If you’re wondering if you even need a LinkedIn profile right now - you do! You may be thinking, “I’m too young,” “Those are for college grads,” or “I don’t have a ‘real’ job yet.” Just because you haven’t graduated high school yet doesn’t mean it’s too soon to start building your online brand.
The benefits to getting this done early include networking with potential employers, seeing new job opportunities and connecting with classmates. Whether you’re starting from scratch or have a partially completed profile, we’re here to help you make your LinkedIn stand out.
You’re tech-savvy, so I won’t walk you through the step-by-step process of setting up an account. What you will need to keep in mind is that this is a professional platform in every sense, so there are some things to double check:
- Keep your education entries to high school, college and any outside courses during that time period.
- Refrain from unusual nicknames and inappropriate or silly email addresses. Create a new one if you have to.
- Proof your spelling, grammar, etc. LinkedIn does have a spell-check feature, but that may not catch forgotten words, homophones, or unique names.
Now that you’re set up, how do you catch viewers’ attention? Here are a few tips that can help take your profile to the next level.
Your photo is one of the most important elements of your profile. It’s the first thing viewers notice and can easily go wrong. Make a good first impression by following a few simple guidelines:
- Use a headshot (just head and shoulders) and include only yourself.
- Wear professional attire. Graduation photos can work temporarily.
- Remember that good quality photos can be taken with a smartphone, so don’t put off your profile photo if you don’t have a quality camera handy.
- Enlist a friend or use a tripod to avoid selfies. For more tips on do-it-yourself headshots, check out this article.
The Main Sections
Understandably, you will have less content for your LinkedIn profile than professionals with years of experience, but there are still plenty of ways to bolster your online reputation:
- Rethink the headline. It’s generally your most recent job title, which may not be an option for you or might be somewhat underwhelming. Instead, think of this as a short personal statement. What is your unique skill? What are you passionate about? What are your education or career goals?
- Expand on your headline in the summary section. Write briefly about where your interests came from, any notable accomplishments and what kind of opportunities you’re looking for.
- Don’t be intimidated by the experience section. You’ve probably got a lot more to list than you realize. And if you don’t, that’s okay too. For each of the points, try to include specific details to show the significance of the role and how you were successful.
- Include the obvious, like any previous employment, part-time or summer jobs, babysitting or pet sitting, even if it was unpaid. Basically, add anything with some amount of responsibility and accountability.
- Highlight any school clubs or outside organizations you were a member of, especially if you held a leadership position or chaired a committee.
Lastly, if you’ve had the opportunity to participate in an internship or receive a scholarship, no matter how brief or small, you absolutely want to mention it. You put in the hard work to earn it, and it’ll add insight into your skills, strengths and interests.
Here are a few underutilized sections that can further make your LinkedIn profile stand out.
- Edit your public profile URL to reflect your name. For example, www.linkedin.com/in/firstlastname. This is done under “Edit public profile & URL.”
- Include volunteering details. Volunteer service is valuable, especially in today’s mission-driven organizations. If you work(ed) for a non-profit somewhat regularly in a contributor capacity versus a permanent position, add it under “Volunteer Experience.”
- BONUS: Have teachers or managers write a brief recommendation for you. These personal references often have more impact than the list of jobs you’ve held.
We’ve covered a lot of points, and you may be feeling overwhelmed, but building and maintaining your LinkedIn profile is an investment of time that’s going to pay off. Remember, this isn’t a static document. You will be updating it regularly as you gain experience. If you follow our recommendations, you’ll probably be surprised at what a valuable online tool LinkedIn can be as you start your career.
About Susan Gumula
Susan Gumula is the former International Admissions Social Media Strategist for USF’s Office of Innovative Education. She enjoys connecting with students and their families through social media to better inform and enhance their college admissions experience.