September 10, 2018

Why high school students should be on LinkedIn, according to a college freshman

We all have social media accounts and apps to have fun and connect with friends in the moment, but what about an account that sets you up for success in the future? When 18-year-old Ainsley Holman created a LinkedIn profile during January of her senior year at Williston Northampton School, it wasn’t the most popular move among her graduating class. Why did she create a profile on an app often associated with adults, particularly adults who have jobs? Ainsley had her mind set on where she is now and where she wants to go. A recent high school graduate, Ainsley is now attending Syracuse University, where she is pursuing her interests in journalism, marketing, politics, and dance. She has dreams beyond Syracuse — and she knows LinkedIn can help her reach them. The Social Institute’s founder and CEO Laura Tierney talked to Ainsley about how she uses the platform to fuel her goals and what advice she has for other students looking for an edge in future job opportunities.

The Social Institute: Why did you create a LinkedIn profile in the first place?

Ainsley: I created my LinkedIn profile in January of my senior year. I realized that colleges are going to be Googling me, and it’s important to have an online presence that isn’t just personal but also professional. At first, I abandoned my profile because I thought it was a lot of effort. When The Social Institute came to our campus the month before I graduated, it spurred that motivation to really work on polishing my profile. I personally don’t see a lot of people on LinkedIn who are my age, and so I thought, why not get a head start and establish a foundation? That way, by the time I’m a senior in college, I’m more equipped to approach job applications and job interviews.

TSI: Are there other pro’s to LinkedIn beyond having a profile?

Ainsley: I added my portfolio to LinkedIn so that people can view everything I have ever written. I’m also using the platform to build connections. I send requests to old teachers, new teachers, friends, and people who are going to be in the same major as me. For example, at my college, we get peer advisors during freshman year. I searched my peer advisor on LinkedIn and learned about her background that way. I’ll also search companies and people who graduated from Syracuse so that I can reach out to them for future opportunities and get my foot in the door.  I think it’s important to establish a relationship with someone outside of texting and Instagram; that could be beneficial during college or afterwards.

TSI: When would you encourage students to create a LinkedIn profile?

Ainsley: I would encourage them to create one during junior or senior year when you’re applying to colleges. That is when you’re figuring out what direction your life is going, and LinkedIn could help you tell your story.

TSI: What’s one tip you would give other students when creating a LinkedIn profile?

Ainsley: Use it to your advantage because there are so many different profile sections that can be used to reflect your skills. For example, I utilized the “Publications” feature because my career path is geared towards journalism. In that section, I linked to articles I’ve written.

TSI: You mentioned using the platform to connect with role models. Who is one professional role model that you admire?

Ainsley: I admire a friend of mine from my old high school in Dallas, who is my also age (18), and was the student body president. I remember creating a LinkedIn profile, and he was already on the platform. I was really inspired by his profile.

TSI: Any final advice you would give to students when they create a LinkedIn account?

Ainsley: I think it’s important not to compare yourself to other people. For example, when I first signed up for LinkedIn, I looked at my friend’s profile and it was full of information and experience. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t have anything to put on here.” And then I realized, my friend has his own strong suit – international affairs – and I have my strong suit – writing. It’s important not to focus on the quantity of someone else’s work. Focus on the quality of work that you’ve done and own that.