Why every student needs to be on LinkedIn

Why every career professional needs to be on LinkedIn

7 ways to be seen on LinkedIn.

As a graduate student 20 years ago, I never took the time to promote myself, to make sure that my experience and my skills came across on sites like LinkedIn. I was heads down in my work (not a bad thing), and I never thought about life after grad school.

LinkedIn is the way that employers scout potential future employees, and it’s where employees can scout potential future bosses. It’s where a university’s alumni network lives. It’s where you can find future investors for your startup ideas. It’s where you can ask someone for introductions to career sponsors or mentors. It’s a giant global social resume database.

If you’re a student, here are 7 things you can do on LinkedIn today, to elevate your profile and your work.

1. Introduce yourself in the About section

Make this informal and descriptive. Think of how you would introduce yourself at a conference, and add a bit more to it. Here’s a sample introduction for a Ph.D. student, but any student should be able to craft one, no matter at what stage of their education they are in.

I am a X-year Ph.D. student working with Prof. …… in the ….. department at the ….. University. My research interests involve the study of …… My area of specialization is …(focused area of your Ph.D.) …. During my Ph.D. studies, I’ve discovered that …. (coolest research result uncovered in your Ph.D.).

Pick keywords and skills here that matter to industry and to academia, and that are currently of relevance. Don’t stuff this section with buzz-words. Make it personal and professional, at the same time.

Image by David Reed from Pixabay.

2. Use a Profile picture and a Background Photo

Take a professional headshot and use that instead of the generic profile picture that you get with LinkedIn.

For your LinkedIn Background Photo, use a picture of your university. Grab one of the wallpapers that your university provides. Use a Zoom background that your university provides. You want something that showcases your university at its finest, and also makes your LinkedIn page look great.

3. Add a Featured section

If you have publications, drop links to them in the Featured section. Every time you publish something, add it there.
If you’ve got a website that you want people to find, or a Medium blog, add a link right there.
If there are articles you’ve written online that showcase your work, add a link right there.
If you’ve participated in a competition or if there is an online write-up about you or your work, drop it here.
LinkedIn does a good job of picking up the feature image of articles on blogs, along with the title and sub-title, when you include links to online articles.

4. Update the Experience section

This section captures your professional journey, and the paths you have taken. Make sure that you describe any and all research, industry, teaching, and volunteer experience. Make sure you specify the location of the experience, and also name the department/division you might have worked with.

Write at least a paragraph of 2–4 sentences for each section. Add links to images, articles, videos, along with text. Images tell a powerful story. Use them.

  • Your undergraduate education deserves its own section.
  • Your graduate education deserves its own section.
  • Each research experience deserves its own section.
  • Each industry experience (full-time or internship) deserves its own section.
  • Each volunteer experience deserves its own section.

Include references or links to your current university (most universities have a LinkedIn page), your undergrad institution, your internship institutions (if any).

5. Update the Recommendations section

When you work with someone whose voice might matter in your getting a future opportunity or a job, and if they happen to like your work, ask them if they would be willing to write a recommendation on LinkedIn. (What’s the worst they could say? “No?”)

If someone agrees to write a testimonial for you, that testimonial can go on your LinkedIn profile. These LinkedIn recommendations signify that someone appreciated working with you, and is willing to stand up and be counted — in public — on your behalf. That is a powerful gesture.

  • If you serve as a teaching assistant for a course, and one of the students values your service, ask for a LinkedIn recommendation as soon as the course is over.
  • When you complete an internship (if you do one), and your internship supervisor values your work, ask for a LinkedIn recommendation as soon as your internship is over.
  • When someone in your lab graduates and goes into industry or becomes a faculty member, ask for a LinkedIn recommendation before they leave your lab.
  • When you take a course, and the professor appreciates your performance in the course, ask for a LinkedIn recommendation before the course ends.

The key is to ask them while their work experience with you is fresh in their memory. Ask for recommendations. Ask. Just ask. The button there on LinkedIn pretty much gives you permission to.

6. Get connected, stay connected

It’s a professional social network. You are supposed to connect with others. Make sure you take the opportunity to make connections, while their interaction with you is fresh in their memory. Here are the many opportunities to connect with others, and to expand your professional social network.

  • At the end of a course, connect with your professor on LinkedIn.
  • At the end of a research project or a research experience, connect with your professor or your research supervisor on LinkedIn.
  • When you go to a conference and you have a professional exchange of ideas with a speaker, connect with the speaker on LinkedIn.
  • When an industry professional visits your lab to give a talk or to exchange ideas, connect with the industry visitor on LinkedIn.
  • When a campus recruiter from a company visits your lab to give a talk about their company, walk up to them after the talk, and connect with them on LinkedIn.

Do not use the default LinkedIn message for this purpose, and don’t say, “I just thought we should connect on LinkedIn,” as the reason for connecting.

Instead, say something about yourself, and why you want to stay connected.

I am an X-year student in the ….. department at the ….. University. My research interests involve the study of …… My area of specialization is …(focused area of your Ph.D.) …. I was interested in your talk/ideas/research/company today, and I wanted to reach out to connect on LinkedIn to stay in touch for future opportunities and to continue to stay up-to-date on your work.

7. Interact with others

It’s a professional social network. You are supposed to interact with others’ content. People are posting content for others to comment on. So, go ahead. Like/appreciate/applaud others’ content, and comment on others’ key milestones, e.g., getting a job, graduating, being promoted.

In turn, make sure that you post your own career updates. Have a rule-of-thumb to visit your LinkedIn profile at least once a semester, and see what you might want to add or tweak. After all, you may have taken courses that semester, and you might as well add them to an entry in the Experiences section.

Don’t think that you’re bragging by doing these things to your LinkedIn profile. Your profile represents the facts of your career, the work that you did. It’s a living document of your experiences, of others’ opinions of your work, and of the preparation that you have sought and gained in your career.

It’s your professional story. Tell it. Shout it from the rooftops.

It’s a competitive world out there. If you don’t tell your story to potential employers, investors, and opportunities, nobody else will do it for you.

Your new LinkedIn profile awaits. Let’s go!

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