If you are waiting until after graduation to start building up your LinkedIn profile, it’s time to reconsider. 37% of surveyed job recruiters identified social professional networks as one of the most important sources for hiring; they are also the fastest growing source of quality hires. With its recent celebration of its tenth anniversary, LinkedIn has become the largest social media platform created specifically for professionals to connect on the web – but more than 40% of college students say they’ve never used LinkedIn. “Employers are looking for recent graduates,” says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s Career Expert and the founder of WORKS by Nicole Williams, a lifestyle brand for young, career-driven women. If you’re active on LinkedIn as a college student, “you may be able to be identified as a college student, and as a potential candidate without you even having to apply.”
But how do you actually build a great LinkedIn profile as a college student? Mashable has you covered.
Post a profile photo.
Some college students are wary of including their profile pictures on LinkedIn for fear of looking too young. But Williams explains a profile picture could actually work in your favor. A photo provides a face for your digital personality and helps recruiters see you as a human, rather than a hyperlink.
Include coursework and extracurriculars.
Your LinkedIn profile should weave together the story of your professional development, so it’s good to be as detailed as possible. Include information about relevant coursework, clubs and organizations in which you’ve participated at school. If you’ve done any internships or gained work experience, be specific about what skills you developed, how many hours you worked or how many students you tutored.
“Part of your differentiator as a college student is that you know technology and you know how to build a professional brand,” says Williams. “Employers want to know that you can bring that to their company.”
Show off your schoolwork.
You can now visually illustrate your skills with rich media, such as pictures and videos. If you have a presentation you’re especially proud of, or a design project you executed for an internship, include it on your profile to help recruiters visualize what type of talent you bring to the table.
Ask professors and advisers for recommendations.
One common misconception of LinkedIn recommendations is that they have to come from previous employers. A recommendation from a university professor or academic adviser, especially one with experience in your desired field, speaks volumes to your ability to stand out from the crowd. Aim to get recommendations from professors who know you personally, or who have a good sense of your work ethic, and can speak specifically to your accomplishments in the classroom.
Connect with industry leaders.
One of the most exciting aspects of social media is the access it gives you to influential people in your industry.
Don’t be intimidated by someone’s professional clout; reach out to people whose careers you admire, but be sure to personalize your request to connect. Your request should include two elements, says Williams. The first should contain a detail that connects you to the person. Look at his or her LinkedIn profile and pull out a piece of information that will help you personalize your request. Ideally, include something you both have in common, like a hometown or a favorite publication. If you can’t find anything significant to mention, offer a compliment or a respectful comment about the person’s professional work instead.
Second, include a reason. Why do you want to connect with this person? Your reason should NOT be a request for a job. Instead, engage him or her with a request for career advice, a personal question, or offer up a skill that could be of service. Demonstrate that you have a passion for what you do and offer up your services free of charge. If a position opens up with their company or a company they have close contact with, you will go from a ‘maybe’ into being hired for the position.
Look into different career paths.
LinkedIn lets today’s college students access information on career paths in a way no other generation could. Now, you not only see where someone has gotten in their career, but how they got there. More often than not, people are surprised to see how non-linear careers are today. And who knows, looking at someone else’s career path may inspire you to take a chance you otherwise wouldn’t.