If social media were a family, LinkedIn would be the accomplished older sibling who always has their act together and seems light-years ahead in their career. Those who already have accounts probably have seen feeds about promotions, integral work projects, and exciting opportunities.
All of the pomp and circumstance of LinkedIn can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the platform and don’t know how to set up your profile much less announce your new internship or summer research project. But, LinkedIn can play a key role in connecting you with others in your industry to help you network, find your next role, and build your professional brand. This is why it’s important to overcome these confidence hurdles establish yourself on the platform.
There is no better time than while you are completing your master’s degree to create a LinkedIn profile because it gets the networking process started before you finish school and begin searching for employment. This guide takes LinkedIn from intimidating to manageable and gives you practical tips for optimizing the platform for advancing your professional career.
Benefits of LinkedIn for Master’s Students
We’ve all heard of someone who leveraged LinkedIn to get a new role, but what are the specific benefits of LinkedIn for master’s students? Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, LinkedIn is a great place to build a professional network, showcase your work, and get on the radar of potential future employers.
LinkedIn was created to act as a professional Facebook, a place where industry professionals can connect and chat online about news in their respective fields. After setting up your LinkedIn profile, you can add connections and follow influential people and organizations. Posts from those you follow show in your feed and help you stay updated on industry news, learn about open roles in your field, and get advice from experienced professionals.
Check out this networking guide to learn more about networking online.
In 2022, 77% of recruiters used LinkedIn to find candidates for open roles or to research applicants before extending an opportunity to interview. This makes having a profile on LinkedIn a good idea since it allows recruiters to evaluate your talent, education, and expertise. LinkedIn also allows employers to post open roles, so you can explore your options and even directly message recruiters on LinkedIn before applying.
Researching Potential Employers
Along with individual LinkedIn profiles of employees, most organizations also have company pages. These are often geared toward potential employees by featuring open roles, employee turnover rates, and key facts about company culture. You can also see who works at that company and ask for informational interviews to learn more about company culture. LinkedIn is one of the best places to learn about potential employers from the perspective of an employee instead of a customer.
Sharing Your Work
A LinkedIn profile is similar to a resume since both feature work experience, education, awards, and significant projects. LinkedIn is different from a resume in that it’s a multimedia platform where you can add links, original posts, and a unique bio. Feel free to talk about your work and maybe add a few links to specific projects in these spaces. The featured section at the top of your profile is an especially great place to showcase online projects, a professional website, or a university article about your master’s work.
Establishing a Professional Online Presence
People don’t hire education or experience; they hire people. For this reason, it’s important to establish an online professional brand. By creating a professional narrative around your education and work experience, you can stand out on LinkedIn before a job interview. The earlier you get started, the more time you’ll have to build connections, optimize your profile, and showcase your work.
How to Get Started on LinkedIn
Setting up a LinkedIn profile can be intimidating since it’s hard to know what belongs in your LinkedIn bio, who to connect with, and how to showcase your work experience and education. Below are the basics of building a LinkedIn profile to help you go from confused to confident on LinkedIn. The next section dives deeper into setting up a profile, but this one covers the basics since setting up your profile is the most important part of LinkedIn.
How to Build a Great Profile
Your LinkedIn profile is like a resume but more personalized with links to previous work applicable to your field. Build a great profile by including:
- Your education, including school names and detailed information about your current degree
- Work experience, especially if it’s related to your field
- Awards, research projects, or other noteworthy items from your master’s education
- A headline that describes who you are and why you’re on the platform
Since LinkedIn is primarily for professional networking, you want as many professionals and industry leaders as first and second-degree connections as possible. Start by connecting with your classmates, professors, and alumni. These connections have an immediate, direct impact. LinkedIn strengthens those connections and keeps you in the loop of interesting projects in your department as well as helps build relationships that may be beneficial later in your career. In contrast, connecting with industry professionals has long-term benefits and is an area you can gradually build. These connections are especially strong when they’re relevant to your degree and career aspirations.
Join Relevant Groups
Meeting new people online, especially in a professional context, can be challenging. The LinkedIn group feature is like groups on Facebook but for professionals in specific industries. Enter a topic of interest such as marketing or industrial engineering, for example, in the LinkedIn search bar then click on the groups tab. You’ll get a listing of groups related to your topic that you can join. Consider joining groups for alumni from your university or for specific organizations you’re a member of on campus.
Participate in Discussions
While LinkedIn is a great place to showcase your work, it’s also a place to have conversations. As posts from your contacts pop up in your feed, make comments to participate in the discussion to strengthen relationships with your professional network and showcase your industry knowledge. Participating in discussions before graduation establishes you as an informed presence in your field and might connect you with a job possibility down the line.
Breaking Down the Elements of a Quality Master’s Student LinkedIn Profile
Your LinkedIn profile is the most important part of LinkedIn. It’s where classmates and professors as well as industry professionals and hiring managers learn more about your experiences and what makes you stand out from others. There are a lot of sections to your profile, though, and it can be confusing knowing what to say in each. Below is a walk-through of what you should include in the various sections of your LinkedIn profile.
A Professional Headshot
Your LinkedIn profile includes a picture of you in the top circle of your profile. Make sure your headshot is high quality with good lighting and a neutral background. You also want to look professional in this headshot. LinkedIn isn’t the place for that cute photo you took in Florida during spring break. Wear professional clothes and smile directly at the camera.
A Clear and Concise Summary
Underneath your headshot, there is a tagline and an about you section. Like a cover letter, these are the places to showcase who you are and the professional opportunities you’re looking for. Unlike with a cover letter, though, you should show a bit of personality in these sections. Make the tagline a simple statement about who you are, such as a “seasoned digital marketing professional” or “computer science master’s candidate.” The about section should cover your current and past activity as well as what you’d like your next professional move to be.
Detailed Work Experience and Education
Underneath the summary is a spot for work and education experience where you can list information in bullet points like you might on a resume. If you don’t have a lot of experience in your field, add other roles you’ve held, such as an on-campus job. For education, add any schools you’ve studied at and include short-term fellowships or study abroad experiences. Also make sure to include your major and any relevant projects you worked on while getting your degree.
Skills and Endorsement
Below the education section of your profile is an area to list your various skills. Examples include proficiency in Adobe Photoshop or knowing how to code in python. Once you’ve added your skills, others can endorse them. A fun activity to do with your classmates is to have an endorsement session where you go through each other’s profiles and endorse any skills demonstrated during class, research projects, or professional organization meetings.
Professional Associations and Organizations
At the bottom of your profile, you can add professional associations and organizations. If you’re a member of Phi Beta Kappa or in your university’s robotics club, add those experiences to this section. This is also a great area to showcase the awards you’ve won. You can also add links to any university news articles about your professional organizations or awards.
What to Avoid as a LinkedIn User
So far, we’ve discussed what you should do on LinkedIn, but there’s likely a should not for each should. Since LinkedIn is a professional platform, there’s more content that could be considered controversial than on other social media platforms. Also, whatever you post isn’t just seen by your friends and family but also by people deciding whether they should hire you. This next section, therefore, reviews what not to do on LinkedIn.
Connections on LinkedIn should be like connections in real life: authentic and with boundaries. If you send out too many connection requests to strangers or are constantly direct messaging connections, this could harm your professional career. Instead, take the same care as you would in social interactions in the workplace: be courteous, real, and mindful of others’ time.
Posting Inappropriate Content
While it’s never a good idea to post inappropriate content online, this is especially true on LinkedIn. Remember, hiring managers and professors are watching. Political content, risqué photos, content related to drinking and partying, and overly emotional or personal content are all considered inappropriate for LinkedIn. Save your photos from the girls’ weekend in Vegas or your commentary on a political party for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Neglecting Your Profile
Your professional identity changes over time, and your LinkedIn profile should too. A good rule of thumb is to update your account each semester. This could be rewriting your summary section and retaking your headshot or simply posting a status update on a research project in your feed. You don’t have to spend 24/7 on LinkedIn, but you should check in regularly.
Failing to Engage with Your Network
LinkedIn is a place to have conversations. Don’t be afraid to engage with your classmates, professors, and professionals in your industry. Engagement may be a thoughtful comment on a post, reposting a connection’s content and adding your own insight, or even simply liking a post. Do what feels comfortable to you but find some way to get comfortable with engaging regularly on LinkedIn.
While it’s great to add your professional experience to LinkedIn, don’t oversell yourself. If everything you post is about how amazing you are or why someone should hire you, you might come across as desperate. Showcase your work, yes, but don’t do so in a way that is spammy or over-the-top. If in doubt, ask a classmate or friend to read your content before you post it.
Final Thoughts: How to Move Forward
LinkedIn can feel overwhelming at first, but it’s also one of the best places to advance your career. By setting up your LinkedIn profile and actively engaging with industry professionals and those in your academic department, you’re setting yourself up for a prosperous future and establishing your professional brand online.
This guide helps you set up your profile and is simply a starting point. As you and your career evolve, your profile should too. LinkedIn isn’t a one-and-done experience. You want to have a constantly changing online presence that helps propel your professional future at any career stage.