LinkedIn Campus Hub allows students to discover professional opportunities through classmates and recent grads from school. This aids students in gaining professional experience during their degree, while helping grow their network on campus.
Introduction to LinkedIn
While interviewing with LinkedIn, I had the opportunity to complete a challenge to highlight my approach, process, and execution as a designer. LinkedIn is a place where people can connect to people they know, to share professional experience and opportunities. Professional networking can begin at any point, even in school. Increasingly, students are relying on their mobile address book, and not their email address book, to manage their contacts.
Design an experience that helps college students discover and connect with their classmates, without relying on email.
While working on this one-week challenge, I was completing a full-time internship at SAP and a senior seminar at Simon Fraser University. With that in mind, it was crucial that I take a process-driven approach and strategically consider the scope to keep my project on track.
Understanding the Challenge and Students
With every project I’m presented with, I start with two questions: What questions and assumptions do I have about this problem? And, how can I understand the people at the heart of this issue? To find answers to these questions, I sent out a survey to university students about their motivations for being on the platform, how they spend time on it, and their experience connecting with other students.
These surveys were a great start, but I knew that deep and unexpected insights often come from having a conversation with the people you’re designing for. I set up 9 interviews with students across multiple programs and a recent grad.
I kept these conversations open-ended but focused on questions such as: Why do students use LinkedIn? How do they spend time on the platform? Why do students stay in touch with their classmates (either on or off the platform)? How do they find other students to connect with currently? And when do students feel comfortable connecting with one and other? In all, my research involved 29 participants, including:
• 3 Interviews with students in Design and Technology
• 1 Interview with a student in Health Sciences
• 1 Interview with a student in Liberal Arts
• 1 Interview with a student in Business
• 1 Interview with a student in Law School
• 1 Interview with a recent grad (Design)
Interview Insights and Takeaways
A Lack of Experience
Students feel a need to join LinkedIn to find opportunities and build work experience. However, they are often discouraged after realizing they have little previous experience and a small professional network. Without experience to share or connections to engage with, students don’t see a value in LinkedIn.
Motivations and Goals
Students are motivated to use the platform when they have an immediate goal. This includes seeking jobs/internships, researching companies, or finding individuals at companies they’re interested in. During these times, students are more likely to update their profile and connections.
Discovering Other Students
Students tend to find new connections through profile suggestions. This includes ‘People You May Know’ and ‘People Also Viewed.’ However, students new to the platform feel uncertain when sending a connection request. When connecting with classmates, this interaction can feel overly formal or awkward. On the flip side, many students feel comfortable accepting a connection request even if they are only somewhat familiar with the other student.
Leveraging Real-World Connections
A connection on LinkedIn between students isn’t the beginning of a relationship, but the outcome of previous interactions. Students feel more comfortable connecting with people they've had a class with, done a project with, or had met on campus. These real-world connections are what spark conversation and lead to future opportunities.
Cutting Through the Noise
There can be a lot of noise on LinkedIn. Between influencers, messages from marketers, and connection requests from strangers, it can be difficult for the relevant and personal connections to stand out. This also makes identifying connections that could lead to opportunities harder.
The Value of a Connection
Students with some work or internship experience emphasized the impact a connection, referral, or ‘in’ had on the ability to get an interview and offer. While many students are interested in contacting professionals at companies with openings, most found the idea of approaching a full-time employee with no previous relationship intimidating.
Senior students are open to sharing their experience about their current or previous employers/internships. These mentorship moments allow older students to grow their network and may provide opportunities later on.
Establishing a Direction
That was a lot of writing, still with me? Great. To synthesize my data and identify a direction worth exploring, I organized research points and quotes onto an affinity map. This allowed me to visualize the breadth of my interview responses, identify patterns, and pick out important insights.
Identifying Frictions and Opportunities
From this, I was able to identify clear pain points, and frictions students felt when connecting with others, and on the platform as a whole. Next, I created How Might We (HMW) questions that allowed me to turn these frictions into opportunities for students to discover and create new connections.
Then, I began generating possible solutions that could address these questions. These initial solutions gave my project a clearer direction and more tangible form.
Before finalizing my concept, I set out goals that my solution could address based on my research and process thus far:
02. Communicate the tangible value of a connection when applying for jobs
03. Leverage the relationships between junior and senior students
04. Identify students on campus that may be valuable to connect with
Tying together all of my research, insights, and goals, I arrived at Campus Hub. This feature allows students to discover professional opportunities through classmates and recent grads from their school. This aids students in gaining professional experience during their degree, while helping grow their network on campus.
Designing for a Specific Audience
To ensure I didn’t lose sight of student behaviours, goals, needs, or frustration uncovered during my research, I created a persona to help ground my design decisions throughout the rest of my process.
Making Ideas Tangible
Before finalizing my concept, I surveyed existing services on LinkedIn that align with my direction. This allowed me to leverage existing parts of the platform for my design and elegantly integrate my solution. Doing this was more feasible and discoverable than creating an app from scratch, and more familiar and consistent for users than reinventing patterns. Here I was able to identify features such as People You May Know, Career Advice Hub, and Request Referral to base my design around. I then explored through quick pen-and-paper sketches to iterate the form and understand how users would move through the experience.
Moving to High-Fidelity
Moving into high fidelity, I focused on the onboarding experience and how information would be communicated throughout Campus Hub. I used fullscreen gradients to help bring focus to the introduction of the feature and to add energy to the setup process. I also considered which options users may want to have control over, and how to ensure they are presented with relevant profiles matching their interests.
I used ‘People You May Know’ as a precedent for the design of Campus Hub because it provides large previews of each suggested profiles. However, I brightened the UI to help profiles feel a bit more inviting and used a coloured gradient to highlight opportunities each profile is able to connect the user to. Unlike ‘People You May Know,’ Campus Hub includes existing connections, allowing opportunities from your established network to be surfaced as well. Finally, I altered the suggested message when contacting a person within Campus Hub, focusing more on sparking a conversation about the opportunity than jumping to a formal referral request.
Students are introduced to the new Campus Hub feature via a popover message that appears on their dashboard. Tapping on the feature opens an onboarding screen that provides a clear value proposition and speaks to students wanting to build experience. While onboarding, students can customize what type of profiles are shown, and which industries they’re interested in seeing opportunities for. These options, in concert with career interests, past experience, and area of study pulled from the user’s profile, ensure that what’s presented is relevant and engaging.
After onboarding, the user is moved into their Campus Hub. Here they can discover people from their school, including current students and recent grads. Profiles are shown if they have current or previous experience at a company that's hiring. Users have the option to connect with these people, view their full profile, see the associated job posting, or dismiss the profile if they’re not interested. If the user has already connected with a profile, they can choose to send a message and learn more about the company or role. A message template is provided for those unsure of what to say or how to ask.
Economic Opportunity Through Student Connections
Students can have a hard time finding opportunities and gaining experience at the start of their career. However, their network can unlock many of these opportunities. Allowing students to leverage real-world relationships formed in class or at school makes professional experiences more accessible, and improves their chance of getting hired.
Given more time, I think it would be necessary to explore additional entry point into the feature, how this experience would exist on the desktop site, and how users can change and update their preferences in the Campus Hub settings. I believe additional consideration could be made regarding whether this feature requires an opt-in from profiles being displayed and how the experience may change for a recent grad.
🎉 You made it to the end! Thanks for taking the time to read this case study. Special thanks to Alex, Brian, Chelsea, Greg and Madison for their time and encouragement during this interview process.