LinkedIn for Freshman: Tips for a Stronger Profile
If you’re a new college student, then you’ve undoubtedly heard that it’s time to tighten up your resume. Career fairs, interviews, and networking events always come by at the beginning of every semester, and you may want to consider creating a LinkedIn profile to promote your skills. It’s time to get digitally organized for school and your career. Read on to discover LinkedIn profile tips on creating a stronger profile.
Why Do You Need LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is the social media site for networking. It’s unlike Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in that it’s a more professional means of communication. While you follow your friends on Twitter, you connect with professionals in your field on LinkedIn. The platform is not only a way to reach out to recruiters and co-workers, it’s a way to show off your skills in an online portfolio. As Forbes mentions in an article, “finding a job is a journey, not a destination”; therefore, college freshmen should major in LinkedIn. Long story short: if you’re applying for a job in the 21st century, then you need to be on LinkedIn.
Unfortunately, creating a profile in your freshman (and even sophomore) year can be difficult when you plan on applying to high level internships and co-ops. You’re coming right out of high school and, chances are, your current skills and experience reflect that. That’s why I’m here to show you how easy it can be to create a stunning LinkedIn profile with your current skillset. Sign up for LinkedIn here and follow along with this blog post as you update your profile.
Headshot and Banner
First impressions are everything; so when recruiters view your profile for the first time, show that you’re professional right from the start with a beautiful photo of yourself. DO NOT: use selfies, photos with others in the picture, or the default gray man/woman. DO: Get a professional headshot taken — typically you’ll want to dress for success. Additionally, you’ll want to add a background banner image. Wondering what to choose? Use a photo of your city, favorite hobby, or projected field of study. You can find plenty of beautiful, free stock photos here: Unsplash.
There are three approaches I recommend when uploading your first LinkedIn photo:
- Ask a photography student for a free photo. This will help build his or her own portfolio.
- Get a friend to take the photo for you against a blank wall. Smart phones have incredible abilities these days.
- Use a cropped photo of yourself from Homecoming or Prom. Though, I suggest investing in a headshot now, as you’ll need it in the future.
Headline and Summary
When your name appears to recruiters on LinkedIn searches, one of the first things they see (besides your headshot) is your headline. That’s why good headlines reflect your current situation. Are you a “Skilled writer looking Freelance” or a “Finance student seeking internships”? Learn how to write a better headline with these 7 headline tips to get you hired.
You’ll also want to create a summary statement. I like to think of this as a mix between your 30-second elevator pitch and your personal mission statement. No recruiter will take the time to read two long paragraphs about your life story. Keep it between 2-3 sentences, and briefly explain your career goals. I also like to include a call to action, such as this example: “Want to start a conversation? Ask me what YouTube channel I watch every day!”; this allows new connections to easily start a conversation.
This section is easy enough to understand. Include your new college, university, or trade school to this section so that you can make connections easier in the future. If a new connection is an alum from your school, this gives you both something to discuss. Include your major (unless undecided), GPA, and school activities. You may also elect to add your school activities under the Organizations section. However I like to keep my organizations under my Education section for a more concise profile; after all, who wants to scroll through 5-10 different organizations? During your freshman year, including your high school under education is not a bad idea, though you will want to remove it for more relevant information in the future.
Experience and Skills
Just because you were flipping burgers at McDonald’s a few months ago doesn’t mean you have zero experience. Most resumes are all about the wording. Did you “flip burgers and run the register” or “manage kitchen tasks and handle important customer service requests’? See the difference? This section will take the most time to fill out. And, even if your resume is already crafted, don’t just copy and paste. Write a short summary of your previous job, including any relevant skills.
While you’re improving your page, be sure to add any other skills that you know. You may assume that everybody knows how to use Microsoft Excel and Google Docs, but these tiny additions to your profile make it look more complete.
Experiences, skills, and activities to add:
- Jobs in high school with any applicable experience (Part-Time, Full-Time, Volunteer)
- Positions held through any clubs (President, Secretary, Chairman)
- Skills that set you apart from the crowd (Time Management, Teamwork, Blogging, Leadership, Photoshop)
Follow pages and companies that are pertinent to your career path. Also, begin to follow influencers. Make sure to check out the LinkedIn top 10 voices. Join groups to discuss ideas with like-minded individuals. These pages will likely post articles and news that you can view on your feed. Don’t be afraid to share these articles, including some of your few short thoughts, with your soon-to-be network. Doing this gives you personality among so many bland profiles.
Example Pages to Follow:
- Companies: Walt Disney, PepsiCo, The Wall Street Journal
- Influencers: Kevin O’Leary, Ryan Holmes, Gary Vaynerchuk
- Groups: University groups, networking groups
Once you have taken a killer headshot, added your eye-catching headline, summarized your experiences, and started following companies, you’re ready to make your first connection. LinkedIn will automatically recommend people you may know, but you can also search for new connections by name, company, or job title. Unfortunately, most freshmen don’t make LinkedIn profiles, so you’re unlikely to find a majority of your classmates. But, that’s why creating your profile now gives you a leg up on the competition during your job hunt. Starting out, add all of the people you do know on LinkedIn: classmates, professors, family, friends, adults you may know. As you meet a new recruiter at a career fair, search for his or her profile and write a short, personalized message to send a connection request. Soon enough, you’ll have a network of 500+ connections.
As you continue on your job hunt, you’ll want to update your profile with all new and relevant information. Feel free to add your contact information, awards, accomplishments, courses, and SAT scores. Download your free LinkedIn Profile Checklist, and start making your connections count. (You can start by connecting with me.)
BONUS: Make sure to attend Smeal’s LinkedIn events, such as Make your LinkedIn Profile Pop!, to perfect your profile.