By Benny Evangelista
LinkedIn on Monday is starting special pages tailored for colleges and lowering its age limit to include high school students.
The new University Pages feature is geared to help LinkedIn attract younger members who haven’t seen the value of joining a professional social network. The pages are individually tailored by each institution to better link alumni with current students and to help prospective students map their career paths.
By tapping into the profiles of LinkedIn’s 238 million members worldwide, college and high school students can access career data that hasn’t been available to them in the past, said Candice Novak of the University of San Francisco. USF is one of 200 colleges and universities that will have LinkedIn pages ready for the opening, which comes just as the school year is about to start. (UC Davis also has a page.)
“You can drill down to see who took a specific course that you are taking,” said Novak, USF’s assistant director of e-communications. “You can look at the resume of an alumni who you find inspiring and who you want to emulate and see what they took.”
The Mountain View company gained success by marketing itself as the social network for working professionals. But LinkedIn hasn’t been as relevant for students. Still, 30 million college students and recent graduates are LinkedIn members, and they represent the company’s fastest growing demographic group.
So on Sept. 12, LinkedIn plans to drop its minimum age limit from 18 to 14 in the United States, matching the legal working age in the country. The minimum age will be 13 in most other countries. The company hopes to attract high school students who are looking ahead to college and the kinds of courses that are aligned with their interests.
Choosing a college
“We believe University Pages will be especially valuable for students making their first big decision about where to attend college,” Christina Allen, LinkedIn director of product management wrote in a blog post.
Allen said her own daughter three years ago chose a college 2,500 miles from home because it had great robotics and music programs.
“For the past few years, I’d watched my daughter and her friends struggle with these choices,” Allen wrote. “For the most part, they were flying blind. 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.”
Helping prospective students decide which college to chose is “really intriguing,” said Novak of USF. And current students can explore data that show where graduates ended up working, including specific companies or geographic areas.
“They can find what industry they are in, where they work, what they studied while they were here and how they may be connected,” she said.
The USF page, for example, points out there are more than 44,000 alumni on LinkedIn, with graduates working for Kaiser Permanente, Wells Fargo and the university itself. The top occupations are administrative, sales and entrepreneurs.
The page also posts links to news and a description of the hilltop campus. The LinkedIn page will be more focused than the university’s general website, Novak said. “It doesn’t make sense to be announcing events in the Bay Area to alumni who are living on the other side of the world,” she said.
Also, faculty and staff can use University Pages to tell the public more about their institutions, through photos, rich media, stories and online discussion groups, said John Hill, LinkedIn’s higher education evangelist. “We’re looking at this as a global connection to higher education,” Hill said.
Although the company introduced an alumni search tool a year and a half ago, University Pages pull all of an institution’s information together “under one umbrella,” Hill said.
‘Directory of dreams’
“Essentially it’s a directory of dreams for current students about where they want to go,” he said. “They can give a quick phone call to get an informational interview to learn how they got their job or what kind of opportunities are available in the companies they are interested in.”
The colleges that launched pages Monday include UCSF, Santa Clara University, UC Santa Cruz , California State University East Bay, UC San Diego, New York University, University of Michigan, Villanova University, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Illinois and Brazil’s Fundação Getúlio Vargas.
— Reach Benny Evangelista at firstname.lastname@example.org