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August 24. 2013 1:57AM

Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: LinkedIn targets teens


 

While I appreciate all the endorsements I get from my LinkedIn connections, I have this nagging guilt because I'm not good at returning the favor promptly. Just know, friends, that it should do wonders for my professional life that you have emphasized I am good at delivering newspapers, collecting money from deadbeat customers, babysitting toddlers and riding my 10-speed with no hands.

Excuse me, I just stepped into a time machine to revisit my skills as a young teenager.

Last week, LinkedIn announced it is lowering the minimum age for its professional and social networking site to 14 as it targets high schoolers preparing for college. You might call it sweet revenge for the youngsters, who watched baby boomers make Facebook so uncool after Mark Zuckerberg realized he needed to expand beyond the campus crowd to become a legitimate public company with a lousy stock price.

That would be if the teenagers cared about LinkedIn, which as of now is not the place to share your thoughts about the Twilight series, your undying love for Maroon 5's Adam Levine and whether tats are rad.

Actually, that last one might be a good place to start as teenagers map out their future. While tattoos have gone mainstream, career-minded kids should know it's probably a good idea to get them only in places that can be strategically covered up by workplace-appropriate attire if you want to get the nod from those stuffy boomers doing the hiring (unless you're Adam Levine).

While it will be challenging for LinkedIn to attract high school students, given the network's more serious nature, 14 is hardly too young for students to be thinking about the importance of their online reputation and how crucial crafting and nurturing it will be in the job world, which in recent years has been brutal on new college graduates.

LinkedIn says it has 30 million college students and recent graduates on its site, representing about 13 percent of its users, according to the Wall Street Journal. The site's new University Pages are designed to offer users updates from colleges and connect them with students and alumni. With college tuition continuing to skyrocket, an early start on choosing a career path and linking with people who have already taken that route successfully could help students avoid wasting time with majors that neither engage them nor offer a solid professional path, especially in a tepid economy.

LinkedIn has acknowledged it is addressing privacy issues and will limit the types of advertising it directs at its under-18 audience, but we already face such concerns on Facebook and other social media. Perhaps working on a LinkedIn account could be something parents and teens could do together - which would be so much more fun than completing those FAFSA applications.

It could be part of that introduction to adulthood, like my first post-newspaper job taking pizza orders on the phone, at which I failed, and learning how to balance a checking account - I ran out of money after a month in college due to bad spending habits.

I still can ride my bike with no hands, however. Please endorse my skills and expertise.

Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or mcote@unionleader.com.


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