LinkedIn thinks it can help find that mentor you always wanted

Mentors can help.
Mentors can help.
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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Mentors can be an invaluable resources for career advancement, and younger workers often struggle to find them. LinkedIn thinks it can assist with a new service that draws on its 500 million users to match junior members with more senior executives willing to help.

To use the product, members enter their background and what they’re looking for in a mentor. Like a dating app, LinkedIn will recommend potential matches. If there are multiple possibilities, users can swipe through them to find one that best fits their preferences. Once a match is made, the members contact each other through LinkedIn and can take the conversation offline. The product is still being tested, and will roll out slowly over the summer, Fast Company reports.

The service could help fill a real need. In a study of professionals at consulting and accounting firms, Harvard Business School researchers found executives over 40 were much more likely than those under 40 to have been mentored in their careers—because executives in those industries today don’t seem to have the same capacity they used to for mentoring others. As the business became more competitive, executives faced greater demands on their time—and they also became more likely to jump from firm to firm, leaving less of an opportunity for mentorship relationships with younger colleagues to take hold. “It’s impossible for even the most people-oriented partners to develop a cadre of close associates while continuing to execute the business, manage projects, perform administrative functions, and sometimes run a special project for the managing partner,” the researchers wrote in Harvard Business Review.

Yet, LinkedIn’s own research shows almost 90% of senior executives would be  interested in providing advice.

Of course, LinkedIn may not be the most obvious place to look when seeking a match for a deep mentoring relationship. Anyone who has used it to find work or new contacts would be familiar with the imprecision of its matching algorithms when presenting job openings, or the awkwardness of encountering complete strangers who seem overly eager to forge connections.

LinkedIn’s executives seem aware of the limitations, and told Fast Company that the service will more useful for answering quick questions than forming long-term bonds. But if the relationship is based on nothing stronger than a fleeting connection between two strangers online, it’s hard to see how valuable even that quick advice will be.