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Tess Vigeland: Searching for a job is full-time work for lots of Americans right now. And one tool they're using is social media. But if you're a novice at Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites like LinkedIn, you might encounter some unexpected hurdles from the moment you set up an account.

Reporter Deb Monroe sure did.


Deb Monroe: I think I know what drove Joan Rivers to plastic surgery: She must have had her photo taken for LinkedIn.

Micaela: It depends on how you manipulate the photo.

That's my daughter Micaela. As a college sophomore, she's a social media picture pro. She suggested I do what all the younger gals do:

Micaela: You can do black and white or sepia tone. It kinda erases all the imperfections on your face. Or you can do a head-on shot and not do anything to the picture, and you can look fat or ugly no matter who you are.

At this point, I'm more concerned about how old I look. How am I supposed to find a job looking like I'm auditioning for the role of somebody's mother in a gritty crime drama? The only thing worse than having a not-so-great photo is not having one at all.

Krista Canfield is LinkedIn's PR manager.

Krista Canfield: For instance, before I met you today, it would have been nice to say, "Oh, is that Debra who's sitting in the lobby?"

And as to my worry about appearing too mature...

Canfield: The nice thing about it is, it's just one picture and it should be a professional headshot.

Wait. Did you catch that? LinkedIn recommends a professional headshot. There was a time when only actors had headshots. But social media changed all that, which Canfield says is a good thing.

Canfield: I think it's a more of a leveling the playing field for all professionals.

Now that even us regular worker bees need headshots, it's no surprise that some photographers now market themselves as social media specialists. So I arrange to meet one.

Monroe: OK, how about her? She's older.

Karina Louise: She's older, she's 63.

Bay Area-based Karina Louise shows me her portfolio.

Louise: Here's a photo of another professional woman. She's a bit older. She's about 55. She needed some photos for her website and for LinkedIn.

Karina says they experimented with angles and light to minimize age lines. The client seemed satisfied with the results in the camera's display panel, but when the actual photos arrived?

Louise: I heard some complaints about how old she looked.

Compare that to another older client. In his photo, he doesn't look worried about his crow's feet, the gray around his temples or that his clothes don't even match.

Louise: He was really fun to work with, really easy, confident, happy with how he looked even though he maybe isn't the stereotypical beautiful man, but attractive man.

And that, says Karina, is the difference between men and women. Generally speaking, men worry less about their photos, and as a result, often take better pictures. And Karina's noticed another difference, too.

Louise: There's something about with photographing men versus women is men when they're not smiling can look confident. Women when they're not smiling, it's a little bit cold.

So now I have to smile. That means I'll have to whiten my teeth. And for that, I'll need more time. Whew! One more excuse to delay having my photo taken for LinkedIn.

In Berkeley, this is Deb Monroe for Marketplace.

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