Why and how to use LinkedIn in high school

Student holding an iPad with LinkedIn on the screen

king warrior Written by special contributor 

We hear you’re a social media guru, a master of public profiles.

You’ve been communicating with friends, classmates, and occasionally your family on your platforms of choice for years – and we’re sure you’ve had fun. But, what if you could hone your scrolling habits to help you in the future? Enter: LinkedIn.

If you’re 16 or older, the pearly gates of this networking heaven are wide open and it may just help you achieve your university and career goals. Why should you use it? How should you use it? We’re glad you asked.

Why should you use LinkedIn?

LinkedIn lasts

LinkedIn is one of the longest standing social media platforms used today. Founded in 2003, it competes only with MySpace for oldest social platform, and you can decide for yourself which of them was more successful.

While other social media platforms fade into oblivion, LinkedIn has passed the test of time. It keeps collecting users (two per second, by the way) and adjusting its features to meet your needs—even in high school. It may not change as quickly as other social favourites but that’s for good reason.

LinkedIn recognizes the importance of maintaining professionalism on the platform and it won’t risk its reputation on a programming fad or trendy (but otherwise irrelevant) feature.

That said, if you’re interested in learning about what’s new on the platform, follow Canadian LinkedIn guru Michaela Alexis. She’ll keep you ahead of the curve.

Show off your professional side

While you use some social media platforms to show off your best life, LinkedIn gives you an opportunity to show off your professional life.

Craft your profile to present yourself the way you want employers to see you—that goes for your profile picture and cover image, your headline, summary statement, and your experiences. We have a few tips for you below, but you can also check out LinkedIn’s recommendations for new users.

  • For your profile shot, we recommend busting out your favourite interview outfit (don’t forget to iron it) and asking a friend to snap a flattering headshot for you. Think of this as your future employer’s first impression.
  • Fill in as many fields as you can. You may not have content for everything but try your best. Not only will it round out your profile but it also makes you more visible in searches.
  • Build a unique LinkedIn URL. You’ll be able to use it on your future résumés and cover letters (a very handy feature).
  • Include volunteering. It can be easy to overlook things you’ve done, so take time to think back on the last few years. If you can’t remember, ask a friend to reminisce with you.

Group of young men in suits looking at a laptop.

Networking matters

If you’re going to join one professional network, LinkedIn is the one to choose. Why? The size, calibre, and level of engagement of its member base.

You’re almost guaranteed to find leaders you admire and with whom you’d love to work.

First, let’s talk about the users. LinkedIn has more than 645 million members in 200 countries and territories, and almost half of them are active on the platform at least monthly.

You may be wondering, “Aren’t all of those LinkedIn users old?” Good question! You may be surprised to learn that LinkedIn’s fastest growing demographic is recent graduates and young professionals (aged 18-25).

Just like future you, they’re flocking to LinkedIn because it hosts 90 million senior-level influencers and 30 million companies. As someone trying to break into an industry, you’re almost guaranteed to find leaders you admire and with whom you’d love to work.

What do you do once you find them? Bring them in to your network!

  1. Follow them. This lets you see what content they're publishing and engaging with.
  2. Find out who they follow and follow them. This is so helpful in finding out what topics and conversations are top of mind for industry leaders.
  3. Connect with them. This is great way to put yourself on their radar.
  4. Strike up a conversation. Be humble, complimentary, and direct.

One more thought on networking: remember when you (may or may not have) judged LinkedIn for being your parents’ network? Connecting with your parents may be a hard sell on other platforms but connecting with them on LinkedIn makes sense.

You can use your parents’ networks to help grow your own: you’ll have built-in name recognition and at least one endorsement (hopefully) from them. It’s not riding coattails, it’s taking advantage of opportunities. (The same goes for teachers, coaches, and mentors!)

How should I use LinkedIn?

Online résumé

Let LinkedIn be a space to collect all your professional experiences. Whether it’s a summer internship, a part-time job, or (if you come to Waterloo) a co-op term, you can include them all in your experiences and link to your employers' company pages. This connects you with others at the organization and helps LinkedIn’s algorithms piece together the content it will serve up in your feed.

While you may tailor your printed résumé to meet specific job requirements, LinkedIn can host it all, giving you a home for the job descriptions you’ve worked so hard on.

Having all your professional experience is in one place can also help you standardize the tone and style of your writing. When you read your experiences one after the next, it should read smoothly. Take time to proofread your entries carefully. Things to watch for include tenses (past tense for past jobs, present tense for your current role), spelling, and the accuracy of your description.

Remember, the role may have evolved over your time of employment, so make sure your description explains all you achieved.

One bonus of LinkedIn that a standard résumé doesn’t typically afford you are endorsements. After or during your job, you can request endorsements from colleagues or supervisors through LinkedIn.

These endorsements live on your profile and give hiring managers a taste of what they can expect to hear from your references. (That’s a big bonus!)

Female student using her laptop at a coffee shop.

A job searching hotspot

Speaking of hiring managers, LinkedIn is home to more than 30 million companies. Those company are actively advertising more than 20 million job postings to other LinkedIn members—20,000,000 jobs! Not just any jobs. From executive opportunities to internships, companies know they have an audience of keen, career-driven people and they reward them with access to meaningful opportunities.

Sometimes LinkedIn job postings offer more information than other postings because they come directly from the company instead of a headhunting agency.

Needs some tips for starting your LinkedIn job search?

  • Complete your full profile and keep it up to date.
  • Follow companies you want to work for and you’ll receive their job postings.
  • Search the job titles you aspire to have and dig through the descriptions to see what they require. If they list skills that you have but don’t list on your profile, add them! If they require skills you don’t yet have yet, hone them. Take the fear out of job descriptions and make yourself an ultimate candidate (this takes time and effort, not just profile tweaks).
  • Follow job search experts for interview and résumé tips. Like all professions, there are trends in job searching. Put yourself ahead of the competition by learning which key questions are likely to be asked in interviews and the types of answers HR professionals want to hear.
  • Upload an up-to-date résumé. If you’re looking for résumé pointers, check out our tips for building a résumé before university. You can often apply to jobs through LinkedIn, so keeping a résumé there can help make you more efficient.

Showcase your learning

Out of the 330 million active LinkedIn members, only one million users have published an article or a post. That means there’s room for your content. Engage with the LinkedIn community, whether it’s sharing your learning as a university applicant, sharing an article that inspired you professionally, or publishing a “how-to” guide.

Put yourself out there; it's a risk that could pay off in the long run.

Be active and be brave! Posting content can be intimidating, but you never know what will resonate with others. Put yourself out there, it’s a risk that could pay off in the long run (seriously, if you didn’t check out Michaela Alexis, her story will make a believer out of you!).

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