To those of you who graduated from high school this year: congratulations! By now, you’ve probably started posting in your college Class of 2017 Facebook group, tweeting a countdown to move-in day (#onemoremonth) and instagramming photos of your school’s campus.
But have you created a LinkedIn profile yet? If not, you should add this crucial item to your get-ready-for-college-social-media-to-do-list — ASAP.
What LinkedIn Is
LinkedIn is a professional networking site. Think of it like Facebook but for more businesslike interactions.
Why You Should Join LinkedIn
“Professional” and “businesslike”? Sounds stuffy, boring and strictly for adults — right?
Well…yes and no.
While it’s true that LinkedIn is primarily used by job-seeking adults, it is also true that the website can be a useful tool for students like yourself.
In the next few years, you’re going to be looking for a job, an internship-seeking college junior and a job-seeking college senior. You’re going to be drafting and redrafting resumes, preparing for interviews and reaching out to lots and lots of people for help along the way. Overwhelming much?
Don’t worry! You can do something to prepare: start now. The sooner you get started, the more resources you’ll have at your disposal. For example, if you begin establishing connections in high school, you’ll have a much larger pool of references to rely on when you start applying and interviewing for jobs. And if you expose yourself to opportunities that are out there now, you’ll be much more comfortable navigating the job market when it’s your turn to find the work environment that’s best for you.
But wait…there’s more!
Not only will creating a LinkedIn profile in high school help you establish more connections and discover more opportunities, but it will also help you impress colleges and potential employers by showcasing you as a driven and proactive individual.
Win-win-win! So what are you waiting for? Get a head start!
How To: Create a Strong LinkedIn Profile
Step One: Select an appropriate photo. Remember, your goal on LinkedIn is to portray yourself as a mature individual. So skip the selfies and save the group shots for Facebook. A school picture is always a good choice.
Step Two: Fill out as much information as you can. As a high school student, you may not have many previous jobs to write about in the “Experience” section. But don’t let that discourage you from incorporating other meaningful pieces of information into your profile. List your classes, extracurricular activities, skills and interests. You can discuss contributions you’ve made to your community under “Volunteering and Causes,” and accomplishments you’ve been commended for under “Honors and Awards.” You can also share samples of your work; if you write a blog, include its URL on your profile.
Step Three: Make connections. Don’t be shy! Reach out to peers, teachers, and even friends of your parents. You never know who may be instrumental in helping you reach your career goals. When adding a new connection, always take advantage of LinkedIn’s option to include a personal message instead of the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network.”
Step Four: Collect recommendations and endorsements. Having statements about your qualifications from other professionals on your profile can really help you stand out. Ask your teachers (and previous employers or colleagues, if you have any) to write a few sentences for you.
Step Five: Join groups and follow organizations. Joining groups for your high school, college and places of employment can help you make new connections, while following organizations can say a lot about you to people viewing your profile. For example, following media outlets shows that you are an informed individual, while following companies you may want to work for one day shows that you are genuinely interested in their affairs.
Remember, the best part of having a LinkedIn account is being able to continually update your profile. Throughout your educational and professional career, be sure to make new connections, add new skills and strive to “be great at what you do.”