I get asked a lot about LinkedIn for students use-case scenarios, and although this post is originally based on how I would have responded sometime ago, my college-age niece recently asking me this question reminded me that I should have an answer revised for the times.
You can find more details in my podcast, which is included below for your listening pleasure, along with links to where you can listen to it on your favorite streaming app. There are certain sections that I cover in my podcast, so make sure you listen to it and subscribe to all past and future episodes in your favorite podcast listening app!
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When I had first received this question, it was before LinkedIn invested time and money into creating resources for colleges students, including their LinkedIn for Higher Education content. Needless to say that is a great resource, but it’s not always easy to find but easy to get lost in the content. That being said, I still think that there aren’t enough resources out there for soon-to-be-professionals to look for in terms of creating an optimal LinkedIn profile. I also believe that any college student that is on LinkedIn is to be commended for staying “ahead of the curve,” so here is my advice on LinkedIn for students.
Understand What LinkedIn Is
Have you ever thought exactly what LinkedIn is? Since you’re more than likely already on Instagram, you’re used to the concept of having a profile, posting content, and engaging with your newsfeed. LinkedIn is no different.
However, LinkedIn is more professional than any other social network out there, so before you start connecting with anyone and everyone, you’ll want to take a step back and first build out your profile following my recommendations below. This is because, compared to a “lighter” social network like Instagram, LinkedIn members are more reserved and not as open in general (although there are many open networkers on the platform, but best to start conservatively). So while you can post videos on LinkedIn, you will find that fewer people do this on LinkedIn, and when they do, the subject matter on average is more professional than what you would see on TikTok!
LinkedIn is also where you create a more robust profile and paint a picture of who you are more than any other social network. All of this profile data allows you to best find other people who work at certain companies or for certain organizations, and equally allows YOU to be found by those that might be interested in working with you.
Finally, LinkedIn allows you to see who is connected to who, so as you begin to build your own network, you will get more visibility into who in your network you can ask for LinkedIn introductions to whom.
I should note that, outside of the targeted advice for college students, I have a lot of free advice in my ebook Maximizing LinkedIn for Business that you can download by clicking here. The advice I have there in terms of building connections, etc. is as applicable for students as it is for any professional.
Begin with Your Objective
First of all, as with anyone else I consult with, you have to ask yourself what your LinkedIn objective is. If you are joining LinkedIn to communicate with classmates, you are obviously in the wrong place as you will find very few of them on LinkedIn in comparison to Instagram, SnapChat, or TikTok. However, if you are utilizing LinkedIn for your future career management, you have come to the right place!
So, let’s move on to the million dollar question: How do you advertise your profile amongst so many professionals while you are still only a student? Let’s walk through each of the LinkedIn profile sections one-by-one. As you listen to my guidance in the podcast, you will notice that I walk you through the below items one-by-one in the podcast. In the podcast, as here, I’ll recommend that you edit your LinkedIn profile on a computer or browser, NOT the app, as there are still a few things (most notably your cover image that appears at the top of your profile) that you can not upload from the app, at least not from their current iPhone version.
The Basics of Your LinkedIn for Students Profile
While there is a LOT you can put into your LinkedIn profile, this podcast summary will focus on the bare minimum of things that you should have set up if you want to begin using LinkedIn as a powerful branding and networking vehicle.
When you first create your profile, or when you edit it as you read through this blog post, there are at a minimum a few things that you need:
- Your Name (keep it real, folks)
- Your profile photo (keep it as professional as possible)
- Your Professional Headline (see below for advice)
- Your Zip code / Location (see below for advice)
- The Industry in Which You Work (see below for advice)
LinkedIn for Students: Choice of Location
As recruiters and others looking to network on LinkedIn usually initially target people by 1) geography and 2) industry, you first have to decide where you want to work and in what industry you want to work in. If you still don’t know the answers to either of these questions, that is fine. Go ahead and start by putting down a location and industry where there are a lot of jobs that you might be interested in. Potentially interested in the Financial Market? New York City. High Tech? San Francisco. I think you get the picture. Obviously if you plan to live elsewhere after graduation, that city should be the one you put down. And if you aren’t sure if you can afford to live on your own, your home zip code should be your location.
LinkedIn for Students: Choice of Industry
As for industry, this is a toughie. As you already know, there is no industry for “college student”, so you have to make a choice. And if you are not sure, that is OK as you can always change it later. Buy a copy of What Color is Your Parachute? and think about what you enjoy doing, what your passion is. Go to your Career Center for advice. Try to contact former alumni. Ask your family. Search for other students on LinkedIn or alumni that you know and see what they used. Either way, you have to at least temporarily put down an industry that you might be at least initially interested in pursuing a career in.
Your Professional Headline
Once you have decided on a location and industry, it would be ideal if you can think of the type of work that you want to do. This may actually be easier than thinking of the industry. Sales? Accounting? Engineering? Some of these may actually be industries in themselves. But once you have narrowed this down, you could create a Headline Profile that says, for pure example, “UCLA ’19 Graduate. Interested in Sales Position in B2B E-Commerce.” As you can see, the more narrow a title you put down, the more you will get noticed for your ideal position. This really comes down to an exercise in branding. The more “branding” that you can create, the more distinct your LinkedIn profile will look and the higher your chances will be that you may get contacted as a passive candidate.
Your Professional Summary
Whenever you write an essay or a paper in school, you start with what you want to discuss and then mention how you plan to back it up, right? Your summary should be the same. You talk about who you are, what you want to do, and what you bring to the table, all of this that you hinted at in your Professional Headline. You have done many activities in college and even high school that may add to want you want to do with your career. You may have been part of a college group that provides evidence of your capabilities. You may have done a part-time job. List those things that may appeal to future employers that back up your Professional Headline. For instance, in my resume (before there was LinkedIn this was all that we had…) I mentioned that I was looking for an entry position in Sales & Marketing but that I had also studied Accounting. It was the addition of that Accounting class which actually got me my first job. For kicks and giggles, let me write a summary of how I may have written my LinkedIn Headline Profile and Summary if I could turn back the clock (not to brag but for the sole purpose of giving you all more advice and sample matter on the subject to help you generate more ideas):
A Sample LinkedIn for Student LinkedIn Profile
Amherst College ’20 Graduate. Looking for Sales & Marketing Entry-Level Position in Japan in International Sales or Marketing Division of Technology Manufacturer.
*** I am currently looking for an entry-level Sales & Marketing Position in the International Sales or Marketing division of a Technology Manufacturer in Japan. ***
I am currently a Junior at Amherst College where I am majoring in Asia Studies and plan to graduate in May, 2020.
Currently holding a 3.6 GPA, I have excelled in the studies of Asian cultures and languages and has already acquired proficiency in Mandarin Chinese and am currently studying Japanese.
I have also been involved on campus in a number of activities that showcase my initiative and passion for community, including being a DJ at my college radio station 89.3 WAMH, a contributing writer to the college newspaper Amherst Student, and organizing a photo exhibit on the Beijing Tianmen Demonstrations that I witnessed while studying abroad this Junior-year in China.
A believer in learning by doing, I plan to spend my summer after graduation at the International Christian University in Tokyo in their intensive Japanese summer school program.
In addition to my education in Asian Studies, I minored in Art History, where I undertook two different internships during school breaks at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
Summary / Additional Facts
- excel in communicating with and the understanding of different cultures
- take initiative in pursuing activities and internships
- possess an energetic and passionate personality that recognizes no boundaries
- hold an interest in Business through recent studies of Accounting & Finance
First of all you will see that I created this using first-person perspective, which I recommend you do as well.
I also tried to break things up to make it more readable, placing the most important thing up top, and also using bullet points and symbols as decorative items to make the writing look more attractive to the human eye.
As you can see, I have my Asia and even Art History experience which I use to differentiate myself even though they aren’t directly related to industry (technology) or position (sales). However, I utilize my experience to showcase my branding adjectives: “passionate” and “taking initiative”. I believe that everyone has some experience that can help both differentiate you as well as back up your career objective. It is in deciding which adjectives describe your brand and then backing them up with specific studies or activities that will lend to a more powerful profile summary.
Moving Beyond Your LinkedIn for Students Profile Summary
I believe that the Professional Headline and Summary are the most important things you can add to your profile for LinkedIn for students. Beyond that you still have several sections that you can and should flesh out that I go into more detail on in the podcast. A few notes on some of these:
For work experience, IF you did a part-time (or full-time) job that adds as evidence to want you want to do AND you can get a LinkedIn Recommendation for what you did, go ahead and put it down. Fill it up with keywords that not only show off what you did but also provide evidence of what you are capable of that aligns with your objective. Hopefully your former boss or supervisor is already on LinkedIn and can write the recommendation for you. If they aren’t have a talk with them and forward them to my blog where I mention the value that any professional has when they join LinkedIn and participate. Ask your professors for a recommendation and get them to sign up for LinkedIn as well. Become the magnet that brings everyone into the LinkedIn world, as everyone will benefit! You may then become the “go-to” person in your college for LinkedIn, which may further add to your brand! Even if you’ve only worked part-time at Dominos Pizza for a few months, put it in your profile: You never know when someone is looking for talent that has experience in the restaurant industry, right?
Note that when asking for a recommendation, mention your branding and make sure that those things you want showcased are. Having a LinkedIn recommendation will further differentiate you from the rest of the crowd who don’t have recommendations. It also makes you more “real” of a person in this world of increasing fake profiles.
There are many other things you can do on LinkedIn, like joining LinkedIn Groups, utilizing their publishing platforms, adding volunteer experience, certificates you hold, etc. that I go into in the podcast. But getting your brand and initial profile together, although it will require some time, will put you ahead of the game in terms of using LinkedIn to forward your career objective.
Best of luck to all of you in college: you are our world’s bright hope for the future! And please keep coming back to my blog as I will try to offer you all advice for your future!
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For another perspective on LinkedIn for students, check out this informative infographic:
Infographic Source: California College San Diego