EducationSkills

Last week I talked a little bit about building your brand and how to do it. Even if you’re still trying to figure out how to market yourself, the best time to make a LinkedIn profile is now. Think of it as your lemonade stand where you can set up all of the ingredients you need to be the best lemonade stand you can be. Okay, maybe, that isn’t the best analogy in the world, but the point is that in order to get people to buy what you are selling, you have to let employers know that you are on the market.

It doesn’t matter if you’re still in high school or in college. There is an internship out there waiting for you and you’re only a LinkedIn profile away from finding it. Don’t waste anymore time; if you don’t already have an account, sign up! It doesn’t hurt to have another social media outlet. Don’t panic if you’re not sure where to start. I’m here to help!

While I was building my profile, I did a lot of research on how to make my profile look as professional as possible. You don’t have to read countless articles on how to make a good LinkedIn profile – here are the 10 things that you should include:

1. Professional photo: LinkedIn may be like Facebook in the sense that it connects you with other people, but that doesn’t mean the profile picture you use for Facebook (the one where you’re making silly faces with your friends) should be the same one you put on your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is like the more conservative cousin of Facebook. Whereas Facebook is for personal usage (though this doesn’t mean you should post anything and everything), LinkedIn is the Internet’s door to the professional world; a place where recruiters from different companies look at the profiles of students just like you.

Keeping that in mind, don’t let their first impression of you be a picture of you sticking a finger up your nose. Instead, use a headshot that has a plain background. If you’re like me and can’t afford to have a professional photo taken at the moment, take the picture yourself with your phone or camera in front of a white wall. Or, use an old picture and use Paint (or any equivalent program) to cut yourself out of the original photo and paste it on a white background. The second choice is really time consuming, but is ultimately can be a good option for the time being.

2. Summary: This is the section where you talk about yourself. You don’t have to share your entire life story, but it may be good to talk about your college major or write a paragraph about what your future goals are. You can also mention your purpose for making a LinkedIn profile, i.e.  to find an internship in [insert field]. Remember to keep the summary brief since recruiters won’t spend an hour on your profile. You want them to get past the summary and onto the good stuff, such as your work experience and courses that you have taken.

3. Collegiate/high school experience: The four years you spend in high school and in college tell a story. Whether you participated in after-school programs or in clubs, it doesn’t matter. Document it all! If you held any leadership positions, that is especially great.  These are the kinds of things you should put on your LinkedIn profile to let everyone know that high school and college isn’t just about the academics for you. Don’t forget to list all of the relevant courses you have taken so far. This means any business, language, major, etc. classes you have under your belt. Displaying a sample of your work (i.e project, paper, etc.) in this section might also be a great idea. Or, if you don’t want to do that, make an online portfolio and link it to your profile. That way you can have a separate space for all of your work.

4. Skills: We are all good at something, whether it’s having great written communications skills or being good at building websites. There is an employer out there looking for someone with your expertise, so make sure you list the things that you have excelled in. If you can get endorsements (people who can attest that you possess said skills), then that’s even better! The more endorsements, the better. Try not to have more than ten skills on your profile though. Only list the ones that are important and the ones that you think will make you stand out from the crowd.

5. Awards: Are you the student who gets good grades or is a star athlete? Good for you! List all of your accomplishments in the awards section. Let people know that you have rewards as proof for outstanding work.

6. Headline: A headline on LinkedIn is like the headline of a newspaper article. It’s the attention grabber; it’s your chance to send out flares to recruiters so that they can find you more easily. You can constantly change your headline to fit your liking, but if you’re not sure what to put there, start off with ‘Student at [insert school].’ or ‘Intern at [insert company]’. If you don’t have an internship and would like one, try using ‘Aspiring [insert profession] seeking an internship in [insert job/field].’ You could use a combination of the three, just play around with it and look at other profiles to help and inspire you.

7. Contact info: You don’t have to provide your phone number (and I advise against putting your phone number online) but what you can do is put your email address on LinkedIn. This way, recruiters or anyone who is interested can contact you through email. LinkedIn may be a professional site, but you always want to be careful with who you give your information to.

8. Groups/companies/universities: The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can join groups that fit your career interests. LinkedIn groups, once you become a member of them, give you access to thousands of people that otherwise wouldn’t show up in the ‘People You May Know’ section. Getting involved in discussions will get you noticed, and you may even learn valuable lessons from professionals that you aren’t connected with. Also, ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ the companies that you would want to intern for or possibly work for in the future. If you want to go college or graduate school, ‘Follow’ your dream universities to stay on top of what’s going on.

9. Connections: Make sure to only add people you know. If you do get those few random invitations, make sure to check out their profiles first before you add them. It’s good to have a lot of connections, but it’s not good if you don’t know your connections. That said, connect with professors, teachers, old friends, family members, people you’ve worked with, etc. Sometimes it’s not about what you know but WHO you know. Keep that in mind as you navigate the networking realm.

10. Alumni tool: LinkedIn has become more accessible to college and high school students alike in recent years, especially with the addition of the alumni tool. Here you can see what people who graduated from your university (or your dream university) went on to do with their degrees. You can also look at their profiles for tips on how to structure your own. If you have any specific questions, you can message them. I love the alumni tool and it’s certainly something you should check out if you’re new to LinkedIn. Go to ‘Connections’ and click on ‘Find Alumni’ to access that tool, and for more information on a particular university, go to ‘Interests’ and click ‘Education.’ Both of these can be found at that top of the page.

I hope that this list was helpful to those of you new LinkedIn users who don’t know where to start. I don’t want to tell you how your profile should look because not one profile should look the same. I do, however, want to give you a sturdy foundation to build your profile upon. Just remember that you don’t have to get it ‘right’ the first time. You can always edit your profile to your liking. With that said, make sure to keep it updated. If you get a new job, update your experiences on your LinkedIn profile. Or if you’re unemployed but you have an internship or are involved in a club, let it be known that you are staying busy even if it’s not a job. Also, if you haven’t participated in a lot of extracurricular activities, internships, or jobs, don’t let that discourage you from not making a LinkedIn profile. Maybe that blank profile can be what motivates you to get more involved. Who knows?! Just don’t wait to create your profile because you won’t know how successful your lemonade stand will be until you build it.

Image: Esther Vargas, Flickr

EducationSkills

This generation is obsessed with social media. If we’re not sharing our thoughts in 140 characters or less, then we’re trying to take the perfect selfie for Instagram or updating our statuses on Facebook. We spend so much time documenting our everyday lives through social networking that we often don’t think about the other benefits of social media.

And there are other benefits.

While it’s possible to find a job or an internship through Facebook or Twitter, you don’t want either of those social outlets to represent who you are professionally. Those accounts are personal, so they’re less likely to feature any projects you’ve worked on or document the clubs and organizations you’ve participated in. Employers are not going to be on the lookout for your accomplishments on any of the social media sites that you frequent. I’m not saying that you should stop using them because we all know the likelihood of that happening is very low (I couldn’t give up Twitter). However, what I am suggesting is that you use social media to network to your advantage.

Take all of those extracurricular activities and your many accomplishments and start building your brand. When I first heard the term ‘build your brand,’ I didn’t quite understand what it meant. Then someone explained it to me like this: imagine two companies coming out with similar products. Both companies are known for distributing quality products and they both get great customer reviews. Knowing all of that, you have to ask yourself, what makes either one of them stand out? Which company will attract the most people and sell the most products?

Well, it’s the company that knows how to market themselves the best.

The same applies for us. There are always going to be people with the same GPA as us, people who participate in the same clubs, and people who produce the same quality of work. Just because you’re always going to have people who are similar to you, though, doesn’t mean that you are not unique. Like those companies that I mentioned before, we all have qualities or strengths that make us unique. You just have to play up those strengths and SELL YOURSELF.

You can’t do that on Facebook or Twitter, so travel to a different part of the social networking world and make yourself a LinkedIn profile. It doesn’t matter if you’re in college or still in high school. Make an account and start documenting the activities and jobs and/or internships that you have done thus far that help highlight your strengths and the qualities that make you stand out from the crowd. Make a personal website or online portfolio (both of which you can share on LinkedIn) and document the dual enrollment program you participated in, that summer abroad, or any project that you were a part of.

Building your brand is all about marketing yourself and marketing something is all about getting someone to buy what you are selling. Doing this now may be what gets you into the college of your dreams, land you the internship you’ve always wanted, or if you’ve already graduated from college, it may be what gets you into grad school. You are never too young to start thinking about your future because, before you know it, high school will be over and done with and so will college. It all goes by in a blur so use your time wisely and start using social media, not just  as a way to connect with family and friends, but to connect with professionals that your parents or people in your family may know as well. If you want to work for a particular company one day, there’s a chance that they’re on LinkedIn. Also, if you are in college, you can see what alumni from your school went on to do after graduation and see what career paths people who had the same major chose.

There are so many opportunities out there and a lot of them are online,  a place where we all love to frequent anyways, so put those fingers to work and instead of using them to type out your next status update, think about what you want to do with your future. It’s fine if you don’t figure it all out in a day, no one does, but it’s good to have an idea of what you want to do. It’s also good to start getting your name out there because you never know how far your accomplishments can take you. Not every high school or college student has a LinkedIn account or an online portfolio, so once you make that decision to start building your brand, keep in mind that you’re already ahead of the game.

Image: morguefile

Skills

You’ve been sending emails, organizing files, making excel sheets, running errands, and learning all summer. Whether it’s a fashion, photography, or finance internship, chances are you’ll be leaving soon. Sometimes it’s because you’re going back to university in another state, or maybe you’re taking 21 credits and you can’t fit it into your schedule. Maybe the internship wasn’t right for you but you wanted to at least give it a try. Either way, it’s time to say good­bye, and there are a few things you need to do beforehand.

1. Let your boss know.

Whether it’s a job or internship, it’s good to give a two weeks notice that you will be leaving the company. Make sure to write a formal letter and to give a verbal heads up. It’s bad to leave a gaping hole where you used to work, and this gives employers a chance to find someone to take over your responsibilities. This is a good chance to explain what you liked about the internship, and if you want to come back next summer you should mention it!

2. Attain contact information.

Get his number. Or her number. Or their numbers. Before you leave, make sure you have the email, LinkedIn, Facebook (if you so dare), or any other social media/contact info of people you worked with. You want to keep in contact with people who you want to remember. Just remember to contact them once every four months to say hi! You want to be able to maintain a good relationship, and who knows, they might help you out or vice versa in the future! This is also a good way to let others know you’re leaving so it won’t be awkward that you just disappeared.

3. Clean your workspace.

Once upon a summer, I was led to a bright desk on the top floor of an office building. The vibe was chill, the lighting was comfortable, and the desk, well, the desk was covered in dust, had hygiene products in the drawer, and lacked a functioning stapler. The former intern did not bother to bring her leftover peanut butter, half melted chocolate, or instant nail polish with her after she left. This isn’t very nice, and doesn’t reflect the respect and effort she could have put into her internship! Please, take your things with you, straighten out your desk, wipe things down, and leave it nice and welcoming for the next intern!

4. Work hard until the very end.

This is important! Even though you know you’ll be leaving in two weeks, you want to leave a good impression. Don’t lose steam! Have a final hurrah! Do your best and make it the best end of an internship. You’ll feel accomplished and your coworkers will appreciate it. Best of all, you’ll be motivated to have a good start for the semester. Who wouldn’t like that?

As the summer winds down, things will change. The weather, your closet, the internship, and the semester. Things will come and go, and we have to go along with that flow. I hope these tips can help you prep for this change, and that it is all smooth sailing from here.

Image: deathtostockphoto