Leveraging LinkedIn to stand out as a college student

LinkedIn is a very powerful professional tool, especially for college students. As a college sophomore, LinkedIn has already helped me find mentors, connect with my peers, and learn about potential employers and opportunities. As an intern at Microsoft, LinkedIn changed the game for me. I was able to search for Michigan alumni at Microsoft and met with almost 20 people over coffee or lunch throughout the summer to gain mentorship, advice, and interview prep. Some of my peers have been spotted and contacted on LinkedIn and received internship/full-time offers as a result. In this post, I will explain how to set up an effective LinkedIn profile, how to grow your network, and how to post on Linkedin as a college student.

Setting up your profile

Headline: Your headline is what people will see about you when your profile appears on any list from a search, suggestion, or other profile. This tagline should include your school and most recent professional experience to show what you have in common with potential connections (school, company, organization, etc.). Mine is “Michigan CS Student, Microsoft Intern”, but others from my connections include “Embedded Electronics Co-Op Engineer @ SkySpecs | EE @ the University of Michigan” and “Incoming Product Manager @ Microsoft, Engineering & Business @ UC Berkeley”. If you have not yet had professional experience, feel free to highlight any leadership experience or work on campus.

Profile Picture: If you do not have a professional headshot, check with your college’s career center to see if they offer free headshots. I had mine taken through our Engineering Career Resource Center by a professional photographer. You can also take one with a phone, but be sure to use a solid background and good lighting.

The “About” Box: This summary is often the first information people read from your profile. This will be unique to you. Consider including answers to the following questions in 1–3 paragraphs:

  • What is your major/school?
  • What were your most recent professional experiences and what did you do/learn from them?
  • What are you currently looking for (internship, fulltime, etc.)?
  • What industry areas are you interested in?
  • What are your ultimate career goals?
  • What motivates you?

Experiences: Your listed experiences should be similar to a resume but not exactly the same. On LinkedIn, experiences are meant to provide a quick summary rather than the detailed version found in a resume. A popular method to accomplish this is the PARS method.

What is the PARS Method?P — What was the Problem you addressed? Ex.: high labor costsA -What were the Actions you took? Ex.: focused on cost reduction initiativesR — What were the Results? Ex.: reducing labor costs by 12%, overtime by 24%, and material waste by 43%S — What Skills did you use or develop? Ex.: managing and leading a teamThe resultant bullet point: Managed and led a team of six in cost reduction initiatives that reduced labor costs by 12%, overtime by 24%, and material waste by 43%.”

Skills/Accomplishments/Recommendations: Add any relevant skills, college courses, honors, awards from your college career (can be from high school if they were at the regional or national level). Be sure to especially include all technical skills. Also, ask for a LinkedIn recommendation from past managers, professors, mentors, or others you have reported to or worked with professionally.

For more profile tips, check out this YouTube video from my friends Andrew and Mark: https://youtu.be/MIUQTbQcAJ4

Growing your network

The main ways I have utilized LinkedIn to grow my network are cold messaging people and joining groups. Cold messages are a message/connection request to someone you don’t know personally. Being a college student is a LinkedIn superpower because alumni are always looking to give mentorship and advice to current students at their alma mater. To cold message, first I search for people in positions/at companies I am interested in pursuing (mostly they are alumni from my school but not always), then I send a message in the connection request.

To search from a specific company:

  1. Search for a company you’re interested in and select the company page.
  2. Select ‘People’ from the left navigation bar.
  3. Filter by school, country, position title, or other criteria you are looking for. If you are looking for past interns search ‘Intern’.

To search directly from your school’s alumni network:

  1. Search for your college and navigate to their page
  2. Select ‘Alumni’ from the left navigation bar.
  3. Filter by company, country, position title, or other criteria you are looking for.

Sending a Cold Message: LinkedIn is all about making connections and growing your professional network, so do feel like you can message people, just make sure you follow these guidelines.

DO:

  • Be specific about what you ask of them
  • Give context on who you are (especially if they are an alum of your school) and why you’re reaching out
  • Mention a mutual connection you know if they introduced you
  • Do some research on the person and question you’re asking
  • Follow up with a thank you and updates if applicable
  • Talk with an informal but professional tone

DON’T:

  • Ask for too much in your first message
  • Act like you know them or that you deserve a response
  • Be disrespectful if they do not respond
  • Expect answers to broad questions that can be narrowed with research
  • Forget to respond

Feel free to follow this cold message template when writing connection requests or messages: Hi (name)! I am a (major) student at (school) and would love to connect and ask you about your career at (company name) OR your career in (industry). Hope to hear from you soon.

Basically, include who you are, why you want to connect, and what you are asking of them. A reasonable ask after an initial response might be a 15–20 minute informational phone call. If they are in your area you could try for a coffee chat.

LinkedIn Groups: Make sure to join your school’s alumni group if they have one. Also search for groups relevant to you for recruiting (some companies have recruiting groups so you can ask questions about the process), specific industry interests you have, or communities/identities you are apart of. These groups are also a great way to find new connections/search for people since you have common interests.

Posting on LinkedIn

When you post on LinkedIn, that content is shown to all of your connections. When any of your connections like, comment, or share your post, that content is also shown to all of your connection’s connections. Therefore posting on LinkedIn is very powerful and can lead to new connections and opportunities. Some people I know have found jobs/internships from recruiters seeing their LinkedIn posts. The 2 main ways to post are by posting an article or posting original content. While sharing articles that have impacted you is great, sharing original content is crucial to helping you gain exposure and stand out. The content in your posts should not be more than a few weeks out of date. Anything archival can be kept in your experiences or other sections of your profile. Some ideas of what to share:

  • professional content you have created (videos, blog posts, websites, etc.)
  • personal projects you’re working on
  • accomplishments
  • highlights from an event you have attended or hosted
  • news from student organizations/communities you are involved with and your impact
  • any impact you are creating on your college campus
  • inspiring lessons you recently learned
  • advice/messages you recently received from an event, manager, mentor, or peer
  • an open ask for advice/guidance on a specific topic

I encourage you to find people/companies/organizations to follow on LinkedIn and to be inspired by the many types of content you see to create posts that are true to you. Check out this link: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/allisonkench_microsoft-exploreintern-empowered-activity-6568273367235907584-C_en to see one of my most viewed/liked posts.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope these tips were helpful and informative! My name is Allie (@umich_steminist on Instagram) and I am computer science student at the University of Michigan. I have personally found LinkedIn very useful for learning about new opportunities, meeting people, and researching companies. Feel free to email me at akench@umich.edu with any follow-up questions.

A special thank-you to Isha Bhatt (@realsteminist on Instagram), Mark Ansell, and Andrew Ansell (The Tech Twins on YouTube, @thetechtwins on Instagram) for their contributions.

Written by

@umich_steminist on Instagram. A Computer Science student at Michigan working to make our world more inclusive and accessible with technology.

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