How to win with your professional photo shoot

How to win with your professional photo shoot_Amanda_Blesing.png

We all know that people make split second judgments (4 seconds or less).  With CVs and recruitment moving more and more to online platforms like LinkedIn, your photo is one of the things that really matters.  It's a door opener, a trust and credibility builder, and has the potential to add 10s of 1000s of $$ onto your earnings over the course of your career. 

You never get a second chance to make a first impression

The flip side is also true. A bad photo keeps you missing out time and time again, for opportunities that you never even got to hear about. And never will.  

There's an old saying "dress for the job you want, not the job you have". The same goes for your professional headshot.  Your photo should position you for the role of your dreams, and not be something you were lucky to cut out from the previous year's Xmas party snaps. 

My US Celebrity Photoshoot

Four years ago I had my first professional photoshoot done. I was in the USA attending a speaker training week with Michael Port and he had brought a celebrity speaker photographer onsite for us to take advantage of.  It was an eye opening experience to say the least!  David (photographer) was hilarious with his "yeah baby, work it" comments bouncing off the walls as we posed and draped uncomfortably (we had been warned). But the results were phenomenal and we all felt a million bucks! In fact, I'm still using the shots he took then, and would do it again in a heartbeat if I got the chance.

I know many of my clients still feel uncomfortable with this idea. That it's somehow big-noting yourself at worst and unnecessary at best.   So to help feel more comfortable and to make the most of your next photoshoot, here are my nine tips for executive women and busy experts with big, hairy, audacious career goals.

I love the person I’ve become, because I fought to become her
— Kaci Diane


Nine Nifty Notes for Preparing for a Successful Photoshoot!

1. Think “successful leader” and “future personal brand” in your industry as you prepare - the role you want, not the role you have.  If you're aiming for a leadership role in a mining company, wear a suit, not the fluro. If you're aiming for a leadership role in education, dress yourself appropriately again. Ask yourself "What do the leaders in my industry typically wear on a good day?"  

2. Bring a change of jacket (or have a top which you could wear with a jacket or without) so you an get advice (and perspective) about what works best. This also means you can have two different looks in your allotted time slot. Head and shoulders is all that's required for LinkedIn.


3. Don't be afraid of wearing colour - avoid all black and charcoal gray is definitely out for most women.  Note my own photo has a black jacket but I have a white top underneath for a bit of a highlight. If I had my shoot again (and I will) I'll definitely be adding some colour or highlights. 

4. Show your throat - don't wear a high neckline or collar. According to research this signifies trust. I guess the exception to the rule here would be if you were interviewing for a ski resort where the turtle neck is ubiquitous with style.

5. Aim for a V neckline shape - so if you are wearing a round/square top, pop a structured jacket over the top. The current shape of the LinkedIn photo window doesn't flatter the round neckline much, plus the stereotypes around leadership lend themselves to a more V shaped neckline.

6. Blend the feminine with the masculine - a structured masculine business shirt is also not recommended for most women pitching into leadership - blend the masculine with the feminine (structure & flow/yin & yang).

7. Accessorise with your role (and stereotypes) in mind - a little jewellery is perfect but nothing too dominating. The focus is on you, your leadership cred and building connection.

8. KISS - Steer clear of too much patterning or clutter. It can be distracting. It's you we want to get to know.

9. Makeup is highly recommended - and dress your hair before you go. Although, obviously you can use the facilities onsite if you need.  Don't forget to ask the photographer to photoshop your pick of the images. Blemishes, spots, flyaway hair etc can all be managed for a price. If the celebrities do it, why can't you? 

Bonus tip #10  -  Be a poser - Angle yourself so your shoulders are on a diagonal, you are looking back at the camera and smiling. Smiling is great, likability is important. Don't be a afraid to try a range of poses. The pose that felt the most awkward  and uncomfortable for me, was the one I ended up liking the best.  It's not stupid. It's not egotistical. Everyone is a different shape and we all have different goals, so different poses suit different people.

My personal favourite is the arm folded/crossed. It works for me and has worked for a few of my clients.   

Check out Helen , Nuala and Kathryn in their before and after shots.  Phenomenal. (Well done to each of them!) 

Helen Mandziejewski pre photoshoot

Helen Mandziejewski pre photoshoot

Nuala Ward pre photoshoot

Nuala Ward pre photoshoot

Thanks to Helen Mandziejewski

Thanks to Helen Mandziejewski

Thanks to Nuala Ward for sharing

Thanks to Nuala Ward for sharing

Kathryn Vosper pre photoshoot

Kathryn Vosper pre photoshoot

Thanks to Kathryn Vosper for sharing

Thanks to Kathryn Vosper for sharing

Here are a couple of great examples for your to check out on LinkedIn.  

BEFORE YOU GO - Women of Impact go on tour!

We're heading back on Retreat to Palm Cove in 2019    Limited places as ensuring the right mix of people are in the room is important to the success of the event.

If you're interested in learning more about the program, drop us a note. Click on the button to register your interest and we'll send you the pricing and details.

  • Super Early Bird rates to 14 February

  • Early Bird Pricing to 30 June 2019.

  • Email to learn more


Like this? Read more



Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Why some executive women win


In the last couple of months so many of my clients have had seriously big wins. I am so incredibly proud of them as they achieved –

  • BIG salary negotiations, renegotiations on negotiations, or even negotiating for the very first time (did you know that, according to Glassdoor, less than 68% of women negotiate on initial offer?)
  • Tackling bigger projects or career goals than ever before
  • Award nominations and wins
  • First time C-suite and CEO roles
  • $25K-$150K+ salary increases, and
  • Feeling like they are on track with their career again.
You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?
— Rumi

I get goose bumps just thinking about it!

But it made me wonder – why does it appear to be easier for some than others?  

To help everyone who reads my blog, not just the ones who work with me, I’ve examined the commonalities of those kicking major goals.

What is common amongst these women? 

1. They have an attitude of positivity, possibility and optimism. They're able to park their "critic" and the “cynic” at the door, to embrace new ideas and tactics and then simply get on with the business of being great. They also have a YES, AND approach. If I say “jump”, they say, “YES, AND how can I take this even further?”. If I saw "try this", they say, "YES, AND I also want to try this. What do you think?"  Does this mean naïve? Not at all. Does this mean they always win? No again. But action creates momentum and a positive mindset helps build resilience.

2. They are proactive, deliberate and strategic. They take proactive action - with minimal hesitation - and most importantly, in the direction of their choice. When faced with an obstacle they find another way – smarter, simpler, easier. For some this is the first time they've aimed at a role and tried to create/land/win it. Recently, two clients wrote out their ideal Job Description when they first started with me - and now both have created those roles. One created her new role from scratch, the other won an existing role. Either way, this has significant WOW factor.

3. They’re not afraid to ask for help. They ask smart questions to get the right information that will help them with their goals.  And instead of suffering in silence, wondering if they are on track, they reach out for additional support sooner rather than later. A fiercely, independent blueprint might sound good in theory, but definitely has it's downside.  It’s not weak or wrong to ask for more support. It’s human and can also trigger serious momentum.


4. They get out of their own way – and don’t sweat the small stuff. They have been able to park the small me that will try and keep then safe. And they only worry about the things that matter most.  The down side of playing a safe game is that it's frequently also a small or comfortable game. And as the saying goes - “worry is like sitting in a rocking chair – simply rocking backwards and forwards going nowhere.”

5. They trust their gut. They’ve learned to trust their own judgment - how to discern the difference between excitement fear v's terrified fear, feedback v’s gaslighting or personal attack and good v’s bad advice, even if the bad advice is delivered by someone who is more mature, more authoritative etc. They know how to navigate through it and get to what's important. 

So excited! So proud.

A Winning Case Study

One wonderful client was feeling overwhelmed, as she prepared to go on holiday. She suggested to me that she would mothball nominating for an Award until 2019.  Others around her were all in agreement, because it was true. She was worn out. 

You can imagine my response.

There had to be a smarter way.   Old thinking such as working hard, brand busy and relentless execution will only get you so far and will keep you worn out. What about a new and easier way of tackling this?

As a result she has now not only effortlessly nominated for one Award, but found another Award opportunity while she was away, and felt so good about herself after the process that she created two more Award nomination opportunities upon her return.  All this while lying poolside on a drop and flop holiday!

I’ll keep you posted on how she goes. Wish her luck!

Here's the Twist - These Attitudes Also Keep you Younger Longer

These attitudes that my clients are displaying may also keep them younger longer. Researchers are finding that your mental patterns could be harming, or helping, your telomeres — essential parts of the cell’s DNA — and effecting your life and health, according to Nobel-winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn and health psychologist Elissa Epel.

The tops three issues that that damage your telomeres and contribute to you aging faster?

  • Cynical hostility 
  • Pessimism 
  • Worrying 

Not only will all three take years off your life, but they will also keep you playing small.

So ditch the negativity and rumination and adopt a more positive approach and you win hands down. And to borrow a phrase from a catchy ditty from the 80’s – “Don’t worry, be happy”.

And if it hasn't happened to you yet, it will. Keep the faith.

► YOUR THOUGHTS?  Have you noticed a more positive mindset helps with your career, health and happiness? And what do you do to maintain that positivity? 


#MakeABiggerDifference #FeminineAmbitionRocks #WomenOfImpact 

Read further:

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Let's talk more about money, salary and superannuation for women

I was 36 years old, earning just $36K per annum, on a short-term contract when I finally ‘woke up’.

No kids, no big, expensive divorce and no-one had gambled away my savings

Yet I had no money in the bank and no prospects either.    

I had however, started my career late and worked casually, in low paying industries with a focus on purpose, passion and lifestyle (including a stint in PNG as an expat) rather than financial freedom.


If wealth was measured in adventure I’d have been one of the wealthiest women around! 

But it’s not - and I wasn’t.

We live in a world where money matters.

My financial situation sucked.

Sadly, I was/am not alone.

Women in Australia not only earn less than men (currently 15.3% WGEA), but when we retire we have just half the savings of men.

In fact, almost 30% of women who retired in the past four years had no superannuation at all, according to the latest HIDLA study.

For me three things happened 

  1. I got really serious about my career progress. Enough of the fun stuff. Time to apply my talents elsewhere.
  2. I took responsibility for turning around my earning potential and superannuation balance. 
  3. I met a woman who inspired & taught me lots about finances.

I drew my line in the sand.

Have you drawn yours yet? 

The article in this link is yet another salutary (& timely) reminder. Thanks to Angela Priestly of Women's Agenda for inspiring this blog.

Negotiation, salary and superannuation for women are some of my favourite themes. We simply don't talk about it enough. There is nothing grubby about talking about money so let's do more of it!  Three more articles in the links below.





Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Eight practical win win strategies to help you negotiate a raise

“Work out what you’d like, double it, then add 20%.  That’s your asking price.”

I heard this line recently in an online forum.  It’s obviously a throw away line and not exactly science. But I wonder if every now and then we shouldn’t revisit our own perception of what we’re worth through the above lens? 

Certainly I use this formula as a discussion starting point with female clients as they start working on “levelling up” in their career.  Their reaction to the statement is probably the biggest window into what motivates them, their current perception of their own value and worth, along with where to focus next.

This is the third article in a series to help women negotiate better outcomes for themselves. 

  • The first was all about being able to articulate your own value. The reality is that people who “get ahead more easily” are far more likely to be great at speaking in language of value.
  • The second article brought together a range of pieces of research about women and negotiation and the issue of likeability (or lack there of).
  • And this third article is your “how to” guide – specifically how to prepare.  So instead of;
    • avoiding because you don’t want to rock the boat, or
    • giving up because you can’t deal with the thought of disappointment, or even
    • going in combatively and upsetting yourself and the other party,
      you simply go in with a plan, some options and a clear understanding a range of strategies that have worked for others.

The reality is though when we are negotiating our own salary or raise there are a bunch of assumptions, perceived and real, that we need to work around including:

  • Biases both conscious and unconscious including likeability or lack there of
  • Salary banding
  • Previous incumbent in the role
  • Industry standards
  • Recent financial performance of the organisation as a whole
  • Directives from the C-suite

And when you are a fair minded individual who likes to consider the well being of others, it’s difficult to know whether or not to challenge these assumptions when you go in to negotiate on our own behalf.  So this particular article is a combination of the different strategies that I’ve learned from negotiation experts and researchers around the globe to help you negotiate more easily, and successfully, on your own behalf.

1.     Why not adopt a growth mindset?  Growth mindset – when you believe you can learn to do just about anything. You’ll just need to note the three provisos:

  • You’ll definitely feel uncomfortable,
  • You might even get it wrong or make mistakes along the way, and
  • You’ll probably have to do some work. 
“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”
— Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

If you understand the growth mindset then it somehow makes each negotiation conversation part of a learning curve, just part and parcel of getting ahead, rather than a personal slight or affront when you it doesn’t all go your way.  My suggestion? Win some, lose some, keep a cool head, then have another go.

2.     Reframe the conversation from a fight or justification conversation to a collaboration and problem solving activity.  You are helping your manager solve the problem of remunerating you as you would like, plus meet organisational objectives! When we do this it becomes more of a win win. It’s really hard to think that someone is “hard nosed” and “greedy” when you are helping them solve their problems.

3.     It’s not all about the dollar value:  In speaking with recruiters they tell me that sometimes people get hung up on the Big Number when in fact they might be better off emotionally and/or financially with asking for flexibility in working from home or starting/finishing late, or an extra week’s leave per year or additional training/mentoring or coaching included in their package. Flexibility around your thinking about these things might be more rewarding for both men and women all around.  I’m not advocating for women to accept less money than men doing the same role. Instead I’m advocating an honest analysis of your current situation. It may in fact be worth more to you to ask instead for other solutions.

4.     Do your research and align yourself with others:  Find out what industry benchmarks and standards there are, how you compare, what else is going on in industry and other case studies where things have been successful. According to Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In fame – if you refer to other perspectives it somehow lends legitimacy to your argument and demonstrates that you’ve thought this through.  When you refer to “we” it somehow adds credibility – you are part of a bigger picture.

5.     Cite Sheryl Sandberg: yes there is such a thing as a “Sheryl Sandberg effect”.  Apparently after the release of her “Lean In” book women were hitting up their boss for raises with lines such as “Sheryl Sandberg would be disappointed in me if I didn’t ask for a raise”.  Fact or fiction? I don’t know, but it does point to the fact that you’ve done your homework, you’re taking your career seriously as well as aligning yourself to a cause (the success of women everywhere).  It certainty can't hurt.

6.     Do it all at once: When you do negotiate (or renegotiate) do so all at once, not in dribs and drabs throughout the year.  Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it?  When you are asking for things throughout the year you are trying to “win each battle” one issue at a time.  Apparently when you negotiate a package all at once you are more likely to be able to come to a solution that meets the needs of both parties.

7.     Make a plan and test it: Work out what your non negotiable items are and test your thinking as well, then document a range of scenarios in case they say yes to this item but no to that item. How might you respond?  How might you counter? How might they respond? How might they counter?  Negotiation expert, Carrie Gallant has a great template you can use.

Dan Pink in his book To Sell Is Human uses the term buoyancy and how important it is in remaining optimistic and agile in a sales environment. Well negotiating for yourself is in part a sales environment – you are influencing others to your way of thinking.  We an learn from this as we approach forming our plan.

“Ask yourself questions beforehand (“Can I succeed?”) rather than pumping yourself up (“I am the best”); they encourage your brain to come up with answers, reasons, and intrinsic motivation.”

8.     Eat, sleep, rehearse, repeat: Yes, you heard me, rehearse/roleplay/practice. 

Thinking about an apple, and planning what will happen when we eat the apple, is EXTREMELY different to actually eating the apple. 

You need to rehearse saying these things out loud. 

Long story short – many years ago when I was making my first foray into asking for a six figure salary my coach asked me to role play that “asking”.  She gave me the language and invited me to say it out loud.  I baulked!!  Then squeaked it out with a high pitched voice and an upward inflection which undermined my credibility immediately

Don’t assume you’ll be fine on the day. Find a trusted friend, coach or mentor and say these words out loud. Get feedback and say them again until you are comfortable and agile around the language.  Eat, sleep, rehearse, repeat.

I love Carol Dweck’s growth mindset work. She has inspired me so much when it comes to tackling goals and ambitions that are well outside of my comfort zone.  And I reckon her ideas on the growth mindset become almost like a self fulfilling prophecy – the more you believe you can make yourself extraordinary – the more you in fact become extraordinary.

So when it comes to tackling salary package negotiations for ourselves, which many people find uncomfortable, it's probably better to do it with a growth mindset and an understanding that you’ll simply keep on getting better at it the more you do it.

Vive la révolution!  #ambitionrevolution


 If you missed it - The F Word that Keeps Us Playing Small

  •  I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 
  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

The Shocking Truth About the Gender Pay Gap

Over the past few months I’ve been writing about gender diversity, addressing issues such as unconscious bias, the differences in male and female brain biology, socialisation differences between men and women, how all these things interplay and impact on our working lives and career and keep us playing small.


In recent weeks a range of articles or sources of information have come my way that are painting a rather disappointing picture around the gender pay gap – and for many women who read this, the following information may make your eyes go wide. 



But if we go right back to when men and women first enter the workforce as graduates we begin to see a very interesting picture. Professor Linda Babcock, Carnegie Mellon University and the author of Women Don’t Ask has found that;

"men initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women do, and that when women do negotiate, they ask for 30 percent less money than men do."

Marilyn Davidson from the Manchester Business School in the UK asks her students each year what they expect to earn, and what they deserve to earn, five years after graduation. 

"On average the men think they deserve $80,000 a year and the women $64,000—or 20 percent less."

And most recently in the news here in Australia headlines have been reminding us that women need to work extra 15 years to retire with same money as male colleagues. What with women starting on a lower salary, then not asking for increases, taking career breaks for family or study, not negotiating as hard when they have the opportunity, not being offered or considered for the same higher salaried opportunities, combined with biases both conscious and unconscious – women will need to stay in the workforce for far longer before they can retire.

So what are some of the contributing actors behind these discrepancies?

  • Unconscious bias- where men and women judge a woman negatively if she negotiates too hard, or if she says she sings her own praises amongst other things,
  • Lack of confidence when it comes to asking for a raise – there are multiple studies now proving that when it comes to negotiation in general women are less confident than men
  • Socialisation – young girls socialised to not rock the boat, with the concept of the ideal woman being diminutive, likeable and unassuming runs through all of this and is a too large a topic for this post but in all likelihood has considerable impact
  • Lack of societal expectation for women to be the breadwinner or take the lead with salary (although we are seeing more and more role reversal in recent years)
  • Roles that are deemed to be “women’s work” and are paid less well i.e. secretarial, admin support and child care
  • Career breaks and flexible arrangements to raise children or undertake further study
  • Stereotype threat – which deserves a whole article of its own.

Then if we move into accepting some responsibility for the part that we as women play in perpetuating this cycle:

So what can we do about it?

1. If you are a women wanting to advance your career and earning potential then you need to accept some responsibility for your part in the equation – and by examining how the way you were brought up, the cultural and societal expectations that underpin some of your belief systems is a great way to start.

2. The next step is to start playing the right game. Get really clear about what it is you want and need in your career, when you expect to retire, how much you’d like (and need) to earn, and what possible steps you could put in place right now to get the ball rolling. Put a plan in place. You probably work with a strategy in your role. Do the same for your career.

3. Do you research. In recent weeks some really big name organisations such as Salesforce have come out publicly to talk about how they are going to address this gender salary gap issue. What can you learn from their approach? 

4. Start asking for more and a great starting place would be learning more about negotiation tactics that work for women. Linda Babcock & Sara Laschever’s book Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide is an excellent resource.

5. Start practising. If this skill doesn’t come easy to you (and it probably won't) rehearse it with a trusted friend, colleague, coach or mentor. 

6. And finally understand that it will never feel like a good time. It will always be busy, you will frequently feel underprepared, ill equipped or like a fraud. You simply need to initiate discussions anyway.

This is an important issue and its not going away any time soon. The WGEA report highlights that the gender pay gap has not shifted much in 20 years. Now is the time to do something about it. Start with you.

Vive la révolution! Ambition Revolution! 

  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and art of amping smart and savvy.
  • I mentor ambitious professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game.
  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so.
  • If you enjoyed this article please head on over to for more or sign up for my e-newsletter right here.

Other articles:

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months