Initial take on LinkedIn’s new “Career Explorer” beta

In LinkedIn’s blog and a recent Wall Street Journal article, a new LinkedIn capability was described. Career Explorer is designed to help college students use LinkedIn’s network to make career decisions; it’s now being tested in 60 schools.

Career Explorer looks like it will be quite helpful to students (and others as well as it gets rolled out to a wider audience), for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a helpful way for students to get introduced to LinkedIn– an essential job-search/career development tool for many professions.   Today’s college students are Facebook-centric; their Facebook use is almost like eating– just another vital part of the daily routine.  But many (or most) have not yet grasped that Facebook is no substitute for LinkedIn in aiding their professional advancement.  The Career Explorer tool will help them to see that.

Second, this tool does introduce three new features that are not currently available on LinkedIn, and could be useful to anyone seeking to make a career move.  (Two other features are also mentioned, but seem similar to or the same as what you can do on LinkedIn now, just repacked under the Career Explorer umbrella.)  My take on the three new features follows:

1) Explore different career paths: This feature recommends career options based on what others on LinkedIn with your major and industry preference have done in their careers.  What I like about this is it gives you (graduates and perhaps others) another useful way to brainstorm career options.  It’s a nice starting point for career ideas.  I would encourage any student contemplating a career move with access to this feature to give it a try.

One thing to be cautious about:  not to feel boxed in by the “top” career options that LinkedIn selects for you.  Also research out-of-the-box options that could be more relevant to you based on your self-assessment; i.e.what you enjoy doing most that you are good at, how these fit with your longer term life goals and your work-related values.  The bottom line– don’t necessarily default to the tried and true route based on what LinkedIn (or anyone else) tells you that “everyone else” has done. See the career links page on my website for other ways to research career options.

2) Follow Potential Employers:  This feature suggests companies based on the number of people on LinkedIn with your degree/industry preference who work in these companies.  I appreciate how this could help give you a place to start in developing your job search marketing plan– it will help to give you an idea of what organizations (and what types of organizations or industries) you should approach.

3) Get the Unique Insights You Need (i.e. industry/profession research): If sourced externally (as salary data appears to be according to the WSJ article), it could be very useful, but I would need to compare it to other resources when the capability is rolled out formally.  Research that is based only on LinkedIn’s membership might be less useful;  many professionals are not on LinkedIn, or have not updated their profile, which could skew the results.