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What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is an online, professional networking website. Its interface is similar to Facebook’s, and one of its primary purposes is also to connect people. For example, users have a profile picture, provide a succinct “about” section, and may request to connect with other professionals. Users may also post, comment, and “like” things on their own or other user pages.
But unlike Facebook, LinkedIn is career-oriented. The most important parts of a person’s LinkedIn profile are their “Experience,” “Education,” “Skills and Endorsement,” and “Recommendation” sections. In this way, LinkedIn functions as an online, more easily accessible resume. It displays a person’s professional skills, qualifications, and career interests, and growth.
In this guide, we explain why a LinkedIn profile is so great for high school students. We also break down how to make a great LinkedIn profile.
What makes LinkedIn so important for adults?
This career-oriented aspect is what makes LinkedIn so important for adults. While LinkedIn’s use and significance may vary depending on the field, it is always a good idea to have a profile. Here are some important reasons LinkedIn is necessary for working professionals.
Most people have a LinkedIn.
Initially, this may not seem like a good reason, but consider what it would be like you did not have any social media accounts. It is likely that you might miss out on events or connections that occur on those platforms.
It is the same with LinkedIn – except what is missed might be professional connections and opportunities. Since LinkedIn is ubiquitous in some fields or circles, not having one may also indicate to others (rightly or wrongly) that an individual may not be serious about their career or that they lack experience.
This is why it is important to have a LinkedIn even if a person does not use it often: at the very least, it could ward off potential negative or wrong assumptions.
It is a quick and convenient point of verification.
On the flip side, LinkedIn has the potential to promote positive or good assumptions about a user. Think of LinkedIn as an embodiment of a working professional’s “first impression” to others within their field or network.
This is because the platform is often used as an informal and quick way of verifying a person’s identity or seeing what credentials a person may have to offer as a potential employee, business partner, connection, etc. While it may not be a deep point of contact, having a well-polished, credible LinkedIn profile may give a person a necessary initial positive boost to get their foot in the door somewhere.
It is a quick and convenient point of connection (that can lead to more connections).
Have you ever struck up a conversation with a random person, perhaps at an airport or café, and the conversation turned out to be really interesting and stimulating? You may feel that the two of you share similar beliefs and ideas. But the interaction comes to an eventual end because, other than that shared moment, you two have no other circumstantial thing in common.
This happens a lot in the professional world, where people meet, network, and interact with others within or adjacent to their work fields. Sometimes the connection is more memorable than others, but either way, LinkedIn is what enables people to maintain these tenuous real-life connections afterward—to be built or called upon later, if necessary.
You can never know when a professional connection may come in handy. For example, a person you struck up a conversation with at a conference could end up being an important team member at a company you aim to join.
LinkedIn has a function for users to look up companies and places of work and see if any of their connections are affiliated with or work at those places. This means users have the ability to reach out to their connections to ask about the workplace environment, interview tips, or even to put in a good word for them!
It is solely professional.
One of LinkedIn’s greatest assets is that it is clearly demarcated as a professional social networking site. The boundaries are well-defined, so it will not be misconstrued as strange or as an overstep of boundaries if you request to connect with a “random person” you met and had a career-oriented conversation with. This may not be the case if you attempt to connect through a personal social media platform like Facebook or Instagram.
These boundaries are also beneficial for when a user reaches out to someone via LinkedIn for advice, an opportunity, or other career-related reasons. Since the connection is established as a professional one from there beginning, there is less room for misunderstands.
For example, there will be no misunderstanding or assumption that a person only wanted to become friends with another for their connection to a work opportunity—because professional networking is one of LinkedIn’s primary purposes.
Many people recruit employees via LinkedIn.
Recruiters will filter for relevant candidates, look at and vet potential profiles, and then send messages to candidates and ask if they are interested in speaking further about a certain position.
This greatly facilitates the application process and skips over the need for users to look for job postings, submit a resume and cover letter, and then wait to see if the Human Resources department responds to them.
Should a high school student be on LinkedIn?
With all this talk about why LinkedIn is important for adults and employment, you may be wondering why it is relevant to you as a high school student. The short answer is yes! LinkedIn is still relevant. There are a lot of reasons to consider creating a profile as a high school student – especially if you are a junior or senior in high school:
It is nice to include on college applications.
You may know better than anyone that the college admission process can be stressful and nerve-wracking. With more students than ever applying to top-tier schools, it is important to capitalize on ways to stand out and show admission officers what you are about. LinkedIn is one such way.
Since LinkedIn is not a requirement (like your transcript or standardized test scores), having a LinkedIn profile can signal to admission officers that you are a serious and committed student. If anything, it will not hurt your application (so long as you spend time creating a good profile).
Internships and volunteer opportunities want to vet their candidates too.
Internships and volunteer opportunities (even unpaid ones) do not have unlimited capacity. They cannot take in every person who expresses interest. Along with your other credentials, human resources personnel may appreciate a high school student who has taken the time to create a LinkedIn profile. Again, it shows that you care and are committed.
It could be one thing that sets you apart from other students who have shown interest. Furthermore, this does not end during high school. There will be other internships and volunteer opportunities that you will want to reach out to in college as well!
Stay connected to people from high school and college.
It is never too early to start making professional connections with people. As with why LinkedIn is important for working adults, the professional focus of the website is beneficial to high school and college students too.
There may be teachers, professors, and other peers whom you may end up becoming acquainted and friendly with, but not necessarily to a “friend level” that justifies adding them on Instagram, TikTok, or other personal social media sites. Connecting with individuals on LinkedIn maintains the relationship and keeps it in a professional sphere. This way, it will not feel out of place if you reach out to them later when you are job hunting.
Exposure to the real world.
In high school and college, networking may feel unnatural and superfluous to students. Many students make connections fairly well in person and may not need to rely on websites to maintain relationships, especially with people they do not contact or connect with on a frequent basis. But having connections and networking are important aspects of working life.
In some fields, like business, it is essential to success. LinkedIn is a good way to gain exposure and experience in networking, and it is better to practice sooner rather than later!
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How can I create a LinkedIn profile?
While the initial steps to creating a LinkedIn profile are not very different from creating personal social media accounts, other parts of it better resemble a resume or cover letter.
Below, we will outline relevant LinkedIn sections you should include and how you can approach them. We go in the order they are listed in LinkedIn’s “Add profile section” option.
Use a friendly, professional headshot. People should be able to see your face (and smile!). “Professional” does not mean it has to be fancy. It also does not necessarily mean you have to take it in a studio or with an expensive photographer, but the shot should be crisp and clean. You can wear something semi-formal, and the background could be a plain or natural one.
This is part of the “Intro” section and is part of your LinkedIn profile banner. The headline is also the first thing people see in your connection request. Make it catchy and write about what you are excited or passionate about. Try to communicate important aspects of your personality.
This may depend on what you are trying to communicate and your intended audience. For example, are you applying for admission to an arts program? Then make sure to incorporate elements of that into your headline. Some effective student headlines we have seen consist of several short, punchy phrases. For example:
Continual learner | Aspiring Engineer with a deep interest in XYZ | Experienced with Python and Java
Statistics major seeking role as/experience in XYZ | Senior at XYZ University | Experienced with XYZ
For working professionals, they may include their current role or title in their headline. Their goal might be to be key-board optimized to increase their chances of being seen or discovered by relevant recruiters or connections. For high school students, especially those aiming their LinkedIn at admission officers, focus on emphasizing your interests, passions, and your role as a learner.
The summary is where you tell people more about yourself and where you can flesh out things you included in your headline. In general, you want to start by introducing yourself.
Then, talk about what motivates you, what activities you are involved in relating to it, and what you hope for the future. Try to incorporate elements of your life or anecdotes to show personality.
I am a junior at XYZ High School with hopes to join the fight for continued social justice and equity in our country (intro). Ever since I attended the first Women’s March on Washington in 2017, I have wanted to learn more and more about social justice movements (anecdote/interests).
I learned about the concepts of intersectionality and how to be an effective ally. I joined the Diversity, Equity, and Division club at my school and was a part of bringing an Advocate to class to talk about relevant careers (what you pursued relating to your interest).
In college, I hope to continue learning and engaging in actions that will lead to more justice and equity. Overall, I aim to combine my love of writing and burgeoning social activism by pursuing a career in journalism (hopes for the future).
This is just one of many ways to write a summary. Do not be afraid to be yourself and show a little of your passion or personality. Lastly, if it is about as long as the summary above, we suggest breaking it into two parts for easier reading.
This section can be relatively simple because LinkedIn gives you an automated form to fill for each experience. You will want to include both paid work experience and unpaid ones in this section, including any internships you have had.
Include part-time positions too! Although the “Description” section is optional, you will want to utilize it. Include your major responsibilities and accomplishments from your experiences in it.
List your school and the extracurricular activities and societies you are part of within your school. Include your intended college major or course of study under “Field of Study.”
List places and causes you have volunteered for. Under description, write about what you participated in and highlight any accomplishments you have. For example:
“I helped XYZ reach their fundraising goal through a massive social media marketing action.”
This section allows you to list the skills you have, like “writing,” “business development,” “programming,” etc. Our main advice is not to overdo it. This is especially true if you are marketing toward colleges.
They know that you are interested so you can learn; they do not expect you to be already skilled at everything. You have the option of listing up to 50 skills.
We suggest listing only 3-5 skills. Choose ones you are really confident in, and that have to do with what you are trying to communicate.
Under this section, you are able to list any other major accomplishments you are proud of. For example, published papers, patents, projects, honors and awards, languages, organizations you are a part of, and more. Look through to see what is relevant to your track record and add them accordingly!
If you would like to further highlight any of your extracurricular activities, this is the place to do that. Choose one or two that are really important to you. There is no need to list them all if it is for colleges since they will already receive an exhaustive list as part of your application.
Lastly, there are optional recommendations! You may send requests to any of your connections to write you a recommendation. These are great since they can be in addition to the official recommendation letters that colleges ask for. Most colleges ask for letters from teachers and counselors.
Because of this, we suggest that you diversify your LinkedIn recommendations and request them from other mentors. For example, your club leaders or coaches, your internship mentors, your employer, etc.
Final Thoughts: LinkedIn For High School Students
Creating a LinkedIn profile is a great idea for high school students. When creating your profile, be sure to break down your experience, watch for grammar, and explain your background.
Your LinkedIn profile can be used for college applications and beyond. It’s something you’ll use for the rest of your life, so get to work on it soon!