If you are a high school student who is at least 16 years old you need a LinkedIn profile.
Whether you are college or career bound, LinkedIn allows you to create valuable connections with decision makers who can help you achieve your goals.
Additionally, LinkedIn can help you accomplish the following:
Stand out from the college competition. The fact that you have a LinkedIn profile could set you apart from other applicants. Including a link to your profile on your college application will allow admissions staff to see your work history and any professional accomplishments you may have, which gives them a more complete view of you as a person.
Build your network. It's never too early to start building a professional network. Start by connecting with family members, friends of your parents, and co-workers from current or summer jobs. Depending on the social media policy in your school district, you may or may not be able to connect with current teachers.
Connect with other students. You should use LinkedIn to network with other students. While they are friends now, in the future they could become business referrals. Your friends and friends of theirs may end up working somewhere that interests you.
Connect with industry leaders. LinkedIn gives you access to influential people in your desired industry / profession. Reach out to people whose careers you admire, explain to them why you are requesting to connect, and don't be intimidated by titles.
Build your personal brand / digital footprint. The information you share on LinkedIn speaks to who you are, so make sure to only post things you would want a future boss to see. You should share written content you have created via LinkedIn Publishing, videos via the Post feature and be sure to link any portfolio websites you may have to your profile. Sharing content that others have created is also important for both brand building and relationship building purposes.
Research career paths. Find people on LinkedIn who are successfully employed in your desired industry / profession. Review their employment history to see how they worked their way up. Incorporate things they have done into your overall plan.
Research companies. Use LinkedIn as a tool to help you determine whether or not you would be interested in working for a particular company. For larger organizations, LinkedIn company pages give a general overview of the company, a total employee count with links to their LinkedIn profiles, employee headcount by function, new hire information, current job openings, the members of your network who work there, and links to content that the company has posted over time.
Research colleges. LinkedIn university pages provide all of the same information as LinkedIn company pages, plus they provide a way to research the alumni of that school. By clicking the "see alumni" button on a university page, you can then filter the alumni by where they live, where they work, what they do, what they studied, what they are skilled at, and how you are connected. This will allow you to get a feel for what the students have gone on to do after graduation.
Prepare for interviews. When you have a job, internship or college interview, you should always review both the LinkedIn company or university page and the profile of the person who will interview you. Mentioning pertinent information that you found will impress your interviewer.
Search for internships or jobs. When you click on the Jobs icon at the top of the page, LinkedIn shows jobs you may be interested in based on your saved Profile and Career interests. If you have not yet saved those preferences, simply click on the Update Career interests link. You can also search for additional job openings in the navigation bar at the top of the Jobs page. Once you have found an opportunity that interests you, be sure to see if you have any connections who work there. They may be able to help you get the job that you are interested in or at least be able to give you some insights into the position.
Get job email alerts. Once you have created your profile and have saved your Profile and Career interests, you can then set email alerts to receive notifications of new job listings.
Get referrals. Networking is about who you know and who those people know. If there is someone on LinkedIn that you would like to meet, ask a mutual acquaintance for an introduction.
Join a group. LinkedIn has groups for just about every industry and profession. Follow the thought leaders and experts who post content in your groups. Read their posts to gain their insights about current topics of interest. Ask questions and post thoughtful comments so group members become aware of who you are, then send customized connection requests to those people with whom you have interacted.
Get a customized LinkedIn URL. Having a customized URL makes your profile appear more professional and helps to drive your LinkedIn page to the top of Google searches on your name. First and last name is preferred, but if that’s already taken, try your last name first, followed by your first name. If that’s not available, try adding a middle initial or a major nearby city.
Get endorsements for skills. First, you need to decide which skills to add to your profile so that your connections can endorse you for them. When looking at job postings that you are interested in, choose the skills that are most commonly featured. You can also look to the profiles of executives who you admire for further inspiration.
Get recommendations. People who view your profile will usually read the recommendations you've received to see what others have said about you and your work. As a high school student, you may have recommendations from teachers for your college applications, recommendations from former employers or supervisors at organizations at which you have volunteered and possibly personal recommendations for things such as a National Honor Society application. Simply ask those people if they are comfortable having those recommendations posted on LinkedIn and then follow the steps to have it included on your profile.
Highlight accomplishments. The accomplishments section of your profile provides many different ways for you to distinguish yourself. You can share courses you have taken, projects you have completed, honors & awards you have received, test scores you have earned, organizations you belong to and any languages you may speak. If you have volunteer experience, add that to its own section or treat it as work experience if you have never had a formal job.
Learning to use LinkedIn during your high school years will give you a distinct competitive advantage. You will enter college or the working world with an established network of associates. You will have in depth information about the types of people in your potential industry, including their level of education and the evolution of their career paths. You will have a grasp on industry trends and the companies that influence them. And perhaps most importantly, you will have a polished, professional digital presence.