Teens, please add me to your network, LinkedIn says

  • Article by: KATIE HUMPHREY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2013 - 11:31 AM

New “University Pages” connect students with colleges and the buttoned-up social network.

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LinkedIn, the professional networking website, is encouraging teens 14 and older to subscribe.

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Notebooks and pencils? Check.

Backpack? Gym shoes? Check and check.

Online résumé? You might want to get to work on that, even if you’re still in high school.

Digital networking giant LinkedIn is lowering its age of admission, inviting students 14 and older to join its online ranks Sept. 12 and urging young scholars to connect with colleges that interest them.

New “University Pages” offer glimpses into the career paths of alumni, compiling data gleaned from LinkedIn profiles about where they live and what they do. More than 200 colleges and universities have already launched pages, including the University of Minnesota, Hamline University and Macalester College.

“If harnessed, these insights could provide incredible value for students — helping them explore possible futures and build a support network to help them succeed on campus and beyond,” said Christina Allen of LinkedIn in a blog post announcing University Pages.

It’s also a way for LinkedIn, a decade-old social network geared toward professionals, to hook the next generation. The battle for those younger users is fierce, with aging networks trying to prove they’re still hip. (LinkedIn was launched in May 2003, nine months before Facebook.)

More than a job resource

So far, LinkedIn has been a more civil haven for those seeking to build a professional presence online amid the sea of silly selfies, Facebook rants and snarky tweets. Recruiters and hiring managers use it to connect with potential applicants, even saying that the absence of a LinkedIn profile can be a red flag in some fields.

The social network, now counting about 240 million members, has continued to grow.

But many LinkedIn users still treat it more like a job hunting resource — a place to keep a résumé online — than as a social network to check incessantly.

The network has been adjusting its format intensively in the past couple of years, co-opting features made popular on Facebook and Twitter, including an active newsfeed and the ability to “follow” others’ public posts. Earlier this year, LinkedIn added “endorsements” — one-click recommendations of sorts — and sparked debate about how much value such an effortless (and sometimes clueless) shout-out carries.

A constant drip of e-mails nags users to return to the site, luring them with updates about their colleagues’ new jobs, qualifications or endorsements.

Such digital badgering, however, has been the butt of jokes on “The Daily Show,” where earlier this summer comedian and temporary host John Oliver said: “I keep telling Linked­In to stop sending me e-mails. Leave me alone, LinkedIn. ... I don’t even understand what you do, LinkedIn. You seem to have monetized irritating people.”

Connect with ease

Still, for those who poke around on the network, there’s a wealth of information.

Maybe a student is curious about how many U of M alumni stay in the Twin Cities and work for 3M. Now they can figure that out (at least within the realm of LinkedIn users) by visiting the U’s page and filtering the alumni information with a couple of easy clicks.

According to the U’s Linked­In page, the most popular field for alumni on the social network is engineering, followed by administrative careers and entrepreneurs. Outside of the Twin Cities, the largest numbers of LinkedIn-using alumni are in San Francisco, Chicago and New York City.

Use the filters to drill down far enough and students could find individual LinkedIn users they might want to contact for advice or guidance. (Side note to alumni: If you don’t want to be found, now is the time to lock down privacy settings.)

“It’s fascinating. It’s really functional,” said Lindsey Heffern, social media manager for the U.

Since the page only recently was launched, she said, it’s still unclear how it will be used.

Alumni have already been active in using LinkedIn, with the University of Minnesota Alumni Association boasting more than 24,000 members on the network.

The new U of M page may be a place to bring together alumni, current and prospective students.

“It’s changing the career hunt,” Heffern said. “Younger university students, as they think about their careers — it would behoove them to tap into these resources, and LinkedIn is making it easier.”

So somewhere between algebra class and soccer practice and school play rehearsal, maybe you can squeeze in some résumé writing.

 

Katie Humphrey • 612-673-4758

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