When the news came across the wire (oops, old-school term, no wires anymore) that LinkedIn was dropping its entrance age from 18 to 14-years-old there was an outpouring of “the end of childhood” stories with accompanying photos depicting teens in Doogie Howser scrubs and mini-me Jack Welches ready to toss their Minecraft games and Facebook friends aside for LinkedIn. While this scenario may seem scary, what’s going to be scarier is when you, as a LinkedIn business professional, start getting LinkedIn Invites: “My Dad knows you and I would like to add you to my LinkedIn network.” Really?
TEENS IN YOUR NETWORK?
Christine Allen, Product Management head at LinkedIn, in a recent blog post suggests that this new offering, called University Pages, will give teens “a head start on building a network of family and friends to help guide them at every milestone.” But, LinkedIn users know that it’s not the one-degree connection (trusted friends and colleagues) that makes LinkedIn a powerful social network, it’s that you can connect beyond that first degree to friends of friends; each connected to one of your connections. If you are a teen and your high-powered aunt has an amazing network are you going to be able to tap into it? And, when you send out your Invite, will busy business professionals accept? Business people are already overwhelmed with their 24/7 incomings and is a 14-year-old someone they want interacting with their network?
HARD TO STAYED ENGAGED
The challenge for LinkedIn will be this: Are kids going to stay engaged with LinkedIn if they aren’t seeing immediate positive results? Once they have joined and see how many people their peers (or their parents) have in their LinkedIn networks (50, 100, 500+) it will naturally become a bit of competition. But, if it’s hard for teens to get their Invites accepted by adults how long will it be before they lose interest?
WHAT 14-YEAR OLDS SHOULD BE DOING
Savvy 14-years-old should be thinking about other ways to build relationships with mentors and connectors. What they have to offer is not their “network”, instead it’s reliable lawn mowing skills, fast and organized leaf raking techniques, and maybe even geeky tech skills. Instead of asking the VP, HR Manager or Marketing Manager who lives down the street to connect on LinkedIn, what 14-year-olds should be doing is walking down the street and asking Mrs. Cleaver (with the big job) if they can mow her lawn, rake her leaves or be her neighborhood tech support person. That’s how to begin building a relationship with Mrs. Cleaver the VP.
BRILLIANT FILLING OF THE FUNNEL
Still, there’s something kind of brilliant about what LinkedIn is doing. This successful social network has over 238 million users in over 200 countries and up until now their target has been business professionals, although university students are encouraged to join. Now, with the just launched University Pages, LinkedIn is staking a claim to the whole university process, from what a school has to offer to where grads from that university get jobs. For example, York University alums four top places to work are TD, CIBC, RBC and Rogers. In the US, Caterpillar and Intel hire University of Illinois at Urbana alums. That’s good intelligence for students when choosing universities. Knowing LinkedIn, University Pages is going to get more robust.
WHO SHOULD BE EMBRACING NEW AGE ENTRY?
Students in Grades 11 and 12 should be getting on board with this new LinkedIn offering. They should start building their network with real people whom they’ve met and hopefully impressed. That means they need to be around these people. Organizations like Junior Achievement and volunteering activities give students access to the business world and leaders. It’s important for students to understand that in the competitive world of getting into the best universities broad-based admissions matter. As Sauder Business School at the University of British Columbia says, “Broad-Based Admission means that in addition to excellent grades, outstanding candidates will possess great leadership, teamwork and interpersonal skills. We are also looking for those who are capable of setting and achieving goals, show an ability to deal with challenging situations, demonstrate solid communication skills and are involved with the community.”
LinkedIn is going to give students a place to showcase more than grades, including awards, projects and volunteering roles. College admission officers already look at an applicant’s Facebook page and Google them. They will now be checking out an applicant’s LinkedIn page—guaranteed. That’s reason enough for 16 and 17-year-olds to get on board the LinkedIn network.