world of work is a literal piece of chain that imprisons you? As though you are a tuna, hooked on a chain, thrashing after being wrenched from the frothy waves of childhood and left to flail in the cold, alien, and adult world? And does her vaguely-amused expression suggest she likes your suffering?
Who am I, a humble writer, to possibly say?
#2 — Shannon Brayton, Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President, Communications
If this isn’t the smile of a seasoned marketing mercenary then I don’t know what is. I’m buying whatever she’s selling. I’d be afraid not to.
She may have a smile that screams “likes to chew on chicken bones and wash them down with their blood”, but what’s a few missing poultry amongst friends? Hehe, right? *sweats, loosens collar*
You got to give Shan credit, though, she is wearing some funky stuff. Look at that collar — is it a turtleneck? Who knows, but it is perfectly balanced with some dangly earrings that she probably picked up at a very expensive resort gift shop where she vacationed once.
I hesitate to comment on the makeup because I don’t want to completely reduce one of the very few women in the LinkedIn leadership team to her deco, but her face is shining like a lighthouse beacon. She is highlighted as fuck, lipgloss popping, and sporting the perfectly arranged hair of a weatherperson.
Endorse me, Shannon. I’m begging you.
#1 — Blake Lawit, General Counsel
Now, if this isn’t the most LinkedIn photo I’ve ever seen.
It looks like it was just removed from a grey frame hung on a grey “employee of the month” wall in a grey office.
Everything is working here. His smile is sheepish, yet his eyes glint with the of a man who has all the money. If he opened his mouth, his teeth are probably covered in blindingly gold grills.
The background and lighting make it seem like it was taken at a very expensive pricey shoot where the goal was to make it look as generic and Sears-like as possible. Genius.
Also, very hip frames. Even if they’re fake glasses, these square lenses are immediately establishing a level of trust, lulling you into submission while Blake twists a lawyer-y knife into your back.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention how moisturized his lips look. What lip scrub are you using? How do they look so slippery? What’s your secret?
I look at this photo, and I feel nothing but a desire for lukewarm coffee and to sue someone.
10/10 LinkedIn. You’re hired, Blake.
And what about our LinkedIn photos?
Look, it’d be pretty shitty of us to judge the above folks without turning this back on our own profiles. And, although we might be shitty people, we’re not that shitty. It was a close call though.
Oh damn, Georgina – this is LinkedIn as fuck. That single color background screams middle management. The stare to the side is yelling “ADD ME TO YOUR NETWORK I AM OF THE UTMOST VALUE TO YOUR MISSION STATEMENT” and hold on… is a that a Jobsian tactical turtleneck you’re wearing? Oh, Georgina.
That’s not a smile – there’s a grimace hidden behind that grin. Every second this photo is on my screen, I can feel my life force fading away, so lord knows where you’re at right now.
Still, this is arguably the most LinkedIn photo on the entire page. I’m not sure whether to mourn or congratulate you.
Callum, what did we say about black and white? We get it. You’re cool. And look at that exposed tattoo… did you roll your sleeves up especially for the picture? Casually toss your flannel to the side as if we wouldn’t notice? And jauntily perched a pair of nerd glasses on your nose to try to balance it out? I’ve never in my life seen you wear glasses. What kind of faux-glasses wearing bullshit is this — are you applying to be a store manager at Urban Outfitters?
You know Callum, we get along, but did your gran take this photo? Or do you always pose in front of floral wallpaper?
You’re not fooling me, Booth. You were nice about mine, but friendship requires honesty. I would rank you after Weiner.
What was the point of all this?
Could it be to provide a guide for how to visually succeed at LinkedIn? Or could it be because this platform is a butt-munching cesspit, and we felt a desire to prove the leaders of it are just as rank? Or were we just bored at work?
Well, we’re not really sure.
While we’d like to pretend we’ve distilled the kernel of truth at the heart of every successful hire that takes place on the platform, we kind of found that each exec brought something new to the table — approachability, dangerous ambition, freshly laundered professional attire, moisturizer, and so much more.
So, sorry. We weren’t able to come up with a way to get you off your couch and into a soul-sucking cubicle for the next 60 years of your life. But hey, living at your parents’ place is really cool! Underrated for sure — tell your mom we said hi by the way.
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