With a new feature that aims to attract students, LinkedIn is getting a little more like Facebook. Although some universities have long encouraged business school students to join LinkedIn before graduation, the effort from the leading business-to-business social networking platform hopes to bring in the high school-going masses.
Christina Allen, director of product management at LinkedIn, introduced University Pages in a blog post. She described the personal experience of her daughter taking a road trip to visit schools before making a final decision on a college. Even though her daughter ended up moving 2,500 miles away from home, Allen admitted it was the best choice for her career aspirations.
"For the past few years, I'd watched my daughter and her friends struggle with these choices. For the most part, they were flying blind," Allen said. "Some knew what they wanted to study -- but had no visibility into the career options that would result. Others had a career in mind, like my daughter, but little idea which school would best help them get there. The lucky ones had experienced family or friends who could help them navigate these decisions. For the others, it was truly a shot in the dark."
Connecting With Professionals
Allen goes on to explain that though her LinkedIn relationships she knew there were powerful insights about the career outcomes of educations from universities around the world. If harnessed, she reasoned, these insights could help students explore possible futures and build support networks to help them succeed on campus and beyond.
The result is University Pages. Two hundred universities have already signed on, including New York University, University of California San Diego, Brazil's Fundacao Getulio Vargas, University of Michigan, Villanova, Rochester Institute of Technology, and University of Illinois.
University Pages offer regular updates about campus news and activities from the schools themselves. Students can ask questions and engage with both the campus community and the alumni of the schools. For example, students interested in graduate schools in France can start by searching for information about different schools, then explore careers of graduates to see which schools could help them achieve their goals -- and even connect with students or alumni to get their perspectives on the schools.
Through University Pages, students can explore notable alumni who have done great things since graduation or explore mid-career shifts. Of course, students can also build their networks. Alumni can reconnect with former classmates, and students can cement relationships with current and future classmates.
LinkedIn Expands User Base
"We believe University Pages will be especially valuable for students making their first, big decision about where to attend college," Allen said. "Therefore, beginning 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."
We asked Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, for his take on University Pages. He told us he thinks it's a useful tool.
"It's also a smart move for LinkedIn and will expand the site's usage to a younger audience and parents of high school kids investigating colleges. We'll see how popular this feature becomes, but it reaches outside of LinkedIn's normal user base," Sterling said. "There's a kind of irony here because this is how Facebook got started, although in a much different way, as a quasi-dating site."