LinkedIn caused an uproar by allowing kids at young as 14 to open accounts on LinkedIn. However, I think this is a very sound idea. It channels this demographic into interacting and exposing their budding professional, volunteer and academic achievements. The real risks for kids exist anywhere online and while LinkedIn is not immune, it does possess a solid reputation for and rewards quality, positive and professional interactions. Facebook and every other social media site does not.
Many people in job searches realize too late that they should have networked better, both in person and online. So when should you really consider networking for your career? In the past you could easily work on school and build a network among friends, family and those you meet on your way to college. Perhaps you created a bio or one was created for you somewhere online regarding your academic, athletic or volunteer performance; however, very few (if any) students preparing for college consciously look to build their “digital signature and brand”- but today you probably should.
The non-college bound typically try their craft, skills or build their career around the experiences gained. The non-college bound crowd, like the college bound, barely think to build their digital brand even though they are the deep consumers of everything including but not limited to texting, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Vine. For the college bound and the non-college trajectory person you build your network based on needs and happenstance as you use some of the same “social media” as the college bound crowd.
Since the advent of the Internet age, you need to be more and more focused on developing your digital brand and your digital networking strategy. Is a digital networking strategy really necessary? Yes, you need to be aware that digital networking and your digital brand starts as soon as you post or start any kind of online account. So for kids below and above 10 years old they may have, let’s say, an Instagram account. So now even at the very youngest age your digital brand starts. How early do you need to look at your digital brand and consider building your online network? I suggest parents keep a close eye on the digital footprint of anyone below 14 but the purpose of this blog is to suggest your digital brand building needs to start, in earnest, at 14 years old. Now don’t take my word for it, take LinkedIn’s word for it considering they launched profiles for 14 and over this week.
So do you want to be great at what you do? LinkedIn claims to help you network with 225+ million professionals to help you do just that. However, they need to add that they want to help you be great at what you do and what you may want to do professionally, even if you are 14 and haven’t made up your mind. But with their recent decision to encourage 14-and-overs to participate in LinkedIn to me is a very positive thing. It serves as a potentially positive brand builder vs. a brand reducer that often the sloppy moves on “social media” lead to at the younger ages. Starting to use your LinkedIn profile to manage your professional identity online to me is better than experimenting with your online stupidity and senselessness above and below age 14. If LinkedIn’s goal is to “connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and professional” you could use that at 14 and beyond as a challenge. LinkedIn is professional. Let’s encourage the generation moving into their college careers to become professional and connect to the world.
On Monday, August 19, 2013, LinkedIn announced that it’s adding a feature for universities to promote themselves and will allow students as young as 14 to open accounts. In the San Jose Mercury News, Brandon Bailey quotes LinkedIn product manager Christina Allen: “This is a way we can engage kids in their future. We’ve done a huge amount of research with parents and universities, and we saw how powerful it is to give these insights to students.” Bailey points out that “Skeptics might question how many 14-year olds are making serious career plans, but analysts say it makes sense for LinkedIn to expand its target audience.” I wholeheartedly agree.
Maybe Will Oremus in his Slate.com piece summarizes the new buzz by bloggers worried about this move by LinkedIn best: These writers seem to have in mind a sort of reverse Reefer Madness in which the lure of the demon drug LinkedIn leads kids away from lives of carefree hedonism in a self-destructive quest for future employability.” He goes on: “In any case, the assumption that the nation’s ninth-graders are going to drop their Snapchats and Keeks and flock to LinkedIn to compare educational bonafides strikes me as possibly a slight misreading of the average ninth-grade psyche. More likely, 14-year-olds will find LinkedIn at least as boring as the rest of us already do.”
And we can use a little boring in the lives of the 14 plus year-olds, couldn’t we? Ask any parent of a kid who’s “all over social media.”