On 12th September teenagers will be allowed to join the professional network – albeit and quite rightly with tougher security settings. Some commentators have said that children should be allowed to be children without pressure to get into the world of work too soon, and also suggested that some ‘older’ members might move away from the site as a result. But that aside, I believe that this is a great move from LinkedIn and whilst bringing them a lot more members at a stroke, it brings potentially big benefits for youngsters who are starting to think about their careers.
The move also coincides with the introduction of University Pages – a kind of ‘Company Page’ for universities and colleges. Here, students can learn more about different universities and also engage with past and present students to hear something of their experiences.
I spent most of my employed career (twenty five years) in sales and marketing, and it was only about ten years ago that I realised just how valuable social media would have been to me. Firstly as a listening and learning tool, secondly as a networking tool and thirdly as a communication tool. (My technology weapon of choice was the fax machine, which I would use almost daily to send out thousands of sales messages, surveys and items which I hoped would ‘engage’ with my target audience.)
But I would have also valued social media long before I even entered the world of work had it been around. LinkedIn’s move to allow teenagers will no doubt be closely monitored, but there are several benefits for the fresh-faced new members.
- The chance to learn about the value of networking
- The opportunity to learn the skills of online networking in a professional environment
- The opportunity to begin building a professional identity and a reputation (yes, even at a younger age)
- The chance to start building a network of contacts
- The opportunity to ask questions from more experienced members in a variety of business disciplines
- The chance to engage with companies that they might be interested in
- And yes, the chance to engage with people of their own age based around common interests (music, sport etc)
Clearly, companies and employers will be keeping an eye out for future talented employees, and where better to engage with them than on LinkedIn. From the teenagers point of view, here’s their chance to engage with business professionals at a variety of levels, but very importantly to learn how your behaviour online can profoundly influence your future career prospects. I also hope that the 'older' members won't be pushed away from LinkedIn - all of us of a certain age have the potential to be inspired by and learn from youngsters with fresh ideas.
As LinkedIn continues to develop its excellent mobile apps, this clearly will also be attractive to the new younger members of the site.
Parents and schools need to be aware of this new initiative, and I for one will be looking to speak at schools and colleges to help educate teenagers in the skills needed for networking in a professional environment.
Good move LinkedIn.
By Philip Calvert