The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn: Why Every College Student Should be Using it

While LinkedIn might seem like just another social media app, it’s actually one of the easiest (and free) ways to market yourself and apply find your dream job. According to Search Engine Journal, there are now over 600 million users on LinkedIn. Take control of your online presence and learn how to build an impactful LinkedIn profile below.

The Profile Basics

This guide will be focusing on 4 major sections of your LinkedIn profile: the profile photo, the background photo, the headline, and the summary. Here’s a screenshot of my profile below with each section labeled


Before we move onto the specifics for each element, consider what the overall vibe of your profile will be. To standout from the competition, your profile should be unique to you and your brand. Try jotting down a few of your key traits, favorite colors, and the people that inspire you. Refer back to these as you create your profile.

1. Profile Photo

The profile photo is going to be the first thing a potential employer sees when they search for your profile. Generally your photo should NOT:

  • feature anyone else

  • be dimly lit or blurry

  • filtered or overedited

  • unprofessional

  • a selfie

This photo above is one I would NEVER use for LinkedIn. Not only is it hard to tell which person I am, you can’t really make out any distinct features or understand what message I’m trying to convey.

This photo above is one I would NEVER use for LinkedIn. Not only is it hard to tell which person I am, you can’t really make out any distinct features or understand what message I’m trying to convey.

My biggest tip is to go natural! Think: simple makeup/dress, natural lighting, and a smile. Keep in mind that LinkedIn is for potential job offers or to stay in contact with people that already know you. Be true to yourself and choose a photo that is 100% you.

Most colleges provide free headshots, which usually feature a plain background. To standout, I recommend taking your headshot outside. This gives you the option to showcase your personality or even some of your hobbies through your profile photo.

While both headshots are good quality, I prefer the one outside because it showcases some of my favorite hobbies, stands out in my field, and looks more natural. However, if I worked for a large corporation or in fields such as finance, accounting, or for the government, the one on the right be more suitable.

2. Background Photo

As with the rest of your profile, the background photo should be simple. Most recruiters don’t take an in-depth look into the background photo but I recommend a vibrant print, your favorite architecture, or a sample of your work.

For example, if you were a student at the Ohio State University and a freelance photographer, you could use a picture of the ‘Shoe as your header. If you are a restaurant owner, your LinkedIn background photo could be a picture of your favorite dish on the menu or the outside of your restaurant. Both examples are subliminal ways to market your trade.

blank Linkedin header

Above is an example of the blank header than comes with your LinkedIn profile. Although there’s nothing wrong with using this, a different header will add to your profile completion percentage. This will affect the rate your profile is viewed or how often it is suggested by the LinkedIn algorithm.

Your background photo is another tool to convey your interest and personality on your profile.

3. Headline

The headline is one of the first components of your LinkedIn profile that a potential company will see. Think of the headline as a marketing slogan for yourself.

When you search my name on LinkedIn, my profile is the first to appear. You can see my photo, name, current city, and headline.

Because I am still completing my undergraduate, I have my headline as “Student at the Ohio State University.” While this might not help me stand out from other students, it can make it easier for companies or my classmates to search my name. I will also come up in any searches about Ohio State.

For current professionals, I recommend listing out your passions, characteristics, and skills. What could you say that will make you stand out from other candidates? What will speak to your skills and story? Remember to keep it short and simple.

4. The Summary

Besides being an easy way to professionally network, LinkedIn allows you to showcase your professional portfolio, apply for jobs, and stay in contact with important people in your field. The summary is the last portion of your profile and is your last chance to market yourself.

The summary is the written version of your elevator pitch. Introduce yourself, mention recent achievements, and add to your credibility as a professional. The summary should include anything that you want to highlight or isn’t necessarily work related. For example, I speak about mentoring I have done at Ohio State as well as some of my extracurricular involvements. I also briefly mention my hobbies, which gives my summary a greater personal feel.

Finally, I list a few key words for my industry. These are all skills I have worked on in previous positions or via my classes that I would like to showcase. If anyone searches for these exact skills, my profile is more likely to come up.

Once you finish your LinkedIn profile, be sure to connect with me. I would love to see your finished work! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments down below. Happy job hunting!