How to Use LinkedIn as a College Student
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- The key to using LinkedIn effectively is to create a detailed and engaging profile.
- College students should use basic etiquette when sending messages and making connections.
- To get the most out of LinkedIn, update your status regularly and explore job postings.
LinkedIn is a popular social network for career development, but you don't have to wait until you enter the workforce to start taking advantage of this platform. College students can use LinkedIn to establish a professional online presence, which is important for getting jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities while still in school.
Currently, LinkedIn boasts more than 750 million users across over 200 countries. Launched in 2003, the networking site set out to connect workers and employers but has evolved to offer various services to recruiters, sales professionals, and educators.
A LinkedIn account can help you launch your professional reputation by allowing you to display your credentials, post academic updates, and interact with industry experts and potential employers. While basic access is free, premium subscriptions offer extra tools to help you land a job, grow a business, follow leads, and hire talent. LinkedIn Premium starts at $29.99 per month, and you can get a free one-month trial before purchasing.
Read on to see our top LinkedIn profile tips for college students, and learn how to maximize the platform's special capabilities.
How to Create an Effective LinkedIn Profile
All it takes to sign up with Linkedin is your first and last name, your email address, and a password. At this point, you can decide to continue with the free version or opt into a premium membership.
College students may be most interested in the Premium Career package for $29.99 per month. LinkedIn Premium Career lets you directly message recruiters, compare yourself with other applicants, view salary details on job postings, and see who has viewed your profile.
Regardless of whether you decide to buy a premium account or not, you'll need to ensure your profile is professional, detailed, and overall engaging. Here are some LinkedIn profile tips to help make that happen.
Choose a Professional Photo
Your LinkedIn profile acts as an around-the-clock resume and cover letter. Make a good first impression with a professional-looking photo.
If you don't have a headshot, get someone to take a picture for you. All it takes is a high-resolution camera — even the kind on a smartphone — and natural lighting.
TIPS FOR A PROFESSIONAL PHOTO
Dress professionally and have a natural facial expression
Your face should take up over half of the picture
Natural, diffuse light is best — too many shadows look bad
If possible, get the photo professionally taken
Do not use selfies or obvious photo filters
Write a Strong Profile Summary
Your LinkedIn summary appears directly below your photo and is a good opportunity to "hook" whoever comes across your profile. You have 2,000 characters to give a cogent overview of your professional life, but shorter summaries can also be effective introductions.
A LinkedIn summary that engages potential employers will vary based on your field of work or study. Substance is generally more important than style, but this is also an opportunity to demonstrate your writing ability. Avoid using superlatives and overselling your accomplishments.
In general, you should write in the first person and for your specific audience, such as hiring managers, recruiters, or potential clients. Make it clear within the first three sentences what you have to offer by synthesizing your credentials and accomplishments. Then, get feedback from friends and colleagues to ensure the summary's tone and content best represent you.
TIPS FOR A STRONG PROFILE SUMMARY
Write clearly and concisely in the first person
Highlight relevant credentials and achievements
Focus on substance over style
Revise with the help of a friend or family member
Describe Your Experience and Education
Like a traditional resume, a LinkedIn profile allows you to display qualifications. Use the experience section to list any full-time jobs, internships, freelance work, volunteer experience, and one-off projects that demonstrate your track record. Write a description for each position that uses keywords relevant to your target profession, and remember to include specific project outcomes.
It's also important to be detailed about your educational history, including your major, relevant coursework, extracurricular activities, and awards or scholarships you've received. Recruiters often set filters around education when using LinkedIn, so providing degree details ensures you show up in their search results.
The education section also lets you access a list of LinkedIn users who attended your college or university. By using your alma mater as an introduction, you can establish instant connections with other professionals.
TIPS FOR WORK AND EDUCATION HISTORY
Use the work experience section to highlight specific outcomes or accomplishments
Use the education section to highlight your major and relevant coursework
Use targeted keywords that are relevant to the field you're interested in
List Your Skills
The skills and endorsements section lets you list up to 50 competencies to prove to potential employers that you're an ideal candidate. This information affects search results, so be sure you provide a complete and accurate account of your skills to increase the number of relevant visitors to your LinkedIn profile.
To help you identify your best skills, start by exploring job descriptions for your dream position. Identify the skills exhibited by top professionals or valued by recruiters and hiring managers in your field, then look at your resume. Connect the competencies you've already shown with those that are in demand.
TIPS FOR LISTING SKILLS
Be detailed — a detailed skills section can boost traffic to your profile
Identify valuable skills by analyzing job listings
If you have them, list skills that frequently appear in the jobs you apply for
Evaluate your resume for soft skills and list them along with hard, measurable skills
LinkedIn Etiquette for College Students
Like any social media platform, LinkedIn connects people. But unlike Facebook or Instagram, LinkedIn fosters professional relationships and therefore prioritizes decorum and a stricter code of internet behavior.
Beyond creating a detailed profile, you can cultivate an attractive LinkedIn presence by engaging with other users in the spirit of respect and cooperation. Here, we introduce the best practices for communicating with colleagues, recruiters, and employers on LinkedIn.
You can request to be part of another LinkedIn user's network by clicking the connect button on their profile or next to their information on the results page. You can also expand your network by using the People You May Know tool or by inviting people in your contacts to sign up. First-degree connections gain access to your profile information, so pick people you know (or at least know of).
Unsolicited messages on LinkedIn can come off as spammy, so make sure to personalize your messages, state your intent, and be respectful of that person's time and attention. Whether welcoming new connections or following up with a recruiter, don't rely on LinkedIn's automatic suggestions. Authentic communication leads to future opportunities
An endorsement allows other LinkedIn users to affirm the skills listed on your profile. Because anyone can endorse you with the click of a button, it can be tempting to accrue as many endorsements as possible; however, it's best to ask for endorsements from people you have actually worked with.
Like a reference letter, a LinkedIn recommendation provides written testimony of your skills, character, and accomplishments from someone in your network. Customize recommendation requests and remember to send thank-you notes afterward. As your LinkedIn profile evolves, do not hesitate to update or remove recommendations to suit new goals.
6 Ways to Use LinkedIn to Your Advantage
Post Compelling Statuses and Media
Building relationships on LinkedIn starts with engaging other users. Post content that your network finds valuable. That can include interesting articles as well as updates on your endeavors. Stay active, but avoid clogging your connections' feeds with overactivity — aim for at least twice weekly and no more than once per day.
Join Professional Groups
LinkedIn groups act as forums where you can demonstrate knowledge and connect with like-minded people. Find groups by using the site's recommendation and search functions. Check who in your network belongs to a given group, and use current connections to build future ones.
Engage With Your Connections
Like a professional conference or trade convention, LinkedIn affords you valuable opportunities to make industry connections. Liking, commenting on, and sharing posts can be the beginning of a larger conversation, and you can use the rapport built online to connect in person. Meet over coffee with individual LinkedIn contacts or attend regional networking events facilitated by your groups.
Use LinkedIn's search tool to explore companies based on industry, location, and other keywords. General company information can help you prep for interviews, but discovering who in your network is connected to that company can also help you get a foot in the door. Look to companies' LinkedIn profiles for information on their organizational objectives, hiring practices, and current projects.
Talk to Recruiters
According to research from the Society for Human Resource Management, about 90% of recruiters regularly use LinkedIn. You can attract these professionals by maintaining an up-to-date profile and an active online presence.
You can search for recruiters by industry and/or location. Form connections with recruiters and industry insiders by sending personalized messages that explain your interest and goals.
Apply for Jobs
LinkedIn boasts millions of job listings. Once you've found a position that interests you, you can throw your hat in the ring in mere seconds using LinkedIn's Easy Apply feature, which lets you add supplemental material to a stored resume and hit send.
Employers will receive a snapshot of your profile, along with the option to access additional details — which leads us back to the importance of a strong profile. Make sure your photo, summary, and credentials reflect your professionalism and strengths.
Feature Image: valentinrussanov / E+ / Getty Images