LinkedIn for students: creating a professional profile

LinkedIn for students

These days, most of us probably look for work online. Whether it’s browsing a job database, asking in a Facebook group, or even just doing a quick Google search, there’s no doubt that the internet has certainly changed the way we search for jobs. So how can you make your online presence work in your favour, and actually help you find (and secure) a job?

That’s where professional social media sites like LinkedIn come in. LinkedIn is a social media site that focuses on jobs, career development, and even skill building. Using LinkedIn as a student can help you appeal to potential employers, network with your peers and mentors, and help build a name for yourself in the professional world.

Why do I need a LinkedIn profile as a student?

You might be thinking that this all sounds well and good, but I’m just in high school or my first year of uni – why do I need a professional profile?

Student or not, if you apply for a job, chances are your potential future employer will look you up online. And if they can’t find anything (or don’t like what they see), this might actually affect your chances of being hired.

Additionally, job seeking isn’t the only reason to have a LinkedIn profile. It’s also a great place to explore, network, connect with like-minded people, and even learn new things. Plus, it’s free, so why not give it a go?

One quick note – according to LinkedIn’s User Agreement, you need to be at least 16 years old to open an account.

LinkedIn profile basics

Ready to go ahead and make a LinkedIn account? Here are some tips to consider when creating your profile.

Use a personal email address

If you’re still studying, you probably have an email associated with your school or university. While it might be tempting to use this email, you should  use a personal one instead – this way you will have access to your LinkedIn account long after you graduate. Don’t have a personal email account? Gmail is a free and easy option.

Add a profile picture

It’s always good to be able to put a face to a name, and LinkedIn is no different. People are more likely to respond (and it seems less spammy) if your profile includes a picture. But unlike Instagram or TikTok, there are a few things to keep in mind when picking the perfect LinkedIn profile pic:

  • It needs to be of you, of course! LinkedIn might remove your picture if it’s a cute snap of your dog, for example.
  • Wear something nice – like what you would wear to an interview or work.
  • Selfies aren’t totally off-limits, but it’s best to ask a friend to take the photo for you.
  • Make sure you get a good angle and nice lighting.

There are some other useful tips you might like to read here.

About you

This is where a lot of students get tripped up when making a LinkedIn profile. If you haven’t had a job before or only have casual experience, what else are you supposed to add to fill out your profile?

While LinkedIn is a platform for jobs, it’s not the be-all and end-all – in fact, there are probably lots of things you’ve done and achieved throughout school and university that you can add to your profile, including:

  • Awards you’ve received or competitions you’ve won
  • Clubs you’ve been a part of (e.g. debating, chess, sports, robotics, etc.)
  • Unpaid or volunteer work you’ve done (e.g. working the canteen at the local sporting grounds, participating in advisory/advocacy groups, etc.)
  • Projects you’ve done or participated in (e.g. building a website, organising a charity drive for your school, etc.)
  • Your leadership roles (e.g. school captain, student body leader, etc.)
  • Your top skills and strengths
  • Your favourite/best classes or subjects
  • Short courses, workshops, or microcredentials you’ve done
  • Qualifications you already have (even things like First Aid)
  • Tools and programs you’re proficient with (e.g. Microsoft Word, using power tools, etc.)
  • Languages you know (whether you’re fully fluent or not)

There is also a section where you can add a little summary about yourself too. This could include things like your future goals and dreams, your hobbies and interests, things that inspire you, and even a bit about your journey so far. If you need a hand getting started, here are some examples of great LinkedIn profile summaries.

Using LinkedIn – the basics

Once you’ve set up your profile, you can now start using the rest of the site’s features. There are quite a few and it might seem a bit intimidating at first, but here are the most useful:

Connections

Connections are just like friend requests, allowing you to connect with other LinkedIn users and see their posts and information. LinkedIn usually starts out by suggesting some connections for you based on the information you provide in your profile – people who went to your school/university, live in the same town, work in similar fields, etc.

Most of the time, we suggest only connecting with people you know personally. Some people might feel a bit awkward connecting with someone they don’t know; and conversely, you might also not want a stranger seeing your full profile.

But what if there’s someone you think is really cool and you want to know more about them? Well, there’s a solution for that…

Following

This feature works basically like any other social media. You can follow people, organisations, and even pages on specific topics, and their activity will show up on your feed. It’s a great way of expanding your network without needing to connect with people you don’t know.

You might not see all of someone’s information as a follower, but you can still read and interact with their posts.

Messaging

LinkedIn only allows you to send and receive messages to and from people you’re connected with. They do have another service (InMail) that allows you to message people you’re not connected with, but it’s part of their paid service.

If you don’t want people you don’t know to send you InMail, you can turn InMail requests off in your account settings.

Your feed

Just like when you open Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, the first thing you see on LinkedIn is your feed. You’ll see things like posts from your network (connections and follows), trending and recommended content, and sponsored content.

How should I use LinkedIn as a student?

Here are some things you can do as a student on LinkedIn to grow your network and find jobs.

Follow lots of people and pages

Try and follow a variety of people from all walks of life, not just people from your local area or your friends from school. This can help you gain a better understanding of work and careers all around the world and listen to different perspectives and opinions.

Browse the page of your future university or company you’d like to work for and learn more about their impact, see courses and jobs on offer, and find affiliated people to connect with or follow.

Interact with people

You can leave reactions and comments on people’s posts on LinkedIn. Engaging with someone’s post, particularly by leaving relevant and friendly comments, can be a great way to start a conversation, and may even lead to further connection down the track.

Do lots of searching

Use the search bar to browse to your heart’s content. Search for a topic that interests you and see what’s out there – see what people in that field are doing, read and watch articles and videos about the topic, and find groups to join based on your interests.

Find jobs

LinkedIn has an entire section dedicated to finding and applying for jobs. You can use it to search for listings, get help and advice on resume and skill building, and even ask your connections to endorse your skills.

Keep your profile updated

Don’t forget to take some time every now and then to make sure your profile details are all still current. Add news jobs, skills, and experiences; share your own posts and insights with your network; or if you’ve had a major appearance change, upload a new profile picture.

Stay professional

While it is technically social media, remember that LinkedIn is a professional platform – so it’s probably not the place to be sharing your holiday pics or details of last night’s date. When engaging with others, remember to keep your language polite and formal, even if it’s someone you know in real life.

Find out more

You can read more about how LinkedIn and other social media can be beneficial for students in our blog here, or find heaps more resources about the world of work here.

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