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How to use LinkedIn for students in 2021

How to use LinkedIn as a student to support your career aspirations

Are you a college student who’s starting to think ahead to your post-university career? Then you’ll love this article, which shows you how to use LinkedIn as a student to establish a professional online presence. 

Is LinkedIn useful for students?

The answer, without a doubt, is YES.

Many students, when they think of LinkedIn, see it as a job-related platform that doesn’t apply to them yet. 

In reality, LinkedIn is so much more than a place where people list their latest job achievements. By ignoring it, you could be missing out on a valuable opportunity to selectively build your online presence for the competitive job market. 

How LinkedIn helps students…

So,  what exactly is LinkedIn?

Straight from the horse’s mouth: “LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the internet. You can use LinkedIn to find the right job or internship, connect and strengthen professional relationships, and learn the skills you need to succeed in your career.”

You could think of LinkedIn as a virtual CV and that’s true in that you can showcase your education, skills, work experience and achievements in a structured resume-style format. 

But, unlike your CV (which, let’s face it, is probably sitting gathering dust on your computer), your LinkedIn profile provides an unparalleled opportunity to:

  • Build your network with like-minded people, to expand your chances of discovering interesting career opportunities. LinkedIn also provides a great opportunity to connect with alumni from your college
  • Gather “social proof” of your capabilities in the form of recommendations from colleagues or previous employers. 
  • Research employers and industries that interest you. 
  • Apply for your dream career. As a LinkedIn user, you can search for the latest job opportunities. 
  • Get found by employers and recruiters. This is LinkedIn’s superpower – your profile, unlike a CV, can appear in searches by recruiters who are actively searching for specific skills. 

I hope that’s convinced you of the benefits of LinkedIn for students. But, without a doubt, the key to unlocking those benefits is a well-optimised LinkedIn profile. 

So, here are my best tips to write a student LinkedIn profile:

How to use LinkedIn as a student: a step-by-step guide to creating a winning profile

If you’re completely new to LinkedIn, you can join up today.

Just be sure to choose the ‘I’m a Student’ option when prompted so that you can fill out your current study status, rather than a professional role. 

Once you’ve followed the prompts and set up your account, it’s time to go through each of the elements of a winning LinkedIn profile – from top to bottom…

#1: Choose the right photo

I’ve written about the key elements of a good Linkedin profile photo before, but for students who don’t have company headshots to fall back on, it’s even more important to ensure that your photo is making the right first impression. 

So choose a photo that:

  • Looks professional – a “head and shoulders” shot is most suitable here.
  • Isn’t found on other social media platforms – the chances are, a photo that you’re using on your personal social media accounts is unlikely to be appropriate. That means no group shots and no “night out” photos. 
  • Stands out – with a clean background. You can use the ‘remove background’ function in Canva if required here. 

Here’s what mine looks like, for reference: 

There’s also the option to add a ‘cover photo’ behind your profile photo. For a student, I would suggest an image of your university or college might work well here.

#2: Create a compelling LinkedIn headline

I’ve been known to compare your LinkedIn headline to your “name badge” at a networking event. You want to attract the right reader (potential employers or recruiters), so it’s crucial to ensure that your headline captures attention. 

Important: A key thing to be aware of is that if you don’t write your own headline, LinkedIn will pull one from your study status… usually “Student at [Your University]”

Good LinkedIn headlines for students will encompass:

  • Your field of study or passion, and
  • What you’re hoping to achieve from being on LinkedIn 

When you’re learning how to use LinkedIn as a student and considering what to put in your headline, it will depend on what you’re using LinkedIn for at any particular time. 

If you’re starting to build your presence on LinkedIn, but not currently seeking employment, then your headline can reflect your passions or the fact that you’re looking to keep up with industry trends.

An example: Postgraduate Psychology Student with an interest in Forensic Psychology

If, however, you want your LinkedIn profile to help in your search for work experience, internships or paid job opportunities, you’ll need to utilise ‘keywords’ that reflect the role that you’re seeking to enhance your chances of being found in search. 

An example: Third-year marketing student seeking a challenging internship in UI experience and design

It’s worth spending a bit of time playing with different variations of your headline until you’re happy with it. Here are my best resources to help you:

#3: Write your LinkedIn About section

Also known as the ‘Summary’ section, the ‘About’ section is often left blank because it’s hard to write about yourself (especially when you don’t have a lot of real-world work experience.)

However, a well-written About section will set your profile apart from your peers as it’s the first place (after your headline) that prospective connections and employers will check. 

So, what makes a good LinkedIn summary for students? 

An effective About section will summarise all the key aspects of your education, work experience and other achievements. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Get to the point quickly – a visitor to your profile only sees a couple of sentences of your profile before having to select ‘see more’ to read on. So make those first sentences count.
  • Talk about the future – mentioning your career aspirations and motivations will utilise the keywords that can lead to recruiters finding your profile. 
  • Highlight the key skills you’ve developed – for students with little practical work experience, consider the skills you’ve developed from key projects and college assignments. Link those skills to the attributes that employers in your chosen field would be looking for. 
  • Don’t be afraid to be human – while you need to have a professional presence on LinkedIn, you don’t need to be a robot. So, it’s no harm to add some personal details about your interests or passions too. 

#4: Add your work experience

Like a CV, you should list all work experience in chronological order, with the most recent first. 

The kind of experience you can add to this section includes:

  • Internships
  • Work experience
  • Summer or part-time jobs
  • Casual, or freelance work, that’s related to your field of study

Instead of just listing the tasks you completed for each job, instead focus on your achievements and skill development – in particular any competencies that would be expected by future employers. 

#5: Highlight your educational achievements

This is your opportunity to provide more information about your current field of study as well as a chronological list of your educational history (back to secondary school should suffice.)

You can also use this section to highlight your educational achievements such as grants, scholarships, prizes or notable society memberships.

#6: Take advantage of all the sections

Don’t just stop with your educational achievements – there are other sections you can highlight by going to ‘Add section’ under your headline and then ‘Background’.

You can highlight any licenses or certifications that you hold in your chosen career field. Depending on the industry you are targeting, you can complete online courses on platforms such as Udemy or Hubspot and add those certifications to your profile. 

In addition, it’s worth utilising the Volunteer experience section to highlight the key volunteering roles you have held. 

#7: Add the skills that will attract your ideal employer

The skills section is a real opportunity to highlight the key competencies you hold that would make you attractive to future employers.

You can add lots of skills to your profile (up to 50) but I recommend that you concentrate on 5 key skills that you’re highly proficient in. It’s also worth considering the ‘softer’ skills you can demonstrate (such as management skills, coaching skills etc.) as well as more technical industry-specific skills. 

Skills that are ‘endorsed’ by others (such as previous colleagues or managers) will appear at the top of the list. 

How do you know which skills to list?

It’s worth checking out the profiles of people who are currently employed in the career you aspire to. Which skills do they share? These are the skills to highlight (or work on improving so that you can add to your profile in due course.)

#8: It’s time to show off!

Go back to ‘Add section’ to access the ‘Accomplishments’ sections. 

Here you can shout about any prizes you’ve won, notable projects you’ve been part of or any papers you’ve had published. 

#9: Seek recommendations

Recommendations are the LinkedIn equivalent of references on your CV – but, as they’re linked directly to the recommender’s profile, they’re far more powerful and visible. 

It’s easy to ask for recommendations from colleagues, employers or even teammates. And, be sure to look out for opportunities to give recommendations too, which will help build connections and a more well-rounded profile. 

Conclusion

This article has shown you how to use LinkedIn as a student, with a well-written profile that supports your future career aspirations. 

Of course, it doesn’t just stop once you’ve written your profile. Your LinkedIn presence should evolve over time, so be sure to update your profile regularly for new experiences and skills. 

It’s also important to be active on LinkedIn – connecting with others and taking part in conversations. A great place to start is to connect with alumni from your college – I show you how to do that here.

What do you think? Has this helped you understand how to use LinkedIn as a student? You can pop any questions you have in the comments below!

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