Why LinkedIn is Essential for College Students

LinkedIn is growing in popularity among Gen Z, and it’s setting off a wave of envy and fear of missing out for some college students who worry they’re behind—even if they aren’t yet in the workforce.

  • The key to using LinkedIn effectively is to create a detailed and engaging profile.
  • Learn and use basic etiquette when sending messages and making connections.
  • Don’t neglect LinkedIn; update your status regularly and explore job postings.

Stop worrying about work experience and connections. After college, as you get more experience with internships and a job, those sections will naturally fill themselves out. For now, follow these 8 steps to make the most out of your LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn is a more professional platform than any other social media, so it’s important to keep that in mind when using it. But you can still be personal! When sending messages to alumni or to people who work at companies you’re interested in, take the time to write a personal note—and be specific about your reason for writing. The same goes for commenting on a post. If you don’t know what to say, ask a question.

Creating your Profile

When creating your profile, come as close to 100% complete as possible. It will act as your digital “get to know me,” as well as a resume for future employers and connections as you move into the workforce.

Before you get started, there is one more to keep in mind: Don’t try to be funny. Social media is known for being witty and cunning; with friends, that’s fine, but not on LinkedIn. Understanding humor online is challenging, primarily when written. LinkedIn is not the space for funny memes but for sharing different professional goals, accomplishments, and aspirations.

Be sure to include accurate contact information, so employers and other connections can get in contact with you outside of the platform. 20-somethings are used to contacting people through direct messages, but employers may not be. Add your email or phone number as an alternative form of communication, so you don’t rely on LinkedIn’s internal messages.

1. Pick the Right Photo

Unlike other social platforms, your profile headshot on LinkedIn needs to meet some additional criteria. It’s the first thing an employer sees, so you want to make a good impression. Choose a picture that is recent, professional, and of high quality. It should be a clear photo of yourself and not a cropped image with other people.

If you don’t have a headshot, ask a friend to take a picture of you against a solid-colored wall or with some nice scenery that isn’t too busy. Avoid using a selfie or a photo that’s heavily filtered and edited.

2. Write a Keyword-Rich Headline and Summery

Like many things online, the words you select matter. When it comes to your profile, your content is indexed in the platform’s search history, along with other search engines like Google, if your profile is public. Including keywords about the skills and interests desired by employers in your field will increase your chances of appearing in recruitment searches.

For your headline, make it relevant, meaningful, and industry-specific. It will serve as the first glance into what interests you.

When writing your summary, briefly explain your history and goals: Who you are, what you would like to do, who you aim to help, and how you plan on achieving it. Use bullet points for emphasis and to make your profile easy to skim.

Also, the more complete your profile, the more places to include keywords!

3. Add the Details


Going in reverse chronological order, start with your most recent job and list all relevant jobs you’ve had over the years, including any internships. Fill out as much as you can, even if the field is not required. Be sure to write the description in the first person.


Be sure to include any schools you’ve attended and graduated from, along with degrees and fields of study. It’s okay if you haven’t finished school yet; just be sure to put your anticipated graduation date!

Licenses and Certifications

Another way to set yourself apart from other candidates is with licenses and certifications. Some positions require them, so it is helpful for employers to know that you meet their requirements.

Volunteer Experiences

Volunteering and other extracurriculars are a fantastic way to display your transferable skills. They often get overlooked or left off of resumes, deemed unimportant and irrelevant, but offer a deeper insight into who you are and what you value to an employer.

4. Showcase your Strengths

Choose at least five skills to highlight on your profile. This is an important step you shouldn’t skip. Your connections on LinkedIn can endorse the skills you have listed on your profile, signifying to future employers that not only can you talk the talk but also walk the walk.

Have a mix of different skills on your profile as well. Soft skills like time management and communication are increasingly important to employers, so students should focus on those.

If you are having a hard time coming up with appropriate skills, take a look at job descriptions and include sought-after skills you see —only if they actually apply, of course.

5. Include Recommendations

Just like having a list of references with your resume, having recommendations on your profile shows that you can perform the tasks and roles you claim. When looking for your first role out of college, these are important to help set you apart. Start by asking professors, advisors, and work or internship supervisors to leave a recommendation.

6. Have a Portfolio

Navigating a digital world can be challenging in many ways, but showcasing your work isn’t one of them. What better way to sell your skills than to show employers exactly what you can produce? Use the “media” option available in each profile category to upload past projects, videos, and other examples of your work.

7. Final Touches

After you have completed your profile, you can fill out a few other categories that aren’t necessary. Still, they give a deeper insight into your qualifications and help employers find you more easily.

Courses – List important classes taken while in school to give more context to your educational background.

Languages – Being able to speak more than one language is valuable and should be showcased on your profile.

Organizations – List any important membership organizations you were a part of in college.

Awards – Share the honors or awards you may have received while studying or working while attending college.

Interests – Join LinkedIn groups related to your career, follow an alumni group, or connect to specific companies you are interested in.

8. Customize your LinkedIn profile URL.

There are a lot of people on LinkedIn, so taking the extra step to help you stand out can make all the difference. Customizing your URL will help drive the traffic you are looking for to your profile and help you appear in external searches. Make it easy, such as your first and last name or first initial and last name.

  • Start networking. Networking doesn’t mean reaching out cold to strangers. Start building your LinkedIn network by uploading your online address book from your email account.
  • Connect with alumni. Find your school’s page and click the “See alumni” button.
  • Customize your connection requests. Tailor each request instead of using the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message. Remind the contact you are reaching out to where you met, or explain why you want to connect. They’ll be more likely to respond.

Now that you have completed your profile ask a parent or other trusted adult to proofread and provide additional feedback before it goes live. The good news is, as you continue to learn, grow, and gain experience, your LinkedIn Profile will grow with you!

Happy linking!