Step aside social-media-of-the-day: it’s time to talk about a classic. LinkedIn launched in 2003, making it one of the original social media sites, but you probably didn’t make a profile on it as a teenager. To maximize your future career opportunities, it’s time for all students – undergraduate and graduate – to create or update their LinkedIn profile. This guide will help you understand the role of LinkedIn in your job search and provide tips for student profiles.
What Is LinkedIn Exactly?
Just like dating apps replaced speed dating nights, LinkedIn replaced handing out your business card and printed resume. LinkedIn is an ever-evolving professional development platform, and it is most commonly used as 1) a platform for professionals to network; 2) a job board; and 3) a platform where recruiters identify talent. It has other functions for businesses and additional features like LinkedIn Learning, but the first 3 are most relevant to students.
Where Do I Start?
The first step is to make a LinkedIn profile. Let’s go through best practices for students with each part of your profile:
- Banner – Located at the very top of your profile, the banner can be used to advertise any services you provide, like graphic design or DJing. You can also simply update it with a stock photo. Websites like Unsplash and Pixabay offer thousands of free photos, or you can create your own Banner using a design platform like Canva.
- Headshot – It’s very important to use a professional headshot on your LinkedIn profile, and chances are you don’t have one yet. The good news is that you don’t need to dress up in a blazer like it’s picture day in private school. You can easily have a friend take a quality photo in front of a plain background with any modern smartphone (no selfies). Suits are optional – a nice shirt with no distracting patterns works just fine.
- Headline – LinkedIn will default your current work or education experience as your headline, but it’s important to know that you can update it. For instance, if you want to highlight that you’re both an FSU Student and a Deloitte Intern, you can edit your headline accordingly. Keep it professional by describing your academic and career achievements or interests.
- About – Your most important section. You have up to 2,000 characters to write about your accomplishments, your interests, and your goals. There’s no formula for this section, but it’s important to write about what you’re interested in career-wise. You can also list accomplishments, such as internships, volunteer work, relevant jobs, extracurricular involvement, or relevant coursework. Think of this as both your introduction and your pitch to employers, all wrapped into one.
- Experience – Use this section carefully and update it regularly. This should not be a comprehensive list of every job you’ve had! Even if you’ve had several part-time jobs, only include those that are either related to your intended line of work or that show off an achievement (promotions, outstanding contributions, longevity, etc.). As you gain more relevant experience through internships and full-time work experience, you should delete less significant experiences. If you have little to no work experience, you can include volunteer work or extracurricular activities that demonstrate your applicable skills.
- Education – Once in college, high school should not be listed on your LinkedIn profile. You should have your current institution and program of study listed, with the “Currently Enrolled” option checked. LinkedIn also gives you space to write about your education, so you can add additional details about your involvement that don’t have dedicated sections (i.e. research, scholarships).
- Skills – Here’s your chance to display professional skills you’ve developed through coursework, extracurricular activities, and jobs. LinkedIn lets you list up to 50, so go bananas.
- Other Sections – Use optional sections like Licenses & Certifications, Volunteer Experience, Courses, Organizations, and Honors & Awards as needed. Again, you don’t need to list every single activity (or worse, every course you’ve taken!) on your profile. Select the most relevant experiences that add to your professional brand.
What Do I Do Next?
Now that you’ve got your profile set up, let’s review how to build and maintain your network on LinkedIn.
- Connections – As a student, it is smart to connect with classmates in your field of study, though you can certainly connect with friends and part-time coworkers as well. Connections impact how you show up in LinkedIn search results, and quality is just as valuable as quantity. LinkedIn has long held 500 connections as the gold standard for quantity, but they’ve also tweaked their algorithms for quality connections as well. So, don’t send out random invites to people overseas that you don’t know. Once you begin interning or working in your intended field, you should proactively connect with colleagues to build your network.
- Interests/Groups – It’s a good idea to “follow” companies you’re interested in so that you can stay up to date on their latest activity. You can also join groups of like-minded folks or follow certain topics, which is a good way for you to stay connected within your field. And who knows – you may strike up a conversation with a valuable connection!
- Activity – It’s a two-way street. To maximize LinkedIn, you should both interact with content that others post and post your own. Liking or commenting on posts should come naturally in today’s world, and you should also post any major updates in your professional life. You can go a step further by posting other content more regularly. Start out by sharing relevant articles, then work your way up to generating your own posts that engage your connections. Set a goal of checking your LinkedIn at least once per day, with some sort of interaction at least 2-3x per week.
What’s the Point?
So far, we’ve only covered the first feature of LinkedIn: a platform for professionals to network. This alone is valuable because it expands your professional connections and thus your potential opportunities. However, you also want to optimize your profile and your network because it’s a job board where employers find talent (aka you). The more detailed and active you are on LinkedIn, the more findable you are!
Additionally, on your profile, you can indicate that you’re open to work. You can even choose if you want it visible to everyone or just to recruiters. This is an excellent tool for students to use when searching for internships or jobs, because it is expected that you will be searching at this stage in your career. It will help recruiters come to you, and it can increase your chances of an opportunity organically arising if a connection sees that you’re open to work.
Finally, you should use LinkedIn’s job board to search for and apply to positions. You won’t get any LinkedIn bonus points from doing so, but they have a high volume and breadth of positions posted on there.
In summary, you’re selling yourself short if you’re a student who’s not optimizing LinkedIn. It’s never been easier to network and find employment, when you have thousands of professionals and job openings right at your fingertips. Make sure to check out our other content on LinkedIn profiles and networking to get the most out of it!