Do you know what you look like over Zoom?
Why should you care about your Zoom image? I will be the first to say that Zoom saves careers and I am a big fan. In a post COVID world, I think many employees would have had their careers derailed without Zoom. Without Zoom, many employees would be just a name without a face. Great work, projects completed on time, and large deals closed are all just a name without a face.
Could you imagine working in a post-COVID, remote world without Video conferencing capabilities?
In the immortal words of Spiderman, with ultimate power comes ultimate responsibility. In a post COVID world where remote work is the norm, the ultimate power tool for your career is Zoom. The responsibility falls on you to use it correctly to propel your career. If you don’t take advantage of the features that Zoom provides, don’t ask why your career is stalling.
Your career is at risk
So what does Zoom have to do with your career? Zoom can be your Kryptonite or it can be a force multiplier to your career. Our company has hired a lot of folks in the last 18 months. Because we are all working from home, there are many employees I have never met face to face. Many of us are working with colleagues we haven’t seen in person since the pandemic started almost two years ago. Communication is taking place via email. Personal connections are being built via Zoom.
Society is in the infancy of the “working from home age.” We live in a remote world. Until society and the workplace mature in this area, we will still compare building relationships to the pre-pandemic world, face to face.
We can discuss whether solid relationships can be built over video until the cows come home. I believe they can, and realize building relationships remotely takes work. But at the end of the day, please keep one thing in mind.
Who grants raises and promotions?
Decision-makers in most companies are later in their careers. AKA, older. We need to consider how this group came up in the workforce. This demographic didn’t grow up with video conference calls. This demographic of directors, VPs, and C levels grew up building relationships the old-fashioned way. They broke bread and pressed palms. Martini lunches and power breakfasts. The concept of pressing palms is hearsay in a COVID era. Expensed lunches are old-fashioned, but this is how your VP and C level probably came up.
Think of it this way. Many of us are attached to the genre of music we grew up with in high school. When your favorite high school jam comes on, it instantly brings you back. We have a hard time imagining life without these songs. It is the same way leaders learned how to build relationships. They learned the old-fashioned way and face to face is “their jam.”
At some level, this group of decision-makers will have input into your next opportunity or raise. You may not be reporting to a C Level or VP, but most salary increases and promotions will be approved by your skip-level manager. In some cases the VP.
Zoom to the rescue
How does the above relate to your Zoom call? Because video calls are still relatively new, I don’t think many individual contributors are thinking of the ramifications of how they conduct themselves online. Here is why I believe this to be the case:
- We have all been on Zoom calls where participants do not turn on their camera and we don’t see a face. We see a dark, blank screen.
- I have been on calls with just one other person, and they didn’t show their face.
To me, that is just weird, and a little creepy depending on who I am talking with. You may have a face for radio, but this is your career. This is your Hollywood.
Madonna said it best in her dance hit Vouge, “Rita Hayworth gave good face”
If you are on a group video call, I suggest we turn on your camera and show your face. This is especially true if you are a new employee since the beginning of COVID.
What the person on the other end is really thinking
I participate in a lot of calls, both inside and outside of the department and company. There is nothing more frustrating than getting on a video call with someone who doesn’t turn on their camera. Ever been on an interview where the candidate didn’t show their face? You can’t make this shit up!
Here are just a few thoughts that run through a leader’s mind when they are on a call and see avatars or black squares with initials.
- I could have just called this person up and had this conversation over the phone during my commute. Instead, I made sure that I could be in front of the laptop!
- Why did we spend all this money on a Zoom license if we are not going to show our faces?
- This person must be in their pajamas or butt ass naked.
- How can I recognize this person and their work if I don’t have a face to attach to the conversation/work/project/sale/etc.
- How messy is their office or room that you don’t want to turn on your camera?
These are some of the more admirable thoughts that will run through a leader’s mind. It only goes downhill from the above. Think about it this way.
Would you ever attend a meeting in person and ask all the participants to put bags over their heads so they can’t see you?
We might as well go back to the dark ages and ask for a quarter to make a call at a phone booth. At least in a phone booth, I could entertain myself with the graffiti, vandalism, and stench of urine when I shut the door in a 3X3 standing coffin. On Zoom, I got nothing to look at unless I open up another browser window and pay attention to something more interesting.
Pre-pandemic, I blogged about the consequences of not posting a headshot on their LinkedIn profile. That rant (I mean advice) can be found here: Your Linkedin profile picture is holding you back.
A few words on avatars
The other thing that will potentially frustrate your colleagues and manager, is using an avatar for your picture. The avatar tells me something about your personality (you like anime or are a dog or a cat), and it tells me something about your professional image (you don’t have one). But it doesn’t let me figure out who you are. There is a reason multi-billion-dollar video conference companies give you a space for a headshot. Why do execs have recent headshots on their LinkedIn profiles? There is a reason we are using a VIDEO platform to communicate.
Headshots help build connections, and create a professional image (or lack of). Pictures help us identify who we are and who to give credit to. It is also a sign of how we look at our professional presentation layer and represent ourselves to the company’s customers and partners.
Use your company’s About page as an example
Look at any company’s “About” page, and you will see professional pictures of that company’s leadership. You won’t see a blank, empty box or an avatar. If they are taking the time to post a picture, you should as well. And FWIW, you don’t need to go to a professional photographer. With today’s modern cell phone, you can create a great-looking headshot with a personal phone in front of a brick wall or other simple background.
See you at the after party
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, ridiculously good, tricky, and manipulative but with the result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone good at something. “He has a nasty forkball.”
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