How to Use LinkedIn Effectively as a College Student

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By Kate Sitarz
Last updated on August 8, 2023

If you are an international student seeking an internship or a job, LinkedIn is an essential tool for professional development. Read on for tips on using LinkedIn effectively for job research, networking, and interview prep.

A female international college student in a blazer holds a portfolio and shakes a recruiter's hand

While you may view LinkedIn as a tool for working professionals to network and find new jobs, it is also a tool for college students — and it can be just as important as your resume. In fact, you can think of LinkedIn as an online resume! 

Of the more than 660 million LinkedIn users, 46 million are students. Savvy college students know that millions of jobs are posted every month by more than 30 million companies that use the platform. Plus, more than 75% of recruiters use LinkedIn, according to Jobvite’s 2018 Recruiter Nation Survey.

The key to using LinkedIn effectively as a college student is optimizing your profile to make industry connections, find internships and jobs, and ensure your profile is noticed when recruiters and hiring managers search for new job candidates to hire. With the right profile, you may attract employers looking for recent graduates to fill entry-level positions. That means you could have potential employers finding you, instead of you having to seek out potential employers. 

Plus, any time you apply for an internship or job, you can assume that the recruiter or hiring manger (or both) will search your name. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, or you have a less-than-professional web presence, you may hurt your chances of getting the job.

So, instead of waiting until you graduate or land a job to build your profile, it is smart to create an effective LinkedIn profile now. That way, when you are ready to enter the job market, you may already have the connections and leads you need to land a position fast. 

To start creating your profile, a LinkedIn Basic account is likely fine. (Of course, you could also spend some time reading about the premium subscription plans that LinkedIn offers to see if it makes sense for your situation.) 

How to Write a LinkedIn Headline: Recent Graduates

If you are still in college or recently graduated, your headline may be a little different from someone who is a graduate student or has previous employment within their field.

Your headline is one of the first things a recruiter will see, but you have only 120 characters to make an impact. LinkedIn automatically generates a headline based on your current job and company, but you can — and should — update this. In your headline, briefly state who you are and what you want to do, and include relevant keywords that recruiters and hiring managers will notice. 

For example, Resume Worded cites this headline as a great example: “Aspiring Java Software Developer | Seeking Entry-Level Programming Position | Experience with JavaScript and Python.” Instead of simply saying “student,” the headline notes the job title the student is working toward (Java software developer) and the type of role they want (programming). The last part of the headline hits on the relevant experience the student has for the role, including keywords (JavaScript and Python).

If you have relevant experience, such as an internship, you may choose to leave off “aspiring” before the job title. This is because you want to focus less on what you want and need than what you have to offer for a particular role. As Jobscan notes, if you are looking for an internship, you may opt to include that information in the headline so that recruiters searching for interns can more easily find you. Similarly, you may include when you are available — for example, American University ’21 — so recruiters know when you are officially able to start working. 

Additionally, if you speak more than one language, list these in your profile — especially if you are looking at jobs and companies that may require or benefit from a multilingual employee.

How to Write a LinkedIn Headline: Graduate Students

As a graduate student, you want to follow most of the advice for recent graduates, including keywords and maximizing the use of the 120 characters. Of course, if you are attending graduate school and already have relevant experience in your field, you want your headline to reflect that, even if you are attending school full time. 

For example, if you have a job and are earning your MBA at the same time, you may opt for a headline, such as: “Marketing Manager – MBA candidate, Adelphi University ’22 – Experience in fintech and hospitality”.

Include industries you have experience in — or you could put in the industries where you want to build your career. Depending on your goals, it might make more sense to include specific skills employers will look for in the roles you want. 

How to Write a LinkedIn Summary

Think of your summary as a personal introduction. Because it is an introduction, it is best practice to write in first person: “I am a …” versus “Li is a …,” for example.

With that in mind, you will want to spend time crafting a summary that expands on your headline and shows what you have to offer prospective employers. Remember: it is not about the job and internship you want, but the value you can add to an organization. 

The summary is one of the most important sections of your LinkedIn profile, as it is the first thing a person sees after your headline. Think of it as your elevator pitch or cover letter. It is your first chance to demonstrate why a recruiter or hiring manager should continue reading your profile and potentially contact you for an interview, compared to another candidate. Since they can see your experience, what do you want recruiters and hiring managers to know about you that they would not be able to guess from the rest of your profile?

You may use this area to expand on why you chose your particular major. For example, if you are a business major, why did you choose that area of study? What do you hope to accomplish? What can you bring to an organization? What makes you passionate about your particular field, industry, or job? 

You may make connections between your extracurricular activities and how they benefit potential employers, particularly if those connections are not immediately clear. For example, if you worked for the college radio station, you may have experience managing numerous tasks on tight timelines.

Experiences may help you stand out — even if they do not directly relate to the role you are seeking. If a potential employer wants to hire a social media manager, your marketing major is obviously a key factor. But perhaps less obvious is your interest in film. Your filmmaking skills may be attractive because you could help create content for the organization’s social channels. Get creative with how you position your experience.

As with everything in your LinkedIn profile, carefully read your summary for spelling and grammar mistakes. Go over your profile with a professional in your school’s career services office, too. Advisors can help you see your profile through the eyes of a recruiter and can suggest improvements. 

How to Include Experience on LinkedIn as a College Student

Beyond your summary and headline, you will also want to fill out the other sections of your LinkedIn profile. List internships and jobs relevant to your industry and desired career in the experience section, including a brief description of your roles and responsibilities, as well as your accomplishments within each role. 

Add your education — even if you have not yet completed your degree. You can add your expected graduation date and degree, alerting potential employers to your timeline. This may line up with when they need to fill a particular role.

In addition to your degree, you can also include courses that demonstrate knowledge of your field. This is particularly helpful if you think a certain class and the work you did is relevant to your desired position. In the projects section, include any work you have completed that you want potential employers to see. For example, if you are studying UX design, you can include a link to your online portfolio. Include any professional organizations you belong to, volunteer experience, awards you have won, and languages you speak. If any areas are not relevant to you, do not worry — simply do not include them!

Additionally, remember to add a photo to your profile. This offers a first impression of your professionalism. (Check out the LinkedIn Talent Blog for tips on choosing the right profile photo.)

LinkedIn has other valuable resources for college students and recent graduates, including a checklist that will help make sure you have completed everything needed for an effective profile. 

How to Network on LinkedIn

As a college student on LinkedIn, you can connect with not only your peers, family, and family friends, but also your professors, academic advisors, and other mentors. These professionals may be willing to connect you with other professionals in their networks who align with your career goals. 

You will also want to ask your professors and advisors for a recommendation on LinkedIn. Having someone who can speak to your experience and skills, particularly if they are in your field, will help you stand out. In addition to asking for recommendations, you can ask them to endorse the skills and experience you list toward the bottom of your LinkedIn profile. 

You might also want to follow industry leaders on the platform. When they post content relevant to your industry or skillset, read the piece and then weigh in on the topic with a comment. This can help you stay up to date on what is happening in your industry and demonstrate your knowledge in the field. You could also write and post your own articles, using hashtags relevant to the topic to expand your piece’s reach. Engaging with content as well as posting your own demonstrates your passion for your industry. It will also enable you to demonstrate your current knowledge of your industry when you connect with recruiters or land an interview at a company.

If there is someone — an industry leader, recruiter, alumnus in your field — you want to connect with but have never met, see if anyone in your network is already connected with this individual. You can ask the person in your network to introduce you. 

If no one in your network is connected with the individual, you can still send a connection request. You want to make sure you personalize the request and make clear why you want to connect. Simply asking for a job or internship is not a good enough reason to connect with someone. Instead, explain why you want to connect. For example, if you admire someone in a leadership role, you can say you hope to one day reach a similar role and ask for career advice on where to start. Follow up with a thank you for anyone who takes the time to offer advice or connect.

When it comes to alumni connections, LinkedIn is particularly powerful: you can use the LinkedIn alumni tool to see all the alumni who attended your college or university. The tool then lets you filter the list based on what they do and where they live.  

At the top of your profile, you may also want to choose the “add a profile section” to add a profile in another language. This can make it easier for people to find you, particularly if your job or internship search may span multiple countries and continents.

How to Use LinkedIn Groups Effectively

Another way you can demonstrate your expertise in your field and build your network is via LinkedIn Groups. Start by joining groups related to your school, such as its alumni group and any related to your specific field. Then, look for groups of professionals in your field who are in your area or desired area. For example, if you want an internship in graphic design in San Francisco, look for graphic design- and/or digital art-focused groups in and around the Bay Area. You can do this with any field and location. 

Then, broaden your search to groups related to your field, but not specific to a location. For example, if you are interested in technology, you could join Women in Technology International or Software as a Service groups. Check to see if the groups you join are active, as you want to maximize your time and engage with communities that are regularly posting and sharing content.

As with leaders and companies you follow, you want to respond to posts within the group and post your own questions and content. If someone comments on your post and you want to have a deeper conversation, reach out with a message to see if they are willing to discuss the topic further. 

Once you land a job or internship, remember to stay active and give back to groups. If your company is hiring, post the job to your alumni or industry groups. You want to give as much as you receive.

How to Use LinkedIn to Find an Internship or Job

The more complete your profile, the more likely your chances of prospective employers finding you. This can help you passively find jobs and internships, but if you are actively seeking a job or internship, you want to do more than hope recruiters find your profile.

If you have done everything recommended up to this point, that means you have already connected with professionals in your field. Reach out to them directly with a career update and ask if they are willing to set up a quick phone call or videoconference. Again, you will want to give a specific reason for why you want to connect. It may be as simple as saying, “I would appreciate the opportunity to ask questions and get advice because I trust your experience.” 

Start posting regular updates, too. This does not mean you keep posting that you are available for a job. Instead, contribute meaningful career updates or share articles you have read (and why you find them interesting or relevant to the conversation). Think of it like the other social media channels you use, except strictly for professional purposes. Your consistent updates will keep your name top of mind with connections, so if they know of a role that may be a good fit, they will seek you out first.

If you have companies you dream of working for, you will want to find them and follow them on LinkedIn. Following your favorite companies is a great way to keep up with what they are doing and may give you insights into their company culture, as well as what qualities they look for in employees.   

When you visit a company’s page, you can see if you know anyone who already works there, or if any alumni from your school are currently employees. Send a message to these individuals and ask them how they like working at the company. What does the company look for in employees? What is the work environment like? If they do not know the answer to your particular question, they may be willing to connect you with someone within the company who does, like a manager within a department relevant to your field.

LinkedIn also provides the option to let recruiters know you are open to job opportunities. Keep this updated with the job titles and locations you are interested in, as well as the job types, such as full-time work or a summer internship. You can set this so only recruiters can view it, or everyone who uses LinkedIn.

Remember: the earlier you create your LinkedIn profile, the more time you have to refine the information you are sharing, build professional connections, and establish yourself as someone companies want to work with. If you have not started your profile yet or never finished it, now is the time to optimize your profile for success!

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