LinkedIn, the online networking giant is looking to evolve yet again. The site has undergone several updates since being bought out by Microsoft last year. The latest addition to the site’s services has been defined as LinkedIn ‘matchmaking’ and has also been likened to social media-based dating App; Tinder. This new feature will allow its members not only to manage their online work profiles and strategic network connections but will also permit them to connect with others in a Mentor-Mentee capacity. Suzi Owens, the Group Manager of Consumer Products and Corporate Communications wants it to be thought of as “a new form of mentorship that’s virtual, lightweight, and that fits into today’s changing workplace.” LinkedIn foresees the feature being context specific, and one that allows for a more tailored user experience that extends beyond particular job searches.
Much like Tinder, the person who has ‘qualified’ as a prospective mentor, also has to express an ‘interest’ or be willing to assist the mentee who has initiated the contact request. Once the match becomes reciprocal, the two can interact via LinkedIn messenger. The request expires one week after being issued, so if the potential mentor fails to respond in the given time, the request falls away and a new candidate is offered up. In order to discern the ideal mentor out of LinkedIn’s thousands of members, an algorithm is utilised based on the input given by the mentee either through the site or App. Users supply the site with the kind of industry they are interested in, the region, as well as the profession of the person they would like to get in touch with and the type of advice being sought. LinkedIn then endorses fellow members who are, statistically-speaking, the ideal candidates as per the expressed mentor-mentee preferences, and who may be able to assist.
As with most social and interactive online platforms, the LinkedIn Mentorship programme does have the potential to be used for purposes that stray slightly outside of the ‘strictly business’ arena. LinkedIn has been criticised for launching a feature of this nature whilst still in the midst of its own sexual harassment controversy. However, in light of this, the site has tried to distance itself as much as possible from the Tinder comparison in a statement made by the company: “the comparison is rather misleading as there is no infinite swiping mentality to the product. Rather, the goal of our new feature is to make quality, mutual-interest based recommendations.” However, this is not the only potential kink in the feature’s effectiveness. For most, starting a conversation or approaching someone to be a mentor can be a daunting prospect, even online. The response received by the mentee and the effectiveness of the match will be largely dependent on the kinds of questions posed, and how collaborative the process is as a whole.
The feature is currently being tested in San Francisco and will be rolled out en-masse later this year. Though, only time will tell whether it’s a mentor-mentee match made in heaven.