LinkedIn is not something new, in fact it was created way back in 2003. As it quickly became the largest professional network on the internet, few questions have come up from the student world. Is LinkedIn useful for students? Should I have a LinkedIn profile as a student? What should I put on my LinkedIn profile as a student? Just to list a few! The short answer to those, as we will see, is yes! In this post we will go through how to create a great student (or graduate) profile on LinkedIn.
Just like most social media, LinkedIn allows you to create a profile where you can list your education, work experience and interests. It also allows you to connect with other people (just like you request friendship/follow on other social media), as well as having an instant messaging service. Basically, it’s a sort of online CV.
The aim of the platform is quite simple: connect job seekers with employers. In fact, employers have their LinkedIn accounts too; those can be pages you can follow, or, most importantly, actual people. Let me give you an idea of its presence in the UK. As of July 2021 (I could not find more recent reliable UK data), LinkedIn had approximately 31.2 million users in the UK! (source: Statista)
Should I have a LinkedIn profile as a student (or graduate)?
This is one the most common questions I came across online. For many the answer is very simple: yes. However, for some reasons there still are many students who do not have a profile yet, despite having one on all sorts of social media.
No matter who you talk to, lecturers or recruiters; no matter in which sector they work in, public or private; neither the size of those firms, large or SMEs. Everybody will tell you the same thing: networking is the most effective way to find a job. Graduate jobs and internships are not any different!
Obviously, networking on LinkedIn is not the same as doing it in person, but it could be the reason why you will meet someone face to face! Make sure to follow the companies you are interested in, engage with them and attend their events!
I have talked about the importance of those networking events in another article; how to be a successful (mature) student at university. Although my main concern was being a mature student, the same principles apply to any students really!
Is LinkedIn useful for students?
Before we get into how to build a good LinkedIn profile as a student, I want to mention another reason why it is useful for students. In case you did not know, LinkedIn has an enormous online course platform called LinkedIn Learning (what once was known as Lynda.com).
Let me tell you why this makes LinkedIn useful for students even more. Firstly, unlike many other online e-learning platforms, LinkedIn Learning is free for students (only)! Most UK universities have partnered with the platform to give you free access, although many don’t know about it. All you need to do in most cases is to find it in your university portal, and link the two accounts.
Secondly, these courses (which are split into three categories: business, software and creative) award you with certificates of completion. What’s so special about it? They go straight into your LinkedIn profile!
Don’t get me wrong, there are other good platforms that offer quality online courses and I will talk about them in a separate post. However, unlike LinkedIn Learning they are not free generally (although some do offer free courses at a very basic level); moreover, the fact that those certificates show automatically on your profile avoids the hassle of doing it manually!
How to create a good LinkedIn profile as a student
What should I put on my LinkedIn profile as a student? This is another common area of concern for many who don’t have skills or experience to display. Well, let me tell you that we all possess those, sometimes it’s just a matter of marketing!
Before going into that in more detail, let’s cover the basics. First, you should really have a profile picture, that empty grey profile icon does not look good at all! I actually disagree with those who say you should strictly put a professional picture on your LinkedIn, I’d say a nice positive picture of yourself would do!
As usual, a bit of creativity that differentiates you from others can pay well. Why should we all have the same profile picture on LinkedIn? Everyone dressed formally in an office (many students book study/meeting rooms to take pictures in a office-alike environment, I did it too!).
I mean it’s certainly a good thing to have a professional picture on your LinkedIn as a student, but I wouldn’t say it’s a must! Obviously I’m not saying you should put a picture of you sunbathing or partying; but I nice picture of you with a nice background (e.g. a park, a nice building) would do the job. Something that highlights your energy, your positivity, your brightness! Remember that this is the first thing someone sees when visiting your profile..
What’s the next thing they see? The section “About”, and here there is another common mistake, it’s often left empty. This should be a summary of YOU, what’s your story in a nutshell? Where are you at the moment (student, graduate)? What are your interests (career wise, hobbies, sports)? Show your ambitions!!
A common mistake students make is to list their education with “no soul” in it. Add some value to your profile! Simply putting your degree title on your LinkedIn, whether you are still studying or already graduated, isn’t going to mean anything.
Provide a good description of it! Go on your university website and find your course description, get the most interesting bits and put it on your profile. Don’t forget to mention any accreditations your degree holds, these are important as well!
What academic skills your course is (was) designed to give you? Your university website contains all this information, use it! What were/are the main modules you studied? List them too after the description, explain how those relate to the job you want if necessary. What about extracurricular activities, academic competitions and so on?
Work Experience (if any)
Should I my put my student job on my LinkedIn profile? Many think their work experience is irrelevant to their CV because it’s not related to what they want to do in the future. As a result, they avoid even mentioning it on their profile, wrong!
Any job you do as a student (most common are in hospitality and retail) provides you with valuable skills. The worst thing you can do is to actually ignore it, or just list your workplace and job title; as in the case of your education, put some soul into that! As I said earlier, sometimes it’s just a matter of marketing!
Doesn’t matter where you had that work experience as a student; if in a small coffee shop or a restaurant, if in a hotel or retail shop; for a large large known company or for a family business; maybe you volunteered in a charity shop or event; shifts in a factory or production site; whatever, just put it on your LinkedIn profile!
In this case though, it is definitely necessary to spice it up. You need to put some keywords in those description. Think along the lines of meeting company’s targets and standards; hard-work; ability to work on your own or as part of a team; creative approach to problem solving; ability to plan ahead, attention to details; multitasking and so on. Employers and recruiters love to see those!
For the record, I always had a part-time job in hospitality throughout my university studies. I started university at 26 as a mature student because I wanted to find a better job. Luckily, it worked out well!
Academic Experience (if any)
This is another useful thing you can add to your experience section. Let me give you a practical example of what I did. As part of my final year at university, I had a semester-long group consultancy project for a real company, a start-up. They had a partnership with my university, and presented us with a problem to solve for which we would get marked (that was the course assessment basically).
This felt like a proper business consultant job, we would have meetings in their offices and exchange emails on a daily basis. To cut a long story short, we put together a report and delivered a presentations on our findings. The CEO attended, he was very happy and we also got a very good mark. End of the story?
No.. I connected on LinkedIn with him the day after the presentation. At firsts, I was a bit “afraid” of doing it, but I went for it; I sent him message politely asking if I could put the consulting project on my LinkedIn profile, mentioning and tagging the company.
He replied with enthusiasm, saying he was very impressed with the quality of the work. He encouraged me to put it under work experience with the title of “business consultant” as he would be happy to confirm it if someone asked; I did it straight away! In the description I obviously also stated that it was a university project and not a professional collaboration.
My profile would show experience as a business consultant for the company X for a few months. This not only looked very good on my LinkedIn student profile for obvious reasons, but also for others that are a bit “less visible”; endorsements and keywords! Both will make more sense as you read through!
Skills (and Endorsements!)
A very important section to complete here. Again, many students are unsure of what skills to put on their LinkedIn profile. Let me help you find some obvious ones, because they are always the best! Remember those we mentioned for work experience?
In case you don’t have any, you can use your university experience to dig them out. Did you have a group project? That’s teamwork and collaboration skills. You obviously have exams and assignment to submit. That’s working under pressure and meeting deadlines. Are you studying different subjects? That’s multitasking and so on.
If you think doing this is inappropriate, then you are wrong. The graduate job market is very competitive, same thing for internships. You got to be smarter than average if you want to increase your chances of finding a job. A good profile on LinkedIn as a student is a massive help! So far I have been praised for my profile and the creativity I had when building it, not challenged for how I did it, just saying!
Here a very good tip I want to share to strengthen your student profile on LinkedIn. Remember when the CEO of that start-up replied to me? He didn’t just encouraged me to put business consulting experience on my profile, but he also endorsed some of my skills! More specifically, consulting, client relations, market research and presentation skills.
I then found out about it. Basically, someone from your network can come on your profile and endorse your skills. It is then up to you if you want those endorsements visible no your profile or not, I obviously made them visible. So I thought.. that’s great, I need more!
I approached my work manager and asked if he would endorse some of my skills. We had a good relationship, plus I had always been considered as a hard worker anyway. He endorsed my customer service, time management and again my customer relations skills too! Basically I had it endorsed it twice from two professionals, brilliant!
One very important thing to mention on endorsement. I thought about asking my lecturers too, but at time I did not want to “risk” it. However, I don’t think it should be a problem, particularly if you ask lecturers from previous years/modules (not current) where you particularly performed well. If you are building your LinkedIn profile as a graduate, then this is something I’d recommend doing for sure!
What I won’t recommend though is to start “exchanging” endorsements with other students or friends. Remember that those will be visible on your profile as well as who has actually endorsed you. Hence let’s keep it professional, overdoing something could have an inverse consequence and make your student profile on LinkedIn look bad!
Licenses and Certifications
Now this really depends on what you have at the moment. However, again there is something you can do to improve this part of your student LinkedIn profile (or graduate). I’ll give you some tips for both situations so that you can put something in there for sure!
Now let’s assume you have nothing to put in. Remember the LinkedIn Learning platform? In this case it’s extremely useful! As I mentioned earlier, it mainly covers three areas: business, software and creative. Within those you can find courses that are quite “generic” and very useful for any CV or career path.
For example, I took some basic Microsoft 365 courses that awarded me certificates in excel, power point and access. I also completed some leadership and management courses too. Those were very easy to obtain and went straight into my LinkedIn profile! Obviously, I could have also progressed to intermediate and advanced certifications, and it is actually something I would recommend doing while you have still free access! (in my case for about one year after graduating)
Moreover, if you have a student job or previous work experience, are you sure there is nothing you can put in there? Let me give you an example of what I did, I put there all the major trainings I went through while working. Things like health and safety, serving alcohol and so on. Again, these were mainly internal trainings and certifications, so I mentioned that too.
Why you need a good student profile on LinkedIn
Building a strong student profile is key to find a job on LinkedIn, it’s like having an updated CV online all the time. Whether you are looking for a graduate job, an internship or other job opportunities, you can use your LinkedIn profile to apply directly. Hence, the stronger the better!
However, this does not only work one way, also employers can use LinkedIn to find you! Remember when I mentioned “keywords” earlier? Now it’s the time to talk about them. Think about when you research something on Google, you simply put sentences with keywords (sometimes just keywords) to get where you want. The Google algorithym does everything for you, it understands what you are looking for and presents you with results.
This is exactly the same for social networks. Now imagine you are a recruiter or employer looking for good profiles on LinkedIn. What would you put in your research? Obviously the location, although many jobs now have the option to work from home; and then keywords!
This does not mean just previous work experience, but all those “magic words” I mentioned earlier (time management, multitasking, problem solving etc); or a specific academic background (your degree title could make you appear in the research, but all other keywords you provide in the description can make a difference!); or specific skills and certifications (excel, access, leadership etc.); maybe a combination of all!
Basically, the more keywords you have on your LinkedIn profile, the more chances you have to appear in researches! Having a good LinkedIn profile is not only useful to apply for jobs, but also to be found! So play both sides well, you really want to be ready when they get to your profile.
My student (graduate) LinkedIn profile
I won’t lie, I started to put effort into my student profile on LinkedIn only during my last year of university, basically after my consultancy project. That’s a mistake, I would really recommend doing it earlier if you still can, and then keep updating it as you gain more skills and make more experience.
I graduated right in the middle of the pandemic, the job market was down along with the entire economy. However I was lucky enough (after lots of attempts) to get a graduate job few months later. Why I am telling you that? Because I need you to know how my profile is doing now that the market is back.
Despite having turned off the “Open to work” feature, basically saying I’m not looking for jobs, I’m appearing in about 50 to 60 searches a week! I get a notification with the exact number every Monday. I’m also constantly receiving connect requests from recruiters, my network is now over a thousand people and growing.
Sometimes I also receive messages with job opportunities, either encouraging me to apply or to set a call with them. Let me repeat, my “open to work” is turned off! I’m guessing I would receive many more if it was on. Growing your LinkedIn network is very important!
In my next post I will explain how to expand your LinkedIn network as a student or graduate. The ultimate goal of this is the same for most: how to use LinkedIn to find a graduate job or internship. I will put the link here once it’s ready!
Conclusions, a greet student (or graduate) LinkedIn profile
I truly believe LinkedIn is a very useful tool and it will continue to grow in this “social media era” we are living in now. After all, it follows the same principles although it focuses on professional profiles. However, how to make the most out of LinkedIn depends on you.
Let me disclaim the obvious as usual. This is how I built my student/graduate LinkedIn profile; everything it’s based on my personal experience and opinions, so consider this article for informational purpose only. I really hope you found this article useful, if you want to find out more, HERE you can see all my blog posts. Thank you for reading!