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This week, we sat down with Caroline Leach who helps people tell their stories and embrace the future. Caroline writes, researches, and speaks about why professionals need a social media strategy for their career and how to use social media to build a career. She posts weekly to her blog and LinkedIn, in marketing and communications for Fortune 500 companies. The opinions she expresses on our podcast are her own and are not those of her employer.
Key Takeaways from The Power of LinkedIn: Why Every High School Student Needs to be on LinkedIn with Caroline Leach
- Whether you actively define your personal brand and live by it or not, you have a brand (from The 3-Word Exercise By Dorie Clark)
- How you live your life and what you post on social media can reshape your personal brand.
- On LinkedIn, students can post about accomplishments and areas of interest in the “3 A’s” – academics, athletics, and activities.
- You don’t know if colleges and employers will actually look at your LinkedIn profile or not, but students should assume that they will.
1. Why is LinkedIn important to include in your digital footprint?
- More than 560 million people are on LinkedIn
- For students, that includes college admissions officers, college application readers, and internship recruiters.
- That makes LinkedIn the perfect place for a high school student to tell their unique story.
- LinkedIn is the home base for your professional network in your career.
- LinkedIn is for professionals where people post work-related content. It’s more positive than other social networks. You don’t see trolling or much political commentary.
- It’s a great place to establish your personal brand.
- What is a personal brand? Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says it’s what people say about you when you aren’t in the room.
- Whether you actively define your personal brand and live by it or not, you have a brand.
- Here’s an easy way to discover what your personal brand is today: Ask friends and teachers for 3 words that describe you. Look for patterns in what they say. Is that what you want to be known for or not? If you want to change it, how you live your life and what you post on social media can reshape your personal brand.
- On LinkedIn, you can …
- Connect with fellow professionals: Students can connect with teachers, professors, college officers, other students, and people at companies of interest.
- Access news and information about your career field, your company, and your industry: Students can access information about their dream schools and companies of interest for internships.
- Share your knowledge and become a thought leader: Students can post about accomplishments and areas of interest in the “3 A’s” – academics, athletics, and activities.
- Even when you finish high school and college, your education is never complete: The world is changing so quickly that we all have to learn something new every day.
- LinkedIn is a great place for lifelong learning.
- Your “home” feed shows you content from your network about the working world.
- “What people are talking about now” has the 10 current hot topics on LinkedIn.
- With a paid subscription, you can access thousands of online classes, webinars, and videos on almost any topic to build your skills.
2. Why should students start a LinkedIn profile?
- Among those 560 million people on LinkedIn are college admissions officers, college application readers, and recruiters for internships and jobs.
- By establishing a presence on LinkedIn, you make it easier for people to find you and learn more about you online when you apply to college, internships, and jobs.
- You make it easier for people who want to learn more about you online when you apply to college, internships, and jobs.
- Kaplan Test Prep does a survey every year of college admissions officers. This year, more than two-thirds (68%) of colleges say it’s “fair game” for them to visit applicants’ social media profiles to help them decide who gets in.
- And in last year’s Kaplan survey, more said that social media had helped a student’s admission chances. In fact, 47% said “what they found had a positive impact on prospective students.” That was more than the 42% who said “what they found had a negative impact.”
- Another group, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars Admissions Officers, says more than 75% of colleges are looking at social media.
- Now, you don’t know if they’ll actually look at your profiles or not but students should assume that they will.
- And why not make it easy for them? Students can put a link to their LinkedIn profile in their college application.
- This expands the 650-word limit to your essays in the Common Application for colleges.
- You can think of a LinkedIn profile as your online portfolio of work and everything you’d want a college admissions officer to know about unlimited by any word count.
- Of course, you want to make your LinkedIn profile easy to navigate, visually appealing, and easy to read. Include lots of work samples including photos, videos, and links that are appropriate.
- Students should personalize their LinkedIn URL. That way, you have a personally branded link with your name, rather than a jumble of automated letters and numbers.
- It will appear as linkedin.com/in/yourname
- You can format your name the same as your handles on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
- You can include your LinkedIn URL in things like an email signature, a bio, or a resume if you have a separate one from LinkedIn.
3. At what age should students get started?
- At this time, anyone 16 or older can establish a LinkedIn profile.
- As soon as you’re 16, you should start your profile. Before that, when students are 14 or 15, they can:
- Keep a digital file of accomplishments in academics, athletics, and activities.
- Take pictures and videos of a Model UN competition, a science fair, your sports team in action, or while you’re volunteering for your favorite charity.
- Josh encourages younger students to be active on Facebook and Instagram, which you can join at 13. Your activity on these platforms can help when you’re old enough to join LinkedIn.
- When students turn 16, they already have a record of items to start their LinkedIn profile.
- Speaking of age, I know it’s hard for students to look far into the future, but here’s an interesting stat: more than half of babies born in developed nations in the 2000s can expect to live to 100 or beyond, according to the medical journal The Lancet.
- That means a lot of years will be spent working. For younger workers, it could mean 12 or 15 different jobs over a lifetime, according to Forrester Research.
- To transition from job to job, your reputation is important to recruiters and hiring managers. Your reputation builds over time, and it’s something you can shape.
- As Josh speaks about so compellingly, you can influence those transitions by a strong and positive presence on social media, including LinkedIn.
4. What should students do on LinkedIn?
Start with completing your profile – complete each field until LinkedIn says you’re an “All Star” (from Be Bold In Your LinkedIn Profile). You don’t have to do it all at once. Work on it over a series of days or weeks. Your profile is always a work in progress. As you do new things, you add them to your profile.
Here are some tips from Catherine Fisher at LinkedIn from a conference I attended:
- Include a professional photo. Your profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if you have a photo. It should be a close up of you, and it should look professional. Your senior portrait might work. If you don’t have a high-quality recent headshot, get one done. There are even photo analyzers out there that will tell you how your headshot portrays you. While you’re at it, customize the background photo. Rather than the default blue with dots and lines, choose a picture that tells your story.
- Personalize your headline. Don’t use the default, which is your current job title. Show what you do and what makes you unique. Look at headlines for other students and young professionals to find inspiration and see what catches your eye.
- Add visuals. There are more than 20 million pieces of content on member profiles. Is your content among those? Post videos and pictures of your best work. Upload relevant presentations that are appropriate for sharing with the public. Science fair project? Sports team playoffs? Community service event? Think about what you’re doing that you can share on LinkedIn.
- Post a compelling summary. Make it 40 words or more. Include “keywords” for your interests, so people can find you in a search. Read other summaries by students and young professionals to see what appeals to you. Writing in first person is stronger and bolder than using third person.
- Try to show at least 2 “positions.” You can include any paid work. Maybe you’ve started an online business. Small jobs you may have done for neighbors count, like dog walking, babysitting, or house sitting.
- Include volunteer experience and causes. This information increases profile views by 6 times. If your community service interests and activities happen to align with those of your top colleges of interest, be sure to highlight those.
- Check out LinkedIn Learning. We all get to be lifelong learners, and this feature offers hundreds of online courses. It’s a great reason to become a premium subscriber as a young professional. You also get access to analytics, or data about your activity on LinkedIn. This is super helpful for insights about your profile views and how your network engages with your content.
- Share your contact information, as appropriate. Include your email address and, if you have them, your blog and/or your Twitter handle. For privacy and safety, there’s no need to share your mobile number.
- Customize your public URL. For consistent branding, use your name in the URL the same way you use it in other social profiles. Put it on your email signature and your resume.
- Add skills and get endorsements. Be deliberate about skills you list. What do you want to be known for? Your top 3 skill endorsements display in mobile search, so reorder them to show the ones that best tell your story. Give back to your network by endorsing others’ skills.
- Follow and engage with University pages for colleges of interest
- Beyond visiting a college campus, being active on a University Page shows your interest in a school.
- Students can engage in content on a university page by liking and commenting on posts, as well as asking questions. Leave thoughtful comments that give your point of view and add to the dialogue. Keep Josh’s Light, Bright and Polite™ mantra in mind.
- Just don’t overdo it. Once a week maximum. Take cues from how often others are posting and what they are posting, both the good and the bad.
- Look for people from the college who are active on the page and consider following them or inviting them to join your network with a personalized invitation about why you’d like to connect. Again, keep your messaging Light, Bright and Polite™.
Here’s what LinkedIn says about University Pages (also, the LinkedIn Help Center is a great resource with lots of valuable info): University Pages can help you connect with a school’s administrators and student community, explore what alumni are doing now, and join conversations with those who can inspire your career.
Here’s a list of University Page sections and how you can interact with them to get the information you want:
- Explore the careers of alumni – Find out what students and graduates from your school are doing now. Click the bar graphs to select filters and see what they’ve studied, where they work, and what they do. Find inspiration from the career paths of your peers to help shape your own.
- Activity feed – You can share updates and join conversations on your University Page feed. Reach out to students, alumni, and school leaders to find out what schools are really like and get valuable insights to help guide your career. Be sure to follow the university pages you’re interested in to receive updates on your homepage.
- Notable alumni – See which alumni have achieved something particularly noteworthy and get a sense of what’s possible for you in the Notable alumni module and on the Notables tab. Click the person’s picture to learn more about their background.
- General Information – Expand the General Information section to find key facts about the school such as the student population, community information, location of the campus, and more.
- Students & Alumni – The Students & Alumni tab allows you to see your current LinkedIn connections who attended the school. You can also grow your network by connecting with peers with similar interests.
Recommendations – Post a recommendation on your University Page to share your college experiences with future students and school administration. Have conversations about your academic program, professors, and campus life.
Build your network (from Be Bold in Growing Your LinkedIn Network)
- This can include friends, friends’ parents, community leaders from activities like scouting and athletics, and many more. Be aware that sometimes teachers must wait until a student is 18 before they can connect with them on social media.
- Every time you meet someone new, you can add them to your LinkedIn network.
- You can follow and/or connect with speakers who come to your school and college reps who visit your school.
- Tip – always personalize your invitation. In a few short sentences, say why you’d like to connect. This will make you more memorable and increase the likelihood that your invitation will be accepted.
- Take advantage of the “People You May Know” algorithm in LinkedIn for other ideas.
- For colleges of interest, you could connect with alumni whom your parents know.
Share content (from How to Get Started with LinkedIn Updates and 11 Engaging Topics for LinkedIn Updates) Share your interests, passions, and accomplishments in words, images, videos, and links. Choose topics that are appropriate for a professional network.
- Focus on leadership, teams, and how you’re making the world a better place. That can include sports teams, school clubs, and community service. What are you doing in academics, athletics, and activities that would be good to share?
- Are you attending interesting events? Going to cultural destinations like museums? Traveling and being exposed to different parts of the world? Share your experiences and what you’re learning.
- Add a relevant hashtag or two to your posts. This makes it easier for people to find your content. You may want to use a consistent group of hashtags that are unique to your areas of interest, whether it’s science or the arts.
- Social media is all about reciprocity, so “like” others’ content that fits with your interests and leave thoughtful comments.
- Remember to always read links before liking, comment on, or sharing them. Make sure you agree with the content and that you’re comfortable with how that content reflects on you. In other words, “look before you like,” and “look before you link”.
5. What are the positive aspects of LinkedIn?
- You can virtually “meet” people you might not be able to meet easily in real life. Think of college admissions officers, hiring managers, and people who are thought leaders in your area of interest.
- You can influence people’s perceptions of you. You can actively shape your personal brand by what you post and who you connect with.
- You can be found by people you might want to know by posting good content on your LinkedIn with hashtags and keywords that make you easy to find.
6. Who should you trust to give you feedback on your LinkedIn activity?
- Your mom or dad.
- A friend or colleague of your mom or dad who is active and well-connected on LinkedIn. The may know someone who is a college admissions officer, a corporate recruiter, or a hiring manager who would be willing to give feedback on your LinkedIn.
- A trusted teacher. You could ask an English teacherl while the class is working on college essays.
- A community leader, like your sports team coach, or your Girl Scout or Boy Scout leader.
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