LinkedIn. If you’re not on it, you’ve heard of it. From 2003 to 2016, the social media site grew from a meager 500,000 users to over 500 million members – most of them, students and professionals in corporate America. As revealed by the Pew Research Center 2018 Social Media Use study, LinkedIn remains popular with college students. Further research into these LinkedIn statistics revealed that 50% of college graduates in the US use LinkedIn. Question is, are you one of those students? Most students, when faced with the scary concept of building their presence on an intimidating site like LinkedIn, lose motivation. Well, the first step in growing your network anywhere is to build a profile. Today, I’m going to walk you through 10 simple steps of turning your ghost town LinkedIn profile into an All-star

This blogpost is Part 1 (containing 5 of the 10 tips), so stay tuned for Part 2 coming February 2021! Keep in mind, there are some wonderful articles by professionals and recruiters who can offer you detailed advice to conquer LinkedIn, but my goal here today is to ease you into the process with some basic information. These are the steps that helped me gain over 850+ meaningful connections in 1 year, and earned me an internship recruitment in my first year without even applying for it. Nice, huh? Let’s go!

1. Profile Picture

Example: Professional, yet easy-going LinkedIn profile picture

 LinkedIn statistics reveal that profiles with a picture included are 14 times more likely to be viewed. But when it comes to pictures, what is the best choice? When deciding on your picture, keep your objectives in mind. LinkedIn is the more educated, professional, and critical version of Facebook, so selfies and/or cute pictures would give the wrong first impression to a possible recruiter. Try to go for a headshot or a more professional setting in your profile picture, but remember – the goal is to make you seem like a professional, but not a boring one. So, add a little flair to it! 

2. Headline

A headline is the second thing people notice when they see your profile on a site like LinkedIn. This will show up when you send connection requests, and will encourage others to either accept or decline in, depending on their current network. For example, it’s an unspoken practice among college students to accept each others’ requests because someone in my connection could help you, and vice versa. Since most – if not all – of you are UT Dallas students, you need to include that somewhere in your headline for better prospects of connections. Keep in mind, headlines have a 120-character limit so only include information that can give the best idea about who you are and what you seek to achieve on the platform (think of it as your second impression after your picture). While we’re on the subject, one thing you should remember to include in your profile is contact info. Yes, I know, you’r probably thinking, “Girl, how dumb do you think we are?” But hear me out — in the stress of making your profile look sleek and professional, some students forget to include the important bits, like a phone number alongside an email address. So, make sure to include all of that information!

3. About Section

Example: LinkedIn Summary

I have seen numerous students forego this section completely, or simply type out a couple sentences on what they’re studying and where they work. Honey, no. Your summary is the only indication anywhere on your profile that you’re more than a pretty face or capable of filling up boxes of experiences and skills. It is the first conversation you have with your profile-voyeur. For that purpose, you have to come blazing in. This is where you declare what you are looking for on this platform, and describe who you are as a person (not just a student or professional). If someone were to ask you to tell them about yourself, what would you say? The about section is the place where you give a relaxed, professional answer to that terrifying question. What makes you unique? What makes you worth talking more to? Begin with a quote that defines you, or talk about a project you are really proud of. But for the love of finding jobs, don’t leave it blank or incomplete! 

4. Featured

Student example of “Featured” section!
Professional example of “Featured” section!

Another resource that I see most people fail to utilize on LinkedIn is the featured section. If you visit the profile of any successful professional, 99.9% of the time, they’re gonna have something featured. Maybe an article they wrote, maybe an interview they gave. But for students like us, our best options include our resume, our digital portfolios (not just for design and/or art students, this option makes any student standout. Consider including your writing and public speaking/professional experiences within), and blogposts/articles/projects we’ve completed as part of student organizations or at our workplaces. But like the features above, do not leave this looking empty. This will help the recruiter viewing your profile understand that you’re putting all your cards on the table to save them time – which makes it more likely for them to like you!)

5. Education

Example of “Education” section

This is the last step for this Part, but I’ll be talking about 5 more steps/sections to tackle in Part 2 next month. Now, most students do an awesome job including their relevant education experiences. But for those of you newbies, your education can include your high school experience (Fun reminder, huh? Sorry!) and your most recent higher education. In this section, you can also list your major area of study, the start and end dates, your current GPA (this is optional, but a good thing to add if you feel comfortable) and any scholarships/awards you’ve earned while attending the institution. Very simple and straight-forward.

These 5 features that I’ve told you a bit more about today are only some of the resources LinkedIn gives to students like us. In the next part of this article, I’ll talk a bit more about what to include in other sections on your profile (and there is a lot!). But until then, wet your toes in the LinkedIn pond, and explore. It’s never too early to build your presence. LinkedIn, as I always think, is the place potential employers go after scanning your resume. Until next time, fellow Comets. Whoosh! 

P.S – The UTD Career Management Center is hosting a workshop on “How to Build a LinkedIn Profile” this coming Tuesday (4 p.m. – 5 p.m. CST). Follow the link and register for sessions on Handshake (UTD profile needed). Also…have an impressive profile? Want to gain more UTD connections? Come join us and share your LinkedIn profile in the #linkedin channel in our official UT Dallas Discord (3000+ members)!