Why Use LinkedIn in College?
LinkedIn is a popular social network for career development, but you don't have to wait until you enter the workforce to take advantage of this platform. College students can use LinkedIn to establish a professional online presence, which is important for securing career, internship, and volunteer opportunities while still in school.
LinkedIn boasts more than 600 million users across 200 countries. Launched in 2003, the site set out to connect workers and employers, but has evolved to offer services to recruiters, sales professionals, and educators.
A LinkedIn account can help you establish a professional reputation by allowing you to display your credentials, post academic updates, and interact with industry experts and potential employers.
Basic access is free. Premium subscriptions, which offer extra tools to help you get hired, grow a business, follow leads, or hire talent, cost $30 per month and up.
This guide provides in-depth information on how to build an effective LinkedIn profile and maximize the site's capabilities.
How to Create an Effective LinkedIn Profile
All it takes to sign up with Linkedin is your first and last name, 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 allows you to directly message recruiters, see how you compare to other applicants, see salary details on job postings, and see who has viewed your profile.
Below, you can review some essential tips for creating an effective LinkedIn profile as a college student.
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 are 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 over-selling 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 are best representing you.
TIPS FOR A STRONG PROFILE SUMMARY
- Write clearly and concisely in the first person.
- Highlight pertinent 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, 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. 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 that show potential employers that you are an ideal candidate. This information affects search results, so 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 boosts 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.
Like any other 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. The section below details the best practices for communicating with colleagues, recruiters, and employers.
- Making Connections
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. Expand your network by using the People You May Know tool, or use the Grow Your Network page to invite people in your email address book to LinkedIn. First-degree connections gain access to your profile information, so pick people you know (or at least know of).
- Sending Messages
Unsolicited messages on LinkedIn can come off as spammy, so make sure to personalize your messages, state your intent, and be respectful of the individual'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
- Requesting Endorsements
An endorsement allows other LinkedIn users to affirm the skills listed on your profile. Because anyone can endorse you with a click of a button, it can be tempting to accrue as many endorsements as possible. However, it is best to ask for endorsements from people you have actually worked with.
- Requesting Recommendations
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.
Using LinkedIn to Your Advantage
LinkedIn effectiveness greatly depends on how you use the tools at hand. The following section covers the best practices for career exploration and networking as well as how you can create an online persona that attracts the right people.
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 endeavours. 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 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 to explore companies based on industry, location,and other keywords. General company information helps you prep for interviews, but discovering who in your network is connected to that company also helps 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 active online presence.
Seek out recruiters yourself, searching by industry and location. Form connections with recruiters, or any industry insiders, by sending personalized messages that explain your interest and goals.
Apply for Jobs
LinkedIn boasts more than 20 million job listings. Once you've found one that interests you, throw your hat in the ring in seconds using LinkedIn's Easy Apply feature, which lets you add supplementary 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.