In the past couple weeks, we’ve received dozens of inquiries from high school students, parents, teachers, and administrators from all over the world asking for LinkedIn advice specifically geared toward high school students. That was a surprise for us since we normally work with CEOs and executives.
Why the sudden influx of interest?
We started asking the people who contact us for this advice, and this is what we’ve heard: Administrators told us they are looking for a competitive advantage for their students. Teachers are searching for an online project that delivers long-term value for their students. Parents and students want to gain an advantage for college applications.
Is high school too early to set up a LinkedIn profile?
When we first wrote about high school LinkedIn profiles (two years ago), relatively few high school students were on LinkedIn.
With in-person learning currently at a standstill, many students are wisely using this time to look forward to and prepare for the next chapter in their lives — whatever that may look like. Whether it’s college, an internship, or a full-time job, a strong LinkedIn presence supports the next step on a high school student’s journey.
High school students, now is the perfect time for you to invest in an online profile and presence on LinkedIn that showcases who you are, your accomplishments, and your interests. From there, you can use the platform to start building professional relationships that will be an invaluable asset as you plan for your future.
Building a Strong LinkedIn Profile
High school students who create a LinkedIn profile now will stand apart from the competition — but building a profile from scratch can be a little intimidating. While it’s true that the more sections you complete the better, it’s not necessary to stress over every feature of your profile. Just be as professional and thorough as possible in the areas you do choose to complete.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Profile Photo
Don’t use a photo from one of your other social media accounts. Dress in clothing that’s appropriate for an internship interview, look straight at the camera, and smile. Crop the photo around your face. Unless you want to go into marketing or design, don’t get creative — just keep it simple and let people see who you are.
- Background Graphic
Your background graphic (the image behind your profile photo) provides an easy way to differentiate yourself. Use this opportunity to share something noteworthy about yourself. Find a picture that speaks to your future career goals, current extracurriculars, or recent achievements. If you participate in debate, use a photo of you at competition. An athlete could use a photo from a game. An artist could use an original drawing.
Whatever you choose, use an image you own or get one from a free stock photo site like Pixabay. Going onto Google and copying someone else’s image can get you in trouble.
Your headline (the line of text directly under your name) should tell people what your career goal is or what you plan to study in college.
The About section is similar to a college essay; this is where you can highlight your experience and qualifications while also expressing a bit of your personality. Don’t forget to discuss your goals — what do you want to do or accomplish? And why have you chosen that particular path?
The Featured section of your LinkedIn profile is new, and it provides you with the opportunity to upload videos. You can create a video where you talk about why you have chosen your career path, or you could use a video to showcase a recent project. (If your profile doesn’t offer this section yet, you should be able to upload videos to your About section. LinkedIn will transfer them to the Featured section when that becomes available for your profile.)
- Work & Volunteer Experience
List the jobs and volunteer positions you’ve held, whether they were full-time during a school break, part-time, or unpaid. For each position, talk about what your responsibilities were, what you accomplished, and what you learned.
Start with high school, and include any other education you’ve participated in, such as enrichment or summer programs.
- Honors & Awards
Be sure to highlight any special recognitions you’ve received. This can include a prize for writing, an Eagle Scout award, athletic honors, recognition from an employer or community organization.
Have you taken part in any projects that demonstrate your leadership abilities or initiative? Whether you led a team assignment, built a website, or took part in a fundraising drive, include information about what you worked on and how you got it done.
List the classes you’ve taken, either in or outside of school, that are most relevant to your future career. This is another place for you to highlight the skills and interests you’re most excited about.
LinkedIn allows you to list 50 featured skills, but it’s not necessary to include more than a few. If you have experience with programming, for example, include the languages you know.
Have you participated in any clubs, teams, or groups? Include them, and be sure to add a description of the role you played in each organization.
Speaking multiple languages is always impressive, so be sure to add these, too.
How High School Students Can Leverage LinkedIn
Once your profile is complete, you can use LinkedIn for three key actions that can impact your future:
1. Start Networking — Now
Send LinkedIn connection requests to teachers, mentors, coaches, parents, and other adults you know from your community.
As you build your network, you can search for first- and second-degree connections who attended schools you are considering or who work in the career you’ve chosen. You can ask those connections for advice and insights about your future path. They may be willing to introduce you to more alumni or colleagues, and they could potentially become sources for letters of recommendation.
2. Research College and Careers
With a little extra time on your hands, now is a great time to research any and all avenues you might want to explore in the future. Almost every college, business, and organization has a LinkedIn presence; visit their pages to learn more about them. By spending some time searching around on LinkedIn, you’ll gain insight into the culture and values of each organization — that’s information you can reference in your applications and future conversations.
3. Look for Internships
Everyone knows you can search for jobs on LinkedIn, but it’s also a prime marketplace for internship listings. Once you feel that your profile is ready to share with potential schools and employers, go into the Jobs tab and search for internships. Many organizations list remote internship opportunities on LinkedIn, and you may be able to find one that will get your career off to a good start.
We developed this LinkedIn Profile Checklist for college students, but most of it is relevant to you too.
Need Help Getting Started?
We hold free LinkedIn Office Hours every Friday at 1pm ET. Call in and ask one of our coaches whatever questions you have about setting up your profile and using LinkedIn.
This is a challenging time for students, but it’s also an opportunity to slow down, take a step back, and focus on what you want in the future. Use this time to invest in your LinkedIn presence, and you’ll be better prepared for whatever opportunities come your way.