You’ve probably heard about the importance of networking to gain opportunities and experience in professional settings. Chances are you’ve also heard of LinkedIn, as it’s the most well-known professional networking platform with over 750 million users. Creating a LinkedIn profile is a great way to connect with others in your future field of study or work, and it’s also a great link to have pop up when someone Googles you. As the minimum age requirement to use LinkedIn is 14, virtually any high school student can use it. However, one key thing holds a lot of students back: a lack of work experience. Maybe you’ve worked a summer job or two or truly have no experience whatsoever. Whatever your job history looks like, don’t let that stop you from making a LinkedIn account and using it to the fullest! Most employers are looking for viable skills you’ve learned, not a long line of experience in the industry, especially if you’re a student who hasn’t had a chance to build a résumé. Here’s how to create a solid LinkedIn profile that highlights the skills and experiences you have as a high school student.
Choose a professional profile headshot
Your headshot dramatically impacts the level of interaction your profile receives. LinkedIn reports that users with a photo get 21 times the profile views than those without. However, think twice before using the same picture as the one on your Instagram or Twitter. You should appear confident and competent in your LinkedIn photo. You want to look like someone who potential employers want to hire. You don’t need a photo taken professionally, but dress in some professional or business casual attire and have a friend take a photo against a neutral background. Having a polished headshot is the first step to building a strong LinkedIn profile.
Create an accurate and engaging headline
Beyond your profile headshot, your headline is the most influential part of your profile. This is where you sum up your current job status and your general field. LinkedIn will automatically input your current job into the headline, but for students with limited-to-no work experience, this may not be the best. In that case, highlight your student status. For example, an average headline would read “Student at [your high school]” but an even better one would read “Student at [your high school] pursuing Marketing and Graphic Design” to give your page visitors a more complete description of yourself.
Sell yourself in the About section
If you’ve ever heard of an elevator pitch, this is it but on a screen. You have a paragraph to describe who you are, what you do, and what your future goals are. Advice varies on how personal to make your About section (like for instance on whether to use first person or not), but it all depends on your personality and what you’re comfortable with. This section is one of the things that sets LinkedIn apart from a standard résumé. Describe what you’re passionate about pursuing and highlight some of your strongest qualities. If you’ve worked at a restaurant throughout high school, mention that you are an “experienced food service worker.” Maybe you run a freelance photography business; promote it while describing how what you’ve learned has prepared you for the future. Although you’re young, mention the experiences you already have from extracurriculars, leadership positions, or volunteer work that could easily transfer into a future role. Whether or not you’ve had a job before, you can create a thoughtful piece of writing that accurately describes you and why potential employers should choose you for a job or internship.
Emphasize volunteer experiences and leadership roles
Volunteer experiences and leadership roles go hand-in-hand. The next best thing to a job is an internship or volunteer commitment. These opportunities show that you take initiative. Secondly, many jobs and industries look highly on internships and volunteering, so participating helps get your foot in the door. It also demonstrates your interests and desires to make a change for the better in your community! There’s a section on LinkedIn specifically for volunteer work where you can include everything from helping out at a food kitchen once a month to spearheading a clothing drive at school. Leadership roles are another way to substitute for actual job experience. They demonstrate that you’re dependable, responsible, and a good role model for your peers—all positive attributes in the job market. Throughout your academic career, have you ever been in a leadership position for an honor society, athletic team, club, or religious institution? Perhaps you’ve been involved in a mentorship program where you partnered with younger students or a peer tutoring group. These are all excellent examples of leadership and service. By including your volunteering and leadership experiences on your LinkedIn profile, you’ll give other professionals a more well-rounded glimpse of you.
When listing jobs or volunteer experiences on LinkedIn, you have the opportunity to include a written description about each role. This is your chance to emphasize the valuable and transferable skills you learned within a given experience. For most jobs, write a one- or two-sentence description of your duties and any special skills. The goal isn’t to make your job sound more important than it is but to indicate what your job involved and what you learned from it. This is how you make a minimum wage summer job stand out: include the details that set you apart. For example, let’s say that you were a lifeguard. Perhaps you learned how to work the snack bar’s cash register system, take inventory, and help order supplies. These are great skills that will help you in many future positions. Maybe you oversaw training new lifeguards; that leadership skill and the ability to teach is something employers want to see. But like any tip, this one can easily be taken too far. Nobody needs or wants to know about every single thing that you did. If your description is more than two or three lines, see if you can make it more concise and cut the fluff.
While your work experience section will be slimmer than someone in the workforce full-time, that shouldn’t stop you from creating a strong, professional LinkedIn profile in high school. Use the tips above to curate a profile that accurately depicts your experiences, skills, and goals to establish a successful network that could open yourself up to great opportunities in the future.
While you’re building your LinkedIn profile, be sure to follow and connect with helpful organizations like CollegeXpress to expand your network!