Teenagers shouldn’t stress about LinkedIn

Why the professional networking can wait



LinkedIn’s decision to lower the minimum membership age in Canada from 18 to 14 takes the competitive atmosphere of the youth job market to a whole new level. The professional networking website announced Monday that teens can start joining as of Sept. 12.

This occurred in conjunction with the launch of University Pages, kind of like Company Pages, that are aimed at helping high school students connect with university administrators and alumni.

This is all fine, except that 14-year-olds shouldn’t have to stress about LinkedIn. Our formative years should be a time of self discovery. We should be able to experiment, make mistakes and learn from them, lose our footing and find our way back again. We certainly shouldn’t have to worry about career prospects so early in life.

With social networking flourishing, teens don’t think twice before jumping on the latest bandwagon. They should. If Facebook can make young adults unhappy with their social lives, LinkedIn has the potential to make this same cohort feel inferior about their career advancements—or the lack thereof, which will be the case for most 14-year-olds who have very limited work opportunities.

The thing is, our characters are only half-developed in our teens and it takes more than school and internships to help us grow. Joining the rat race before we’re ready could take a serious toll on our well-being and negatively affect how we view the world. Instead of LinkedIn, teens should focus on cultivating meaningful relationships and traveling, whether to nearby historical towns or Europe.

At age 14, I was writing about boys, golden retrievers and tennis lessons in my diary. I volunteered at summer camps and animal shelters. And I read—a lot. These were not a means to an end, but rather, an end in itself—to find out what I enjoyed. They shaped the person I am now. If I had worried about finding jobs that made me look good on LinkedIn, I might have missed out.

I didn’t open a LinkedIn account until last year when graduating from the University of British Columbia with the threat of unemployment looming large. (Or maybe it was the nonstop invitations in my inbox?) In any case, I joined in the hopes of building a professional network. At 21, I was ready for that. I had served on several campus club executive boards, worked on political campaigns and participated in countless conferences and seminars. I was ready for my first internship, and got one.

Would I have been able to rise to that challenge at age 14? Probably not.

I understand that the world teens inhabit is increasingly connected, complex, and competitive, but if getting ahead means growing up before your time, I don’t think it’s worth it.


Teenagers shouldn’t stress about LinkedIn

  1. I completely disagree. From the time kids enter high school, they are already instructed to start thinking about their future: the courses they select will determine their eligibility for post-secondary programs.

    As someone who educates young people, there is a vast difference in development level between kids who have access to a network of mentors and kids who do not. There’s more to LinkedIn than ‘joining the rat race’. It’s a portal to access professionals and experts, as well as a way to talk about issues and topics relevant to the business world.

    Getting kids to start thinking about how they can further their own education by seeking out people to learn from is a worthwhile idea and I’m interested in seeing how it will play out. There’s no use in evaluating it before the fact.

    • Zachary, You’re probably misguided. I think Vivien wrote a good post. As a campus recruiter for many years, I can tell you your facebook, twitter, and LinkIn won’t do anything good for us until you built up all your maturity. That’s my advice to many kids. Focus to build your skills (technically / socially). Don’t expose your weakness too earlier.

  2. Joined at the age of 17. Quite honestly, never knew linkedin even had an age 18 policy in place. People have been circumventing the rules for a while now. I don’t think the new rules will do much to make people who are 14 join.

    While I do think LinkedIn is a service mainly for the university crowd or older, I could see it being useful for university searches. Linkedin has been very useful in knowing where alumni have ended up, what career paths they took. Its the ultimate resource for someone who is ambitious.

  3. I second Zachary’s comments, and would like to add that it is important for high school students to start planning for university from grade 9, so that they can plan which pre-reqs they need to take in high school to get into their desired program. LinkedIn for high school students is about “joining the rat race” but finding out what your options are and realizing there is a vast community of academics outside of your cloistered high school existence.

  4. I don’t think its a question of missing out, I think its a question of purpose rather vs bandwagonning. I had no business on linkedin at 14 because I had no business at 14. Could mentorship have helped, sure. Has linkedin helped me get mentorship? No. Linkedin is not where you make meaningful connections or do your best networking. It is where you canvass people to see where you might bother following up. At 14 you should have mentors, and you should think about IF university is for you and what you will do and what it all means and you should jump in and try out all sorts of stuff. Should you care about linked in though? No. Not until post secondary education starts using it as a recruiting tool and frankly, its a worse recruiting tool than the ones they already have. Should teenagers be on LinkedIn? Well… if they like. I think it’s a waste of their time.

  5. As someone who has recently graduated High School and will soon head for University in the Fall for Accounting and Finance using my time young to explore helped me make not only good academic choices but also good social choices. In having my parents not pay for things like movie tickets I really saw what spending an hour on a movie I didn’t like would cost me from my burger job. In my parents telling me about how if you are unemployed for too long it becomes harder to get a job I learned that you have to grab at every opportunity you have to make it. I recently opened my own Linked In page. It’s modest. It has my academic achievements from High School (AP Scores and Grade 12 academic awards), some part time jobs, some extra circulars. But the fact it is where it is as opposed to what I’ve seen recently with a lot of former classmates of mine who are now working menial part time jobs after having partied all throughout High School shows starting young is worth it.

  6. Although many teens are incapable of handling professional networking, that should not prevent the select youth who wish to get ahead from creating an account on LinkedIn. I wholeheartedly applaud this recent move by the company. The kind of attitude that the author places into this article is the exact reason why North America is falling so far behind with Education. This move by LinkedIn enables those who are capable and who have the maturity to have the option to start networking, allowing them to realize the importance of networking early on in life. The kids aren’t forced to make an account; rather, those who do are able to get an early start on taking their passions and career aspirations to the next level. LinkedIn: Advancing Practical Education