Queer Professional Representation
With the growth of social media permeating our personal and work lives, we are reading less and less, more likely to skim than fully engage in a text. We rely more than ever on strong visual content to capture our attention or tell a story. Some platforms, such as Instagram, rely mostly on imagery or video, with copy mostly relegated to witty captions and hashtags, all in an effort to stand out among the hundreds of images an average social media scans per day. In fact, a whole new economy has emerged to support personal users and brands in capture the right selfie, or branded moment to share with followers. These social media feeds often become a carefully curated feed, or visual narrative, meant to show only the best of moments. As such, social media can often lose its sense of authenticity, serving as a veneer to a more complex reality. This becomes a particular challenge on career-focused social platforms, wherein users must find a balance between showing the best of what they do, with being authentic and approachable. This makes using a professional-looking headshot on a platform like LinkedIn of particular importance.
Capturing the perfect business headshot for LinkedIn or any other business profile, is a relatively new necessity for the average worker. Unless you are an actor or performer, where headshots have always been de rigueur, you probably haven’t even considered it as part of your job search budget! Nowadays, it’s become increasingly important to have a professional headshot--more than a selfie--that represents who you are. According to Corinne Phillips, QueerCut Chief Technology Officer and host of Transition of Style, a good headshot “is much more than a selfie, it represents you as a professional and shows how serious you are to a potential employer. It can capture your unique self, helping you to stand out from other potential hires.” She continues, “When I've had a great job interview I’m always happy that I’ve left my potential employer not just with my resume but with a headshot on my resume so that there is a complete picture of my candidacy.”
Creating a professional headshot for your business profile can also help to establish your visual identity and how you want to be perceived in the workplace. From a personal perspective, a headshot photo shoot can be an opportunity to explore your ideal professional attire, to consider what makes you most comfortable. For an employer, seeing a headshot prior to an in-person interview can communicate your authentic self, including your preferred gender identity and expression. In fact, this visual might help to cue important conversations about company values and culture early on, to ensure there is a good fit between you and the company before contracts are signed.
It’s important to remember that the visual you choose to represent yourself may also close some doors, even before the interview. In the United States, this can lead to illegal discrimination based on appearance, which is why it’s not standard to have a headshot on a physical resume. However, as hiring becomes more digital, it’s harder to hide behind a photo-free, paper resume. It’s better to control the visual narrative from the beginning as much as possible. Corinne reacts, “NO, looks don't and shouldn't matter when it comes to job performance, but I do want an employer to see that I took the time to put together not just my work history but also a professional headshot that may give them a glimpse into how seriously I take myself as a professional. I have the power to control that narrative.”
When looking for a job, it is important to consider corporate dress codes and how your own personal style may be adapted within cultural expectations. Be honest with yourself whether a company has the potential to be a good fit for you, beyond just your job duties. When possible, be strategic in the types of headshots you present, dependant on your audience, while staying within your range of comfortability. For example, if you are cis-female and identify masculine-left-of-center, but are fairly casual in your appearance, consider whether or not dressing in a traditional men’s suit would work for you.
In other cases, when uniforms are required, determine how much room you have to adapt the clothing. In a recent episode of Transition of Style, guest Angelina Lim discusses how she adapted her American Airlines flight attendant uniform to remain true to her identity. She recalls, “I had to get [my uniform] tailored because it's all just big and boxy. The first time I wore the uniform I looked like Kim Jong-il's cousin or something. I had these glasses and this big jacket. It looked horrible." She also remembers thinking, “I’m not going to wear this scarf around my neck. I can't do it, I'm not that person. I’ve got the makeup on already. So, I started wearing it as a tie...and that kind of evolved into I only wear pants.”
Joshua Williams, Chief Branding Officer of QueerCut, adds, “it can be frustrating to work in an environment that enforces dress codes, especially those that feel outdated and overly conservative, out of step with current social change or awareness of fluidity in gender. And these dress codes are often much more stringent towards women than men—requiring women to bras, high heels, and more—essentially making it more expensive for women to perform the same job as men. These rules will only change if employees communicate these concerns to management, and offer alternatives. Ultimately, feeling comfortable in how one dresses and expresses themselves, leads to better performance.”
Where to Go
Finding someone to take your headshot can be tough, especially if you live outside a major metropolitan area like Chicago or New York City. However, the internet has made it easier to search for photographers, of all types, and that’s a good place to start. You may also want to reach out to friends and colleagues, especially those that have headshots that you admire. A good reference can go a long way. And finally, remember that an image is also part you and the photographer. Choosing a photographer that shares your values and aesthetic will ensure you capture your true, authentic self. Hiring a queer photographer will certainly make you more comfortable on set, and provide ample room for your to explore how you want to represent yourself in a safe, inclusive space. Additionally, consider finding a stylist and a tailor in the same way; individuals you can trust to help you find clothes that suit your body and style, and ensure their proper fit.
Not only will you feel more comfortable working with a queer photographer, stylist or tailor, it’s a great way to ensure your dollars support the queer economy! It’s another way to communicate the need to corporate America that queer voices and talent matter.
—Adrian Gray, Chief Blogging Officer
QueerCut is excited to expand their QueerSp_ce project supporting creativity and expression within the queer community. Recently, they held their first ever Queer Portrait Party, an opportunity for all guests to consult with a professional photographer and get their headshot taken. Stay tuned for future events by checking the Events Calendar.