Hello! I don’t know why, but every time I talk to my fellow college students about LinkedIn, their eyes just glaze over. A few of my peers have profiles, but none of them get on the site regularly. I am here to tell you that LinkedIn is a valuable networking tool that you cannot be ignoring during your college years. In fact, college is the best time to build your LinkedIn profile! If you have been ignoring LinkedIn, or thinking you don’t need a profile until you graduate, you are wasting precious time!
LinkedIn is like a super resume that you can add to and build as you gain experience in your college years. By starting your LinkedIn profile freshman year, or even the summer before college, you are setting up your blank page, just waiting to be filled in with all the amazing opportunities and experiences you are going to have in college. If you’re not a freshman, that’s okay too! it’s never too late to set up your LinkedIn profile, and the sooner you start, the better.
Setting up Your LinkedIn Profile:
If you have never set up your LinkedIn before and are doing it for the very first time, start here!
- Go to linkedin.com (duh!) and put in your name, email, and password. The next few pages will ask you for basic info, like zip code, university, etc. Fill those in, and then verify your account with your email like it asks!
- Once you get to your blank profile page, it’s time to start adding in information! You can start with basic stuff if you don’t have time, but the more you can add in the better. Do this before you try to add connections. Otherwise the people who come to your page will see nothing.
- One of the first things you should add is a profile photo. It doesn’t have to be a professionally taken head shot, but it also shouldn’t be a phone selfie. Mine is a photo of me presenting a poster at a conference. Choose something that is high quality, professional, and only has you in it.
- You can add things like work experience, volunteer experience, projects, etc. to your profile by going to the upper right hand side of the page and clicking “Add new profile section”
Here’s a screenshot of my LinkedIn, so you can see what it looks like! The blue button in the corner is where you’ll add in most of your information, and the pencil to the right of your profile photo allows you to edit your name, school, headline, and summary!
Level Up Your LinkedIn Profile:
So now you have a profile! Just making one and putting in your information isn’t enough! Here’s how to bring it to the next level.
As you can see in my example, you can add a background photo. LinkedIn recommends your photo to be 1584 x 396. I recommend using canva.com, a free website that will allow you to enter your custom dimensions, and provides free photos you can use for your background photo!
Personalize your public profile.
Step one, edit your url. To do this, you will need to click on the box “Edit your public profile” which will allow you to change your url, as well as some other cool tools! Change your url so it reads www.linkedin.com/in/yourname. This makes it really easy for employers to remember and find, and also makes it so when people google search you, your linkedin profile is what pops up!
On the same page where you edit your url, you can edit what strangers see when they click your profile. The left of the page is just a copy of what the public sees without being your connection. The right of the page allows you to choose which of those things you want to keep private and only allow your connections to see. To me, LinkedIn is a professional site, and I am proud of the things I have done. I leave almost all of my profile open to the public.
Utilize your headline.
If you’re in college, the automatically created headline will be “student at…”. That won’t catch any eyes! You also don’t want it to be your current part time job that likely has nothing to do with your career. As you can see in the above photo, my tagline is “aspiring social studies educator”. This shows people that I am in the process of becoming a social studies teacher! Play around with it, but make it interesting and eye-catching – you are so much more than just a student.
Perfect your summary.
When you made your LinkedIn profile, you probably wrote some perfunctory summary, with basic deatils. The summary, however, should be the powerhouse of your page. It can show your personality, not just accomplishments and data. You can (and should) be using your summary to tell your story, as well as packing it full of keywords related to your career. I’m still not totally satisfied with my summary, but here’s mine for an example!
Using Your Profile!
Okay everyone, this is where most people fail. You can make the prettiest LinkedIn profile on earth, but if you never use it, it will all be wasted time! And when I say using it, that doesn’t just mean getting on every few months and adding a few connections. LinkedIn is a form of social media, something that so many people forget! You have to use it, or no one will know you’re there!
Your first step needs to be building your network. Based on your university and zip code, LinkedIn will recommend people who have similar experiences to you that you probably know. Start with those people! Add your parents, your friends, your coworkers – there’s nothing wrong with that.
Your next step should be adding professors, students with similar majors, and leaders in your field. These are people who you might not know personally, but they can still be valuable connections that you can make through LinkedIn!*
* It’s really important, when messaging people you have never met in real life, to write a personal note.* LinkedIn allows you to click “connect” and it sends an automated message to the person, asking them to connect with you. If you know that person, that’s totally fine. When you’re trying to network with new people, however, this won’t cut it. Go to their profile, click the three dots near their name, and click connect. It will then let you choose to send a note. Explain to that person why you want to connect. Make it personal, explain how you’re connected, and why you want to connect with them. Don’t ever write “to get a job”. If you’re not sure who you should be adding, check out this next bit!
Utilize the alumni tool!
This is an often overlooked part of LinkedIn that can be wildly helpful! Go to www.linkedin.com/alumni, and it will take you to your school’s alumni page, which looks like this.
From there, you can click the “what they do” portion to find people who are currently out there working in your field! If you know where you want to live and work, you can even find people who work in your field in that area. For me, I looked at education majors living in the greater Chicago area, where I want to live and work. I connected with several people who are more than willing to help out current students at their alma mater. Send them a personalized note, say your major and that you went to the same college as them, and they will almost always connect with you, and can be valuable mentors in the future. They might even help you get a job!
Being Active on LinkedIn.
Like I mentioned earlier, building your LinkedIn profile and finding connections is only half the battle. You can have tons of awesome connections but if you never post, they’re going to forget you exist! This is something I honestly failed at for the first two years I had a LinkedIn. You should be getting on LinkedIn and doing one of the following things at least once a week.
- When something good happens in your professional life, write about it! Maybe you got a new job, an internship, learned something really cool about your field, etc. Share it on LinkedIn. Keep it professional, and make sure everything is spelled correctly.
- Share articles you have read that are related to your field. Even better? Write a thoughtful comment or question in your post when you share them. Show that you read the article and have been thinking about it. Unless it’s important in your field, avoid being too political, future employers may not want to see that.
- Comment on and like other people’s posts! Stay professional, and unlike facebook, never, ever, start a fight. The golden rule here is if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep scrolling. Starting and maintaining intelligent conversations is a skill, and you can practice it on LinkedIn!
- If you like to write, or have a blog, share your posts! Not all of my posts belong on LinkedIn, because they don’t really relate to my career, skills, etc. Most of them, however, I do share with my LinkedIn connections. One of my favorite bloggers, Amanda, is killing the game on LinkedIn posting. She writes some blog posts directly on LinkedIn, as well as sharing other posts from her blog! Check out her profile for more inspiration!
- Join groups and like pages. There are tons of groups on LinkedIn, with topics that cover just about everything. Joining groups of other professionals in your field not only brings in new connections, but also looks great on your profile. You can also “like” the pages of influencers, companies, and industry leaders. Again, these show up on your public profile, so keep them professional, and avoid liking any pages/groups that are heavily political or partisan.
General Tips and Advice:
- Looking at other people’s profiles, especially people with similar majors as you, is an amazing way to build your own. It has taken me quite a while to get my LinkedIn to the place it is today. Don’t copy people, but there’s nothing wrong with looking for inspiration!
- Double and triple check for spelling and grammar. If there is ever a time to use the right forms of your and its, it’s now (haha). Your LinkedIn profile needs to be pristine. If you don’t trust yourself, have a friend that’s good with grammar double check everything!
- Don’t have your high school life on LinkedIn. You’ll likely hear this advice when it comes to resumes in college as well. Unless you were a nationally recognized scholar, or something truly amazing happened to you, don’t have high school accomplishments on LinkedIn. Maybe for your first semester of college it is okay to have some, but after that you need to focus on what you have done in college!
- If you work a part time job that has nothing to do with your career, you should still have it on LinkedIn. Focus on the transferable skills the job has taught you, like leadership and teamwork. Up-sell those qualities, since the job itself doesn’t teach you about your career.
- Don’t forget you can use LinkedIn for internships. If you have a good number of connections, posting that you are searching for an internship might bring you something really great! You can also look at your goal companies, and see if they are looking for interns. LinkedIn isn’t just for finding jobs!
- If you have a common name, use your middle initial on your LinkedIn profile. This will make you stand out from others with your name and make you easier to find. If you use it on LinkedIn, make sure to use it on your resume and other documents like that as well.
- As you start doing big projects and assignments relevant to your field, add them to LinkedIn. This semester I made a few lesson plans, so I added them in to my profile to show what I could do! Don’t let those assignments that you put so much work into go to waste!
Phew! That was a lot of information that I just dropped on you. Your LinkedIn profile won’t be perfect all at once. It takes time and effort to make a LinkedIn that really shows your stuff! That’s why I recommend starting one as soon as possible, and working on it a little bit every week. If you want to check out my profile, or add me as a connection (always networking), you can find me here! Just write that you read my post in your note and I will add you! If you have any questions about LinkedIn, feel free to email me or comment below – I love helping people with their LinkedIn profile!