By the time you’re in high school, you’ve probably been warned about the potential repercussions of publishing anything about yourself online. As the saying goes, nothing you put on the Internet is private.

 

Indeed, you do need to be careful about the types of things you post on social media and on video and photo sharing sites. While your intended audience may only be your friends, it’s usually not difficult for others to access your material.

 

If you are a college applicant, you may need to be doubly cautious. As we discuss in our post Do Colleges Check Your Facebook? How Much Due Diligence Colleges Actually Perform On Your App, it is unlikely that a college will specifically seek out your social media profiles, but it is not impossible. They might be more likely to do so if they are uncertain about or suspicious of anything you’ve included on your application. Or, they might do so if they are tipped off by a third party.

 

In any case, you need to be just as conscious of the image you project online as you are of the one you project in person. One way to put your best foot forward is by creating a LinkedIn profile. A polished LinkedIn profile can highlight your accomplishments, create connections with others through a professional platform, and act as an online resume. It may also be one of the first entries to appear when someone enters an online search query for your name.   

 

To learn more about how and why to create a LinkedIn profile while you’re still in high school, keeping reading.

 

Why Join LinkedIn?

 

LinkedIn is a unique social platform because it is designed specifically for professional networking. One of the best uses of LinkedIn is for keeping in touch with contacts who might be able to create valuable connections for you when you look for a job, apply to scholarships, or apply to college. Through LinkedIn, you can connect with teachers, employers, mentors, family members, and even alumni from your high school working in your desired field. These connections might later turn into important networking opportunities.

 

Another use for LinkedIn is to validate your accomplishments and skills. One feature of the site allows other users to endorse the skills you list on your profile. You can also upload recommendations from your connections. If you start a LinkedIn profile at a relatively young age, you’ll have plenty of time to accumulate endorsements and recommendations before you begin a serious job search.

 

Finally, LinkedIn allows you to maintain a professional online presence. You can keep a resume that is up-to-date and build a professional reputation. When you apply for jobs or other opportunities, you can refer potential employers to your LinkedIn profile where they will find a complete, real-time compilation of your unique skills and achievements.

 

Starting a LinkedIn profile in high school can be a great way to take charge of your online presence in a professional and mature manner.

 

What to Include On Your LinkedIn Profile:

 

It can be a little intimidating to get started on building a LinkedIn profile, especially when the website keeps telling you that you need to complete more sections in order to create a competitive presence on LinkedIn. Here, we’ll outline what is expected in each section of the LinkedIn profile.

 

For more specific details about expanding on this information, check out our post How to Make an Effective LinkedIn Page.

 

Photo:

You’ll need to include a photo to accompany your profile. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a professional photo, but it should be polished. Ideally, the background will be fairly plain, and you’ll be wearing a nice shirt or blouse. The photo should really just be a headshot, from about shoulder level up, and you should be looking at the camera. This is not the place for a group shot taken with your friends at the beach. Browse through other users’ profiles to see the style of photo most commonly included.

 

Headline:

Your headline is one sentence or phrase that captures what you’ve done and what you’re interested in doing in the future.

 

Summary:

Your summary will briefly describe what you’re passionate about doing, what you’re particularly skilled at, and what your goals are. It will basically expand on your headline to offer more specific details.

 

Experience:

This is essentially a resume of work experience. Include every job you’ve held so far, even if it was only part-time. Later, when you’re older and have amassed more work experience, you will trim down this section to include only jobs that are relevant to your career goals. For now, because you’re just getting started, you should include every job you’ve held.

For each job, include a brief description of your responsibilities and anything that you accomplished while there. You can even include photos or videos of your work if you have them, but keep in mind that these should serve as examples of the quality of work you’re capable of, not a series of selfies you took while serving as the beach parking attendant.

 

Honors and Awards:

Here, you can list any formal recognition you’ve received both in and out of school, from Employee of the Month at the local ice cream stand to National Merit Scholarship recipient. Don’t be afraid to brag in this section.

 

Projects:

This section should include any projects that you’ve worked on, in or out of school, in which you took a leadership role or otherwise excelled. For example, you could include your role as group leader in your school’s model bridge building competition even if your team didn’t win, or the darkroom that you built in your parent’s basement. This is the place to highlight unique achievements that were not formally recognized and do not fall into work or volunteer experiences.

 

Courses:

Don’t list every high school course you’ve ever taken here. Instead, focus on ones that highlight your skills and interests. For example, if you are interested in a career in computer tech, definitely include the coding course you took online or the AP Computer Science course you took at school.

 

Skills and Expertise:

Choose at least five skills that are relevant to both what you enjoy doing and the field you intend to pursue professionally. The people you connect with through LinkedIn will be able to endorse these skills to verify them for others who view your profile.

 

Organizations:

This is the section in which you list clubs or extracurriculars. Be sure to also include a brief description of what you did in each organization, especially if you took a leadership role.

 

Volunteer Experience:

Here, you’ll list any service projects or other volunteer work in which you’ve participated. Again, include a description of each experience. Even if you haven’t done much in terms of volunteer work, you can include any work for which you weren’t paid or compensated in this section, even if it was informal, like tutoring a younger student from your basketball team.

 

Education:

This section will usually start with your high school, but for older professionals it may not even start until college. You can include your high school classes and any summer programs or courses that you’ve taken outside of school.

 

Recommendations:

In this section, you can post recommendations that you’ve gathered from employers, teachers, or classmates. This section adds credibility to your profile. Never leave a job or a class in which you excelled and connected with the teacher without asking for a brief recommendation. You never know when it will come in handy.


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Strategies for Using LinkedIn As a High School Student

 

Once you have your profile completed, you can begin using LinkedIn to establish a professional online presence. It might seem a little confusing at first, especially if you are the only one amongst your friends using this platform, but with a little practice and observation you’ll be up and running in no time.

 

Here are some tips to get started.

 

Pursue Networking.

If you meet important professionals at a school event, through your parents or friends, or through a summer job, follow up soon afterwards with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Make sure to do so while you’re still fresh in this person’s mind. If you’re worried that they won’t remember you, include a brief message saying that it was pleasure to meet them at this specific event.

You should also reach out to successful alums from your high school, whether you knew them personally or not. This is particularly important if they’re in a field that you intend to pursue. Connecting through LinkedIn at a young age shows ambition, and lets others know that you’re thinking about your future career.

 

Don’t Overshare.

LinkedIn is a unique social media platform. Spend some time observing the feed before you begin to share material. Content shared on LinkedIn is distinctly different from Facebook or other social media platforms. Keep it minimal and professionally relevant.

 

Know What to Brag About.

You should definitely describe your accomplishments and awards, giving details about each. After all, you are actively trying to market yourself. Don’t include your grades, GPA, or test scores, though. These can come off as superficial achievements, since professionals are more interested in what you DO with your talents and knowledge than whether you have them in the first place.

 

Don’t Lie.

This should go without saying, but as on your college, job, or scholarship applications, you should never lie or embellish the truth. Something that starts as a small embellishment could really catch up to you professionally in the future if it plays a role in you getting a job. Don’t put yourself in that position.

 

Create a Customized URL.

When you open your LinkedIn account, you’ll be assigned a random web address for your LinkedIn profile. This will usually include a long line of numbers or random letters. You can customize the URL using these directions from the LinkedIn website.

Customizing your LinkedIn URL makes your profile easier to find and appears more polished and professional. It also shows that you have some technological savvy and pay attention to details.         

 

Though creating a LinkedIn profile while you’re still in high school might seem premature to some, it is a smart move to begin building your professional online presence from a relatively young age. Not only does doing so show ambition and maturity, but also it will serve you better in the long run to have an established professional profile available online. Take charge now to ensure that you’re set up for networking and a positive online presence.

 

If you’d like more information about establishing yourself as a young professional or setting yourself up for future career success, consider CollegeVines Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.

 

For more information about your online presence and setting yourself up for future career success, see these CollegeVine posts:

 

Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist