With so much of today’s networking occurring through our computers and smartphones, it’s become necessary to have an account on every possible platform. But if you’re a student, do you really need to have a professional account on LinkedIn when you don’t even know what you want to do with your life? When you likely have zero experience?
Back in my day (I can’t believe I just typed that), a LinkedIn account wasn’t as imperative. I didn’t even have one until I’d been in my big girl job for a year, and even then I only created one because my co-workers peer-pressured me into it. So should you get a head start?
Linkedin or Nah?
Of course the decision is up to you, but I personally think having an active LinkedIn account is important for networking and creating opportunities for yourself. As a writer, Linkedin has been useful for sharing my articles with an entirely different audience than my Facebook and Twitter friends. It’s become both my resume and my portfolio.
However, it hasn’t changed my entire career in some huge way. I’ve gained some readers, made digital connections, and gained some comfort promoting myself. If you’re a student, creating a Linkedin and regularly exploring it can be majorly beneficial to your education and eventually your career.
Resumes are a Bitch
When you’re in school, typing up resumes is a little overwhelming – I remember wanting to pull my hair out over them. Because Linkedin serves as a digital resume, it helps you practice writing out your experience and fine tuning it before you start sending out internship or job applications.
It’s also a great place to share your projects or accomplishments outside of the formal resume. Volunteer experience with certain organizations, classes you’ve taken, and skills you’ve got in other areas are all easy to share on Linkedin to create a complete picture of what you can offer a company in the future.
A Ton of Information at Your Fingertips
Another major benefit to having a Linkedin while you’re in college: It’s a huge help in finding potential internship opportunities and jobs you’d want to apply for after you graduate. You can check out the companies that sound interesting to you. You can look at the profiles of people working for them to see what they do and what kind of experience they have. Access to this information will give you a major leg up when you’re trying to figure out what you need to do in order to be successful in your career.
This essentially helps you create a roadmap for how you’ll get to the job you want. You can search for applicable internships with companies and read about the people who’ve held that internship in the past, which will give you an idea of what doors it will open and what you can expect to learn from the experience.
If you have a Linkedin and take advantage of it, then you can make sure you’re well informed of what’s going on in your field. This is something that the generations before you didn’t have the privilege of. To not utilize this tool only puts you at a disadvantage.
You’ll be More Discoverable to Companies
Even if you don’t reach out to anyone via LinkedIn, companies can find you. It won’t matter much when you haven’t even graduated college or gained some real work experience yet, but later down the road a bustling Linkedin profile (with the right keywords, of course) can persuade some companies to reach out to you.
When you do apply for a job, you can bet one of the first things the HR director or team leader will do is check out your Linkedin profile to see what kind of experience you have (that might not have been included in your resume). They’ll check that and your other social media platforms, so those are important to keep either private or professional. Make sure your Linkedin is putting your best foot forward.
Tips and Tricks for Your Profile
There are some really important things to have on your profile. First of all, an appropriate, professional headshot; nothing showing a lot of skin or from a party (or a trash car selfie).
Up-to-date information is also important. The last thing you want is for a potential employer to only see you worked at Pizza Hut for two years in high school, when you actually held a couple of relevant internships in college.
Also include any awards or recognition you’ve received, as well as publications and websites you’ve been published or featured on, or volunteer experience. If you’re super passionate about a certain cause or charity, make sure that’s included. Employers want to see that potential hires have a passion.
Write up a good bio too. It needs to sound like you of course, but keep the balance between personal and professional. For example, if you like to hike on the weekends, then say that you like to take a break from coding by getting outdoors. You want to be memorable.
As long as you keep it up-to-date and use it to present yourself professionally, Linkedin can be an incredible tool as you prepare for the real world. It won’t do you any good if you just create an account and leave it alone for two years.