The one serious flaw in the launch of LinkedIn University Pages

Baby Boy Typing

There’s certainly a lot to like about LinkedIn University pages, the new feature especially for higher education institutions and students announced on Monday. There’s also one considerable flaw, however, that was somewhat buried in the announcement. If you look closely, you’ll read this:

[B]eginning on September 12, we will be making LinkedIn available to high school students who can use LinkedIn to explore schools worldwide, greatly expand their understanding of the careers available, and get a head start on building a network of family and friends to help guide them at every milestone.

That’s right: LinkedIn will now be open to users under the age of 18–as young as 14 in the U.S., in fact, and 13 in some countries. I believe this is a step in the wrong direction for a number of reasons. Here’s why:

  • One of the best things about LinkedIn is that it has always been a niche network. In other words, it is it has not attempted to be all things to all people. Instead, LinkedIn has focused on being a place where working professionals can network relative to their careers. I have nothing against younger people wanting to connect on social networks, but adding them into the mix on LinkedIn dilutes the audience.
  • This reinforces the sense that LinkedIn is only about job search instead of being a place where those who are already employed can tell their stories. As such, the network as a whole will have a little less value for those who simply want to connect the dots in their network relative to their current job.

This may become a moot point, though, because it remains to be seen whether teenagers will care about LinkedIn at all. There will be exceptions, of course, but my strong sense is that LinkedIn is a late-college to post-college phenomenon, with most young people’s social networking reserved, up to that point, for the truly “social.” Some, including TechCrunch’s Josh Constine, have argued that LinkedIn may actually be doing a disservice to teens, since–in his words–it “could may pressure them into making decisions based on what others want, rather than what excites them.”

What’s your take on all this? Is it good that LinkedIn is opening its doors a little wider, or does it concern you as a LinkedIn user? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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