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April 25, 2014 / Stephanie Anderson

College students: 5 rules of building a strong LinkedIn profile

Virtually every working professional has a LinkedIn profile these days. It’s become a standard way to represent your professional side online while connecting with other people who benefit your network. But what about those in college? With limited experience, it can be difficult for college students to know when to create a profile, and furthermore, what they should put on it. Here are our tips for when and how college students should tackle LinkedIn.

Rule 1: Don’t delay
There’s no need to wait until you have the perfect internship or you’ve completed a big class project before starting a LinkedIn profile. Start a profile now to be active in making connections, and update it as you gain skills. “Students should go on LinkedIn when they enter college. Don’t delay! They can begin to connect right away with professors, other students and their parents’ friends,” says Susan Tabor-Kleiman, a LinkedIn profile strategist and founder of Your Professional Writer.

Rule 2: Be honest
There’s no need to hide the fact that you have limited experience. Start by crafting a compelling summary stating your passion, desire and hopes for the future. “The summary should explain what they bring to the table. They shouldn’t try to pretend they have a lot of experience when they don’t,” says Mark Grimm, speaker, coach and media strategist at Mark Grimm Communications. “Employers don’t hire college kids for experience. They look for brains, the ability to learn quickly and work ethic. The LinkedIn profile should reinforce that notion.”

Rule 3: Focus on your skills
While you may not yet have the professional experience of those currently in the workforce full-time, there is likely plenty you can highlight to show your competence. In addition to your education, be sure to mention jobs you’ve held, organizations you’re a member of, volunteer work and at least five key skills that your network can endorse. “This might be the most important part of your LinkedIn profile. Ask people in your network to endorse your strengths,” says Christine DiDonato, founder of Career Revolution, Inc. “Professors, mentors and bosses can help you land a rewarding career simply by making statements about your work ethic and other strengths, such as the ability to work on a team, flexibility and innovation.”

Rule 4: Be post-savvy
Demonstrate your passion for your industry of interest by posting relevant content to your profile. Share interesting articles or post your thoughts on important topics. But don’t overshare – only post what is truly pertinent and represents you as a savvy professional. Why go the extra step and post content? It demonstrates your enthusiasm and proactive attitude, plus it’s a great way to solicit comments and feedback from your network of connections. It might even help you grow your network when people respond and pull new connections into the conversation.

Rule 5: Pick a professional-looking photo
The old adage is a picture is worth a thousand words. The content that makes up your LinkedIn profile is important, but if you choose an inappropriate photo, people may not even read the information beside it. You don’t have to get a professional headshot; a high-quality photo of you alone looking friendly, approachable and professional should to the trick. After all, LinkedIn states that profiles with photos are seven times more likely to be viewed!