LinkedIn, the social media platform that promotes career development and networking, is generally considered to be the domain of professionals. With connections to form, jobs to apply to, and resumes to update, it could be natural for a college student to think, “Hey, I can keep that for later.” However, as the old Bob Dylan song goes, the times, they are a-changin’.
The increased reliance on online portals of knowledge and education today means new opportunities have sprung up in unexpected places. From using Netflix for learning to pursue virtual internships, students can advance their career aspirations with nothing more than a strong internet connection and a device.
Here’s How to Leverage LinkedIn as a College Student
1. Use a Professional Profile Photo
Unlike Facebook, where a cropped group photo is an adequate image to identify you with, your LinkedIn profile photo must display competence and professionalism.
This means no selfies, no pictures from clubs, restaurants, or your last vacation, and certainly no blank spaces. Taking the extra effort to dress professionally demonstrates to potential employers a sense of reliability and maturity, and makes a great first impression.
2. Update Your Education and Experience
A LinkedIn profile is similar to a CV, in that you can list your educational achievements, work experience, internships, and extracurricular activities. It helps to be descriptive about your accomplishments so that you show up in the search results of potential employers. Further, LinkedIn lets you link with other people who attended your college or university, making networking effortless.
Using keywords specific to your fields of interest and goals is a good way to ensure you show up in the search results of professionals relevant to you.
3. A Succinct but Descriptive Headline
Your LinkedIn profile headline is the first thing LinkedIn users will see on your profile. With 220 characters to work with, it is imperative to have one that is crisp and provides clarity on your vision.
Now, LinkedIn does create a headline for you with the information you give it but the smart move is to write one on your own. Then you can use keywords, and highlight your aspirations to create a compelling vision that would catch the attention of potential employers. According to a poll conducted on LinkedIn, your headline is 46 percent more important to LinkedIn prospects than your experience.
Think of it as setting the tone and generating interest for the rest of your LinkedIn profile.
4. Professional Etiquette While Communicating is a Must
While social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have no established rules of conduct for communication and favour informal discourse, LinkedIn prizes decorum and professional etiquette during user engagement.
Whether it is making new connections, sending messages to other users, or requesting recommendations, it is important to be polite and respectful. Humour, especially, is best left for other social media.
5. Highlight Soft Skills
The necessity of possessing soft skills like time management, critical thinking, communication, and emotional intelligence cannot be understated. In the workplace of tomorrow, these skills are predicted to be in high demand.
According to Ada Yu, director of product management at LinkedIn, employers actively look for soft skill proficiency on profiles. Including soft skills in the Featured Skills section of your LinkedIn profile is a good bet to boost its visibility.
6. Personalize Your Connection Requests
It helps to make an extra effort while sending out connection requests. A personalized message to contacts you are acquainted with, which mentions how you met, is likely to be responded to favourably. Alternatively, cold connection requests to people you don’t know personally are best paired with a message that states your intent. Take the time to create a message that reflects your professional aspirations and how connecting with this person would help your growth.
7. Share Updates Pertinent to the Streams You Are Interested in
Regular activity on LinkedIn is crucial to maintaining visibility amongst your connections and potential employers. It helps to regularly post informative content that is relevant to the streams you are focused on. This demonstrates your interest in them and your passion towards remaining updated on recent developments.
Be careful not to take it too far and post multiple times a day, however. Posting twice or thrice a week is ideal.
8. Engage With What Your Connections Share
Often the easiest route to a conversation with your connections is by liking, commenting on, or sharing posts that they create. This can be the doorway to a more comprehensive discussion which could lead to opportunities for you. This could potentially lead to being able to meet new people capable of helping you in a professional capacity.
9. Make the Most of LinkedIn Groups
Joining groups on LinkedIn can help you further your knowledge of areas you are interested in, and amplify the connections and opportunities you have. You can start by looking for groups of professionals related to the field you’re interested in. These can be specific to your location or anywhere in the world. Make sure these groups are active on a regular basis, as inactive groups will not help you much.
Next, engage with posts on these groups that interest you – ask questions, post your own content, and join discussions. This will expose you to more details about the fields you are interested in, and bring you in contact with professionals. You could potentially find a new job or internship opportunity by creating a connection.
LinkedIn can be a marvellous tool for college students seeking an extra edge in their professional development. Many students shy away from the platform because they do not believe it is relevant to them, or believe they don’t have a detailed enough profile. In truth, there is a ton of value that LinkedIn can provide for college students such as internship opportunities, networking with professionals, and connecting with school alumni among others.
If you’re interested in knowing more ways to leverage your skills and maximize your innate talents in order to build a career-best suited to you, reach out to our career counselling experts here.