Kids go for professional networking websites

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Kids go for professional networking websites Dhanusha Gokulan / 23 March 2014 In August 2013, LinkedIn launched a push to recruit career-minded youngsters by lowering its minimum age requirements and targeted users as young as 13. Career-oriented, passionate, driven, well-networked, hard working … these are the kind of buzz words used in the ‘About Me’ description column of most professional networking websites like LinkedIn so that they can connect with a like-minded task force, or in the words of Zainab Zulfi: “… so that it helps my career.” Zulfi spends an average of one-two hours every few days on LinkedIn. She is an ‘all-star’ member on the networking website. Oh, and she is a 15-year-old student at a school in Dubai. Linkedin users Nearly three-quarters of the UAE’s high net worth individuals using social media are LinkedIn members and 92 per cent of them use the website several times a week. About 74 per cent of them access the site through a smartphone and 77 per cent through a tablet. Of all of the UAE’s high net worth individuals who use social media, 78 per cent will use them for at least one financial purpose. “You don’t need to be in your early 20s to be career-driven. I know a lot of parents think that students only chat and waste time on social networking websites, but so many students use it for professional reasons,” says Zainab. In August 2013, LinkedIn launched a push to recruit career-minded youngsters by lowering its minimum age requirements and targeted users as young as 13. The business-oriented social networking site registered a flood of users belonging to the age group of 14-19. Khaleej Times looks into the trend of students using professional networking websites like and to establish themselves as career-oriented youngsters. Why social media? After LinkedIn lowered the age limit to 13 across most countries, including the UAE and the rest of the Middle East, they rolled out their ‘University Pages’, which provided a new outlet for students, faculty and alumni to connect and share their insights. “Students today are ambitious and forward t hinking. Before they complete high school, they are already looking up universities, courses and weighing their career options,” said Ali Matar, head – Talent Solutions, LinkedIn Middle East and North Africa (Mena). Students, according to website owners, remain one of the fastest growing demographics on their portals. “They represent the future of the Mena region and are a priority for us at LinkedIn — in part because those (aged) between 15-24 represent 30 per cent of the population.” It comes as no surprise for most professional networking website owners that students as young as 15 are using these professional websites. “It is vital that our youth  are educated at a young age about the significance of having a career and the necessary skills they need to acquire to get that first job,” said Rima Al Sheikh, co-founder and Techy Owl at Nabbesh is a Dubai-based online skill market place aimed at the Mena region. “Social media has become an integral part of our youth, so it comes as no surprise that they are now using this channel to research firms and follow brands online, build opinions about certain brands and find information to better their career prospects. Furthermore, the race to find a job and the limited opportunities are becoming a challenge that the graduating class is facing, where the survival of the fittest is identified as the one who stands out the most,” Al Sheikh said. Social media, she said, is accessible through all connected devices at anytime and almost all youth have access to WiFi-enabled devices that connect them with companies and potential employers around the world. “For that very reason, solutions such as aim to be the online platform that provides these youth with exposure and connects them with virtual work opportunities from across the globe.” Biggest attraction Souief M, 17, a student, said: “Even though I am not very active on LinkedIn, I know it works wonders. I used it to get in touch with some university students in the UK and it worked out very well for me.” The biggest draw for younger members on LinkedIn remains University Pages. Loulou Khazen Baz, founder and Chief Owl at, said: “We currently have over 23,000 University Pages. Across the Mena region, our top universities are: King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KSA), American University of Sharjah (UAE), American University of Beirut (Lebanon), University of Karachi (Pakistan) and Cairo University (Egypt).” Several private organisations are now hiring youngsters based on their user profiles on networking websites. “Everything that is online is prone to be looked upon by organisations. They look to hire talent — from high school party photos on Facebook to the type of hobbies and interests the person has. We know that on clients seek to hire people with 100 per cent profile completion — meaning each person has to include a photo, a biography, skills, work history, education and a sample of their work.” The type of work offered via is project-based, which means that the youth can potentially secure work on some projects that do not require a great deal of work experience. “For example, working on illustrations if they are talented artists, using their skills in photography, music and arts, blogging, social media, event planning, teaching fellow students a new language, or even dog walking. The idea is to start thinking about gaining experience, having the discipline to finish a task and get paid for it from an early age.”   How to do it > Complete your profile: Add your full name and a professional photo. Craft a strong summary that gives people a concise and memorable way to understand who you are in a professional context. > Show off your education and skills > Engage your network: Once you have your profile in place, don’t forget to engage with your network and actively participate in groups. For more news from Khaleej Times, follow us on Facebook at , and on Twitter at @khaleejtimes Continue reading →

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