Tag Archives: LinkedIn

LinkedIn: leave those kids alone!

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In an attempt to attract younger users to a new university section of the website, LinkedIn has reduced its minimum age limit for members from 18 years to as low as 13 years of age in some geographies. Coming into effect from September 12th, the age limits will vary according to statutory requirements  in different countries:  14 years old: United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, Australia and South Korea, 16 years old: Netherlands, 18 years old: China.

13 years old: All other countries

A number of measures have been taken to “safeguard the experience of LinkedIn members under the age of 18″ with additional precautions for privacy. Their profiles will not appear in search engines and neither will their ages be published in the public domain.  Profiles will be displayed   “first name, last name initial, and general region”.

This has produced a flurry of debate in the blogsphere and amongst the Twittererati.

Is this a good thing?  The jury is out.

Dilution

There are many who think having an influx of 13-18 year olds will dilute the professional content of the site. Concern that high-flying execs will be bombarded by a veritable flood of text speak about  dates, discos and school projects is anticipated.  Just a short conversation with my 16-year-old neighbour made that possibility seem remote.  The signature simultaneous rolling of eyes and raising of eyebrows, to the unspoken “whatever” pretty much said it all.

It has been some years since my kids were 13, but chances are that Mum and Dad saying  “go and complete your really fun LinkedIn profile after you’ve done your homework ”  will be met with equal derision.

Will we see a deluge of disruptive teen activity on LinkedIn in the next months?  I suspect not. I have to plead with MBA candidates to set up a professional profile and they are generally more than twice their age,  let alone Year 7 or 8th and 9th graders.  Kids are hardwired to rebel against anything parents think are cool or necessary. That is the whole point of being a teenager.  This is their time to hang out,  have acne and find their own way.  My nephew is 13. Do I think a priority in his life should be his online professional presence or crafting a succinct value proposition?

No I don’t.  Not unless it relates to the U14 cricket team. His response to whether he would like a LinkedIn profile was ” What’s LinkedIn?  Is this about jobs and stuff?”

Parents

I suspect that much of this will be centred around the parents.

One dad told me “My son (13) can have a professional profile when he knows what to do with it and how to handle the process appropriately.  At the moment he doesn’t understand the implications of online activity or the  potential repercussions of any mistakes.  He’s simply too young.”

Another spin-off of this development will be that its taps into the essence of that ever-growing demographic:  the pushy,  helicopter parent. I have no doubt that whole hosts of  “yummy mummies” and “driving dad’s”  will be creating adult style profiles for their coddled offsprings in an effort to create a perfect CV.  Will the next dinner party conversation be centred around the number of hits their kids have had on their junior LinkedIn profiles in the last seven days? I’ll put money on it! These are the kids who will be offered a rotation of internships with the friends of their super connected parents by the age of 18 to build up impeccable credentials. That is on top of their funded trips to dig wells in Africa and build homes for underprivileged families in Eastern Europe.

The aim of the new ‘University Pages’ feature  is to give prospective students access to information about colleges, plus the ability to connect with other students and alumni.  That is all fine.  I am all for a more strategic approach to careers and definitely think university is the time for this to kick in.

But for me 13 is far too young.  How many thirteen year olds go to university anyway? The last two years of high school allows plenty of time to start being a career-focused grown up.

Let them be teenagers

Protecting kids from inappropriate internet activity is fine and dandy but most are on Facebook anyway,  so I’m not sure what difference this will make.   Teenage years should be spent worrying about kissing with braces, debates about who to take to the prom and thinking your lab partner is a nerd. With a bit of luck there might be a passing interest in grades and homework.

Their mission at this point in their lives is to be embarrassed by their parents. Not attempting to be their clones.  This is how it absolutely should be. Just as crawling before walking is a vital developmental function, this is a rite of passage and a necessary part of the maturing process to independence.

This is before we even start to explore the impact of the gap created between teens who don’t have professionally savvy parents, who will get left even further behind.

What do you think?

LinkedIn endorsements – why I’ve done an about turn

DD LI EndorsementsWhen LinkedIn rolled out their skill endorsement programme my immediate reaction was not positive.   My inner voice said “Tacky, superficial, transactional. Tapping into the worst aspects of social media interaction and white noise, akin to Facebook “likes” and Twitter Follow Fridays.  There was no way to quantify the scope or quality of any endorsement and it all seemed like a silly popularity contest.   They are no substitute for a detailed and thought out Recommendation from a colleague or superior,  who actually knows the work of the person involved and can genuinely reference that particular quality.

Downward trend?

It’s hard to know why LinkedIn followed this trend. I can only assume that advertising revenue is correlated to member engagement and page views.   This is one way of generating inter-connectivity via the alerts which appear on your LinkedIn dashboard, in your updates and as an email.

The other is that apparently as many as 60% of profiles on LinkedIn are incomplete,  making it difficult for recruiters to tap into profiles via keyword searches. By allocating keywords to each other,  we very obligingly save the individual work and provide the LinkedIn algorithms with the necessary keyworded skills on his or her behalf.  So this seems to be a way of improving results for recruiters, thus making LinkedIn more attractive and by extension enhancing their revenue stream.

Downsides

The danger is that we can endorse skills provided conveniently in the pop up window which may not be skills that the person actually has. I am regularly endorsed for very peripheral skills and even activities in which I don’t specialise. I can only assume that someone has clicked the yellow endorse button, which covers all skills,  rather than deleting the spurious skill which I don’t have.

LinkedIn endorsements

However, despite this, I do confess to being something of a convert. I have not done a complete 360°, but certainly a bit of an about turn. Definitely  a 180°!

Here’s why.

  • Although not as strong as  a recommendation, a LinkedIn endorsement is a way for a person to acknowledge a small courtesy or service.  I have received endorsements from individuals whose path I have crossed years ago, perhaps in some minor way.  It’s a way of saying thank you and showing appreciation.
  • It can be a form of networking and staying in touch. It’s a quick and easy way to let someone know you have been on their radar with a bonus of public recognition,  rather than just an email. It’s a way of leaving a digital footprint in your network while eliminating  the nuisance factor.
  • It can be a way of acknowledging skills the individuals  themselves don’t recognise  or perhaps they don’t even understand they have. It is really useful for introverts to have that done for them, or those starting out on the online profile path. I’ve just endorsed the deserving members of my MBA  Career Management workshop for leadership, team playing and engagement. All important factors in contributing to the success of my sessions.
  • We can manage our endorsements  – we  have full control over which skills are endorsed and which endorsers are visible on our profiles. If  specific skills are targeted or even if the preference is to have endorsements hidden, this is our choice. We can leave key influencers in our networks visible.
  • Endorsements provide feedback.
  • Endorsements provide an opportunity to strengthen relationships,  not by automatic reciprocation but via the initiation of dialogue.
  • We don’t have to approve endorsements from people we don’t know.
  • We don’t have to reciprocate if the endorsement is not genuine.

LinkedIn logoSo  it seems provided that we all behave sensibly, genuinely and with integrity there is no reason why the endorsement system can’t provide some added value.

Like with many other processes, it’s the responsibility of the user not to become the abuser.

How do you use LinkedIn endorsements to enhance your online presence?

Companies making contractual changes to cover social media usage

If one summer poolside conversation is anything to go by, there seems to be growing evidence of companies trying to ring-fence their organisations against the social media activity of their employees. It’s no longer simply just the odd high-profile, headline cases or instances of individuals being disciplined for posting sensitive content about their bosses, jobs or inferior cafeteria food. Nor is it about the use of company time for social networking. This is a wider spread, behind the scenes movement to restrict or clarify  employee social media activity (depending on your view-point)  via changes to employment contracts and the issuing of new conditions of service.

Mainstream
Sophie, an associate in a London-based consulting firm told me that she had recently been asked not to tweet on issues in the organisation’s geographic reach. As an international market leader, the activities of this company span many countries, so this was a significant restriction on what she considered to be her freedom of speech.

An Account Manager who has been using LinkedIn for identifying prospects for business development purposes, has received a request from his manager to disconnect from these members. He was informed that the only information on the prospect should be on the company data base.

An employee has also been asked to uncheck the options contact for career opportunities and job inquiries on his LinkedIn profile and to post a restricted career history.

Catch up
The corporate world has always lagged behind the wider culture with regard to social media usage and as  I predicted some time ago,  some sort of ” catch-up”  attempt was therefore inevitable

Employees can realistically expect to have the following conditions imposed on them in the forseeable future:

  • Prohibition of the use of employer-related information in any kind of employee postings
  • Restrictions on usage of social media sites during office hours using company hardware and systems
  • Prohibition on the disclosure/use of any sensitive, proprietary, confidential or financial information about the business or its clients
  • Prohibition of employee endorsement, direct or implicitly of the  organisation’s business in any statement or posting
  • Prevention of engagement in conduct that would violate the employer’s other workplace policies, such as anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies
  • Information relating to any disciplinary policies up to and including termination of employment for infractions or violations of company policy

Employees should:

  •  Never release the passwords of their social media accounts to third parties
  • Always use a private email address rather than a business one for all social media contact if in any doubt about  how their social media activities will be perceived by their organisations
  • Never block a connection on LinkedIn on the instructions of a superior. This action is irreversible and the connection may be needed later
  • Discuss openly with any manager who requests a restriction on contact possibilities on a LinkedIn profile. Career opportunities, job inquiries, new ventures and business deals can also afford opportunities for the organisation, not just the individual.  It is also a personal profile so individuals should be able to present their career history in any way that doesn’t damage the business interests of their employer.

The rub of course lies in this final point and where the overlap of personal and corporate interests become hazy. Overall, the social media revolution represents a fundamental shift in the way we communicate and the value of the opportunities  is significant to all. What should be in place are measures that protect organisations and employees alike.

Have you been formally asked to restrict your social media activities via new conditions of service and employment? Please share your experience.