Before we get to the how, let’s talk about the why. Why do you need a LinkedIn profile?
You might be thinking, “I have years of college left…I don’t need to start looking for a job now.” While this may be true, we believe in the old adage: the early bird gets the worm! If you start thinking about your professional goals now, you will be more prepared when the time comes to find a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity.
LinkedIn is a great way to establish an online presence and grow your professional network (i.e. find people who can help you build your future plans). These connections may also be the first step to help you score a great internship.
How do you build a strong LinkedIn profile as a college student? Here are five easy steps to get started or to spiff up your profile:
1. Post a Professional Profile Photo
Remember LinkedIn is not Facebook. It is a professional networking site—everything you do, add or write on this platform will be seen by hundreds of fellow professionals. You should post a professional photo (preferably a professional headshot) that establishes you as someone employers would want to hire.
Tips for your perfect professional photo:
2. Write a Clear Summary
An effective summary should answer these three questions: Who are you? What do you do? What are you looking for? Use first or third-person to write your summary. Don’t forget to highlight your interests and impressive achievements.
Grab professionals’ attention by sharing something about yourself that isn’t shared in your resume.
David Brown is a second year Business Administration student at UC Riverside. He is passionate about marketing, advertising, and social media. He is seeking a summer internship to apply his experience assisting a company’s branding needs through social media outreach, developing marketing plans, digital marketing, and conducting customer research.
Specialties: event planning, social networking and marketing, account management, Microsoft Office, Adobe CS5.5 Suite.
3. Add Education and Work Experience
Use this online resume to showcase the stuff that matters: leadership positions, internships, and jobs. Make sure to use strong action verbs (research, manage, copy edit, collaborate, invent, etc.) to describe your experiences.
4. Add Skills and Experience
Are you a Photoshop guru? Is French your second language? Do you live and breathe social media marketing? Awesome! Add it to your skills section.
You can also use LinkedIn to showcase your recommendations and endorsements from professors, employers, and connections. Recommendations indicate to the online world that your previous bosses adored you, and endorsements allow you to show your skills.
5. Check for Grammar and Spelling Mistakes
Just like your resume, your LinkedIn profile should be error-free. After you have completed your profile ask a friend or family member to proof it.
How to Write a Professional Bio as a College Student.
A well-written bio is a great tool to have in your professional toolkit. Whether for a job application, networking event, or as an introduction for future employers, your bio is a great way to share who you are and highlight your accomplishments. It can also be a great addition to your LinkedIn profile’s “Summary” section.
Depending on your year in college, your biography will vary in length and topics. For example, a senior may have more work or internship experience to write about than a first-year student, and can describe his/her job roles, skills, and professional interests. On the other hand, first-year students could focus their bio on their background, educational goals, and hobbies. In both cases, your bio should craft an engaging narrative that emphasizes your interests and personality.
Bios are written in the third person and are typically one or two paragraphs, depending on your level of experience. Your bio should start with your name and a quick sentence that describes your basic background. This can include your college, year in school, academic focus, and professional interest. Your bio should be brief, concise, and clear.
Establish a Background Story
Highlighting your background will give the reader an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of your personal narrative, which may not be evident on your resume. Also, consider including recent events, such as studying abroad or volunteering. Find a couple of moments in your life that have impacted your identity or interests, and briefly, mention them. This will personalize your bio and help you stand out from your peers.
Explain Your Interests
Next, you will want to elaborate on your interests. For students with a significant amount of professional experience, this will focus more on career goals. If you don’t feel you have enough job experience to write about or are not sure about your professional goals, describe your academic or extracurricular interests. Feel free to add any hobbies that highlight your uniqueness, such as painting, running marathons, or cooking. Remember, your personal biography is an area to describe your personality that is not as easily communicated on your resume.
Emphasize How You Can Add Value
Lastly, you want to end on a high note by emphasizing how you can add value. Depending on where you use this bio, this sentence or two can refer to adding value to a company, team, or event. Highlight your unique talents and skills that would interest your audience. Rather than explicitly stating, “I can add value by…,” share this message subtly. You want your reader to understand that you are a well-rounded individual and professional who can contribute significant knowledge and experience.
There is no order to include all of this information. Play with the format and see what works best for your narrative. Although it can be difficult to summarize your life in one paragraph, this is a useful tool for crafting a positive image of yourself for potential professional networks. Below are two examples:
Example 1 (for first-years and sophomores):
Alison Johnson is finishing her first year at DePaul University where she is interested in business. Although she has yet to declare a major, she’s considering finance or marketing. After watching her parents run a restaurant for years, she knew at a very young age that she also wanted to go into business. In high school, Alison waited tables at the family restaurant during the summer and was fascinated by the many working parts it takes to operate a successful business. From this experience, she learned the value of hard work, efficiency, and communication. In the future, she hopes to continue her parents’ legacy and run her own five-star restaurant in downtown Chicago. Alison spends her spare time singing in her church choir and cooking for friends and family.
Example 2 (for juniors and seniors):
Jared Smith is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he is majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Latin America. His interest in international development began during the fall semester of 2012 when he had the opportunity to study abroad in Peru. He learned about the inequalities affecting indigenous communities, experienced the Peruvian culture, and became proficient in Spanish. Inspired by this international experience, Jared interned with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, conducting research on food security in Latin America. Jared aspires to pursue a career in international development and write policy for a government agency. When he is not busy reading about current affairs in Latin America, he enjoys playing intramural basketball and training for the Chicago marathon.