Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What-to-Know Wednesday : Building Your LinkedIn Profile As a College Student

I'm banking on the fact that all you prospective students probably know what LinkedIn is at this point, but just in case you don't, here's the lowdown- essentially, it's an online resume melded with a social network through which you can endorse other people's skills, congratulate them on new jobs, etc. Basically Facebook for the professional world. As a fairly new LinkedIn user (I signed up towards the end of last semester), I'd say that a pretty large emphasis is placed on the act of actually building up your profile.

When I signed up and created a profile last semester as part of an assignment for my Business Communications class, my initial thoughts were, what could I possibly build up a profile with at this stage in the game? I'm not out in the workforce just yet- who would even be interested in my profile? 

But when used correctly and to its full potential, LinkedIn can be one of your most useful tools in marketing yourself as a professional! That being said, there's no need to fear. Here are a few LinkedIn tips and tricks for all you soon-to-be or current college students, whether or not you're already signed up!

1.) Pick a profile photo that's indicative of both your personality and your professional goals.

There's no need to go digging up a three-year-old prom photo just because it's the most formal thing you might have right now. And there's even less need to go cropping away to a painful extent at said photo. As long as it's good quality (another argument against any crop-happy tendencies), you're smiling, you're dressed relatively conservatively, and there's a clean background, you're probably good to go. Again- your profile picture should be an accurate (but also appropriate) representation of who you are. Don't overthink it!

2.) Follow the prompts to the best of your ability.

As you're building your profile, LinkedIn will prompt you to fill out different areas like your work experience, volunteer experience, professional interests, skills, etc. If something doesn't apply to you, or you feel like you don't have enough experience to adequately fill out an area, don't force it. This is one of those "quality over quantity" scenarios. One of the great things about LinkedIn is that you can continue to build your profile as you gain more experience in different areas and develop as a professional. There's time to build up each area as you go!

3.) Elaborate on your experience as it pertains to your professional goals.

Simply put, you can probably leave out that very first summer job that you held onto for all of two months back in high school. However, you'll want to highlight and elaborate on the experiences you've had working towards your post-grad goals. In other words, if you hope to work in journalism, really milk all your work for local papers, school journals, writing competitions, etc. If you hope to work in the health field, make note of your teaching assistant experience in your college laboratory, your internship at the local hospital, etc. You get the idea!

Good luck, and happy networking!

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Instagram: @claire_cavanaugh
Twitter: @CavanaughClaire

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