The Anatomy of a Stellar LinkedIn for Students

Hello! I’m Katie, and LinkedIn is my favorite social medium.

That fact definitely says a lot about me as a human, but it also overlays some cold, hard, statistics: I’ve gotten 2 internships and 1 job at Fortune 1000 companies (Square, The Walt Disney Company, and Microsoft) largely due to my LinkedIn habits (or at least that’s what my recruiters and hiring managers told me when I asked). I’ve connected with and called 100+ interesting people from the technology worlds through reaching out over LinkedIn. I also work at Dartmouth’s Center for Professional Development advising students as to how to better their professional profiles. Here’s my comprehensive list of LinkedIn tips for a student (with a special focus/examples based on those interested in PM’ing).

Step 1. Creation & Introductions

If you haven’t already, sign up. While a blank slate may seem daunting at first glance, you’re already reading this article, so take a deep breath and realize that you already have the drive to fill this out in no time.

First things first: upload a profile picture. LinkedIn has shown that members with a photo recieve 21x more profile views and 9x more connection requests than those without (LinkedIn, 2018). I suggest a good photo of your face: i.e., a high-quality individual shot of your face with clear lighting that you like. LinkedIn skews more professional ‘headshots,’ but if you have a great photo of you that shows off your personality or personal brand, I’d say go for it. If you don’t have a photo like this, get someone to take one. If you’re a student, chances are that your career services center will offer this to you free of charge. If not, ask a friend — you’re welcome to schedule a photoshoot with a dedicated photographer, but your phone and a nice backdrop should suffice. LinkedIn has a great article that offers 10 tips to pick a profile picture.

A background photo is important, too. A lot of people neglect this, but it’s a great opportunity to showcase something personal about you — your love for the outdoors, your hometown, a piece of architecture that resonates with you, or something you love. I personally chose a starry night backdrop because I believe in reaching for the stars and a person’s unlimited potential. Also, I like the night sky. If you are tapped for inspiration, simply search“LinkedIn cover photos.” A note: make sure you are searching for “free” photos. Think of this as a talking point.

Okay, you’ve got something. Pat yourself on the back — we’re moving on from photos to words. Starting with the headline, as it’s usually the first thing others see about you, and thus of great importance. Your headline tells a viewer where you are and where you want to go in the least amount of words possible. A tip I’ve found helpful: bars (|) are your best friends to unite these (seemingly!) disparate paths. Usually, employers and others you’d like to connect with would like to see some combination of where you are | where you have been*| where you are going. The where you are going part is the most fun and most likely to change with the recruiting season. If you are currently recruiting, you may indicate what roles you are interested in. If you have accepted a position, indicate that as well. When in doubt, take a pause and peruse other profiles to see what others in your field are doing and/or what resonates with you.

*= A combination of where you have worked, what you study, and leadership experience. Also, not necessary if you don’t have anything you’d like to highlight!

Examples:

  • Senior at Dartmouth | Former Square, Disney. Incoming Microsoft PM | Intrepid Explorer
  • Freshman at UCSB | Economics and Computer Science | Seeking PM & Design Opportunities for Summer 2021

Next up: let’s tackle the About section, a mix of your life story and keywords/skills (how recruiters search for prospective employees). This is a gold mine for keywords that recruiters will search (aka valuable real estate). There are many articles out there on how to write a stellar About section (example 1, example 2, example 3), but in my mind, it should satisfy be both concise and creative (or at least interesting to read). Mainly, it should expand upon your headline in a profoundly personal and unique way. They should also tell your story — you’ll list your accomplishments and accolades later on. This is the chance to share your whole narrative. Here’s a handy formula I’ve found useful:

  1. Who you are (2–4 sentences)
  • Purpose/what you believe in
  • Interests and values (stories that share key values that you hold highly)
  • What you currently study and why
  • Tip: Make sure the first 45 words are punchy — they will be the first thing someone reads before clicking “see more”

2. What you have done (2 sentences)

  • Unite your past experiences to dovetail with your purpose. Craft a narrative around why you did what you did, what impact you had on the program, and how it shaped you

3. What you are looking to do (1–2 sentences)

  • Explain what’s next for you (i.e. incoming PM at Microsoft) OR what you’d like to do (seeking internships in UX/UI in New York for Summer 2021)
  • Personalize it! “In my free time, I…” is a great line for others to know more about who you are
  • If you are comfortable hearing from others, ask those reading to “connect” if they’d like to talk with you more about relevant opportunities: “feel free to reach out at xyz@abc.com”

They can be written in either the first or third person. At the bottom, you may want to list keywords (the things recruiters search when they are looking for new roles). Again, the bars (|) are your best friends. I’d recommend choosing 5–10 keywords and skills to place in your profile — to find out which ones, check out what LinkedIn has to say. Another way to go about identifying both interests and keywords is to identify words that other professionals you admire use in their profiles. Be truthful!

Note: I personally do not ascribe to this formula as I prefer a more concise summary once employed. Feel free to check it out on my LinkedIn, and do as you will!

Steps 2 & 3: Prove what you said before & fill in any gaps

Now comes the fun part — the route fill-in-the blank section(s) that consists of Experience, Education, Licenses & Certifications, Volunteer Experience, Skills & Endorsements, Recommendations, and Accomplishments.

Experience

Ah, the meat of your LinkedIn profile. What you have done or continue to do — in my mind, any place you have worked before, either lifeguarding, as an intern at a startup, or at school. List all relevant experience from high school and college, but cull or expand your timelines if it starts to get too crowded or too lean, respectively.

Titling these should be pretty easy. If you interned, list [department] + intern. If you worked at a sub-group within that company (i.e. at a specific product at Google) and want to call attention to that, list that in the title or first bullet point. Make sure to link the company you worked for — if it is a moderately well-known company, it will have an icon that makes it seem more legitimate.

Next, list 1–4 bullets (I use dashes, -) about what you did. Use strong action verbs and use numbers to quantitatively show the impact you had and your success (or failure — and what you learned from that). Good rule of thumb: the more bullets, the more importance someone viewing your profile will give to that experience. Also, link anything that covers what you did in more detail.

Regarding grammar: If you completed an experience in the past, use verbs in the past tense. If you are still participating in your experience, use present tense verbs. Make sure to standardize punctuation —either have periods (.) or don’t.

Examples (from my own profile):

Education

This one is straightforward. List your most recent education and, if relevant, your major/minor and activities. Also, list any study abroad institutions you may have attended. Make sure to put in your intended or actual dates attended as well as your current year (freshman, sophomore, etc). If you have earned any honors (Dean’s List, Cum Laude) during any years, I would note them on there as well. I personally have my middle and high school listed with my complete activities on my profile — they are good places of connection if the off chance you want to connect with someone from the same area.

Examples (from my own profile):

Licenses and Certifications

This is a wonderful place to prove that you have taken a Coursera class and have actually paid for the certificate. Jokes aside, this is a wonderful place to both fill in the ‘gaps’ as you pursue your intended career, as well as to showcase your interests.

Examples:

  • Many companies look for their PM’s to have a background in both computer science and economics/business. If you have a technical background, take a free business class online; if you have a finance/econ background, take a coding class.
  • Show off that scuba diving certificate or black belt you earned in high school.

Volunteer Experience

If you have any relevant volunteering experience with either local or national organizations, list it here with a short, action-driven summary of what you do there (and perhaps a pithy why/what you have learned since). If not, this is a great chance to get in the groove of giving back. Search “volunteering” + [some interest of yours] OR [some skill you want to gain] + [your geographical location] and see if anything interesting catches your eye.

Projects

I am personally a fan of eschewing the projects card that Linkedin provides you and instead linking a website that features your projects in more detail. However, if you have projects that can be reduced down to a byline and linked media piece, I’d recommend attaching 1–2 relevant ones.

Skills, Endorsements, and Recommendations

List the ones you have in your keywords, as well as more qualitative ones like leadership, passion, etc. While I personally haven’t taken any skill quizzes quite yet, they are way to legitimately verify your skills if you have the time. Endorsements and recommendations only add to the validity of the image you craft and embody on LinkedIn. I’d recommend asking your peers, mentors, and bosses to endorse or recommend you for what they see or saw in your during your time together.

Accomplishments

Courses

Very relevant if you are still in school and/or have taken outside curriculum you’d like to showcase. Two tips — 1, make sure to highlight courses that apply to the field you’d like to go into, and 2, try to add only the highest number or most relevant electives to your profile. Showcasing 2–10 classes that showcase your particular set of skills and interests speaks more than 24 courses do. For example, if you’re interested in PM’ing, highlight technical, economics, design, or psych classes that you’d want to talk about with a recruiter or PM at the company, as well as any classes that were impactful/interesting to you. Also, anything that shows initiative and drive (independent study, thesis) is a good thing to showcase as well.

Honors and Awards

If you have won anything, I’d recommend putting it here. If it isn’t self explanatory (example: Dartmouth gives citations to indicate meritorious performance in a class), feel free to flesh it out in the description box below. Note: Additional media is not able to be added like an attachment here, so you must copy-paste it in (to my eternal chagrin).

Languages

Add all and be honest!

Organizations

If you belong to any organizations (honor society, a greek life organization, a technology mentorship chapter, etc.) add them and, if not otherwise clear, a few words about them or your organization in them. If you are not a member of any such organizations and wish to join some, shop around at other profiles and try to join some that seem exciting.

Publications

If you have published anything or had anything published about you that you are proud of, feel free to link that on your profile. Medium posts are a great way to start!

Test Scores

Personally, I am indifferent to adding these to your profile. Some see them as bragging, but they can also be a point of pride. If they are good scores, I would lean towards adding them, but if you don’t feel like they reflect you as a person, don’t add them. Typical test scores include, but are not limited to: ACT or SAT, SAT subject tests, language tests, GMAT/GRE (if applicable).

A Final Check

Now that you are are done with filling out your profile, ask a friend, mentor, school counselor, or even a recruiter in your given field (if you know one) to take a glance over your profile— does it make sense that you have the desire, skills, and passion to pursue the opportunities you say you are? Why or why not? Where are gaps, and how can you fill those? Take their feedback and tweak your profile accordingly.

Step 4: Exploring (interests, network, etc.)

Interests

Explore some pages and groups — you can ‘like’ and follow them to not only find their publications on your feed, but also featured on your profile.

Your Network

Once you’re up and running, start connecting with those that you know — your friends, parents, and those in your school/activity networks. I’d always recommend sending a note to those you feel you don’t know as well or in some cases, know at all. The LinkedIn ‘My Network’ page is great for encouraging you to connect with others. In all cases, be bold!

And more…

There is so much for you to play around with on LinkedIn: recruiting, mentoring, groups, jobs, and more. The more you play around with the tool by making your profile visible to recruiters or searching for specific jobs, the more prepared you will be to navigate the professional world. I’d also recommend setting up a custom LinkedIn link so that you can share your profile easily (instructions here).

Thank you very much for reading.

Feel free to connect with me via LinkedIn (I’d recommend giving my article on LinkedIn networking basics a read first) :)

Perpetual student, unsolicited advice-giver, lover of Japanese toilets