I recently joined numerous former classmates who have gone before me in creating accounts on the networking service LinkedIn.
The ‘Add A Contact’ page has a significant gap in its range of potential contact types, one that won’t effect established professionals as much as it will the yearly influx of newly minted college graduates joining the site.
There’s no category besides ‘Other’ that college professors can truthfully fit into. And, unlike other categories offered, ‘Other’ requires a valid e-mail address for that contact.
This is a problem because truthfully connecting with a college professor, no matter how close the contact in the classroom and at other school functions was, requires knowledge of an e-mail address the professor has previously provided to LinkedIn.
This can be a problem because professors, like students, can have multiple e-mail addresses. And as with their students, sometimes the school e-mail address is one used only in situations where the school requires it.
The last school I attended switched halfway through my time there to a setup through Google. As far as I know, no one at the school ever figured out how to get any e-mail program to fetch mail from the new school accounts. If you wanted Outlook or Thunderbird or even an inbox checking Windows Sidebar gadget to have any idea if there was new e-mail in your inbox, you used another service.
I got my first Gmail account to avoid using an account delivered through Gmail.
However, with schools encouraging the use of their accounts for school business, the professor’s e-mail on the syllabus is usually the school e-mail account. The professor’s school e-mail account is very rarely not the one listed in campus directories, whether online or in print.
The professors I ever had non-school e-mail addresses for were the ones who either quietly said ‘but I check this one more often’ while giving those addresses to students or who had websites online that listed another address.
Compared to other settings about what to display and not display, and links to the pages for adding content to LinkedIn, the page for adding e-mail addresses is a bit hidden. Not truly hidden, because it only takes one click on ‘Settings’ and then a click on ‘E-mail Addresses’ to get there, but not somewhere a user would just come upon the option.
What that setting location means is that its likely a user who was most interested in getting resume contact up and networking ties with colleagues made is more likely than not only going to have their original sign-up e-mail on record with LinkedIn. For a professor with a school e-mail used mainly with students and other professors in the department and another used for all other uses, it’s not inconceivable that one e-mail would tend to be the non-school e-mail.
The one his or her students are themselves less likely to know about.
The coworkers and friends who know that address are the ones who don’t have to type it in.
This issue probably won’t cause many problems for established professionals. If they still have contact with their professors, it’s likely through a non-school e-mail or justifiable enough for them to truthfully click ‘Friends’ as the nature of the connection. They’ve had jobs at one or more companies, and most of their future listed references in job-seeking are most likely going to be colleagues, coworkers, or employers.
Not so for the graduating student, or the graduated no-longer student just beginning to work in the field a degree was given in. Even if there is a past work history, even a strong one, it may take a professor to vouch for knowledge and experience earned while seeking that degree.
There needs to be a classification on LinkedIn that doesn’t require matching company to company or school to school, but rather the school of one to the company of the other, and there needs to be a way to look up that same connection pattern on the search page.
That’s the connection type that may be most important to the new field of potential LinkedIn users that walks across a stage each spring – the sort that matches up where one person taught to where another person learned from them.