Why I Applaud LinkedIn For Welcoming Teens

LinkedIn is about to welcome a group of new users: teenagers. The company announced this week that 14-17 years old will be allowed to join the site starting September 12. I think it is wonderful the world’s leading professional networking site is easing access for the next generation of professionals.

Why The Change?
LinkedIn officials says the goal of the new policy is to help high school students and their parents with the college selection process. The site is rolling out a feature known as University Pages which will be comparable to company profile pages. University Pages will allow schools to update LinkedIn users about a variety of topics including campus news, degree programs offered, and notable graduates.

screen grab by Shane Goad, 8/23/13, http://www.linkedin.com/edu/school?id=18342

Why This Works
While the site will welcome high school students aged 14-17, I’m guessing 16-17 year olds will be signing up for LinkedIn more frequently than 14-15 year olds. Maturity and a greater future focus are among the reasons for older teens to seek out the site. Ambitious teens (and their parents) will be able to see the career paths of alums of prospective degree programs. I hope LinkedIn will also add message boards and/or discussion groups specifically for these users. Additionally, the opportunity for ambitious teenagers (their parents, too) to network with college professors, employers, and like-minded students is priceless. After all, networking is one of the biggest reasons most users join LinkedIn.

Push The Worries Aside
LinkedIn does a great job of creating specific interfaces for different groups. Have you looked at the various Premium account types? I’m sure LinkedIn For Education will contain unique features (just as every other Premium account type does). Next, think of LinkedIn as an educational and networking tool. If students want to showcase their accomplishments, they should. Students and college officials benefit by student showcasing in one central gathering place. Finally, the inclusion of 14-17 year olds isn’t going to ‘dumb down’ LinkedIn for adults already on the site. The average LinkedIn user uses the site to research and establish connections, so what’s the big deal with allowing teens use the site for the same purposes?

The Takeaway
LinkedIn is in a position to prove once again that it can create an optimal experience for various segments of its audience. I have read concerns voiced by some, but believe there is nothing wrong with empowering motivated teens and their parents as they prepare for a major life event. Plus, think of it this way, would you rather have your high school junior learning about schools on LinkedIn or have them wasting time playing Farmville on Facebook?
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