The size and reach of LinkedIn has reached a tipping point with Barbie now joining. Is this a positive message to girls? And to all of us?
by Karen Steel
Barbie has joined LinkedIn. That’s right. The pneumatic blonde (or sometimes brunette) with the unlikely proportions has her own showcase page under the Mattel company account which details her 55-year career encompassing more than 150 jobs (currently she describes herself as ‘entrepreneur’ and the role is said to be inspired by Sheryl Sandberg).
Whatever you think of her as a ‘woman’ the fact is she’s a grafter – albeit a perfectly coiffed one – and it makes sense for Mattel to move with the times and use their best known brand ambassador in a thoroughly modern way.
Sure it’s a marketing gimmick but it could be so much more if we choose it to be. What a great leap-off point to talk to girls about collecting their employment experiences from an early age, so that their CV grows up with them rather than at 16 expecting them to list a bunch of babysitting jobs on a side of A4 and sending them out into the world.
Barbie’s not going to be the best fit for everyone. If it were me and you offered me the opportunity to design the LinkedIn profile for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’d be in seventh heaven (full disclosure: I’m a massive geek and may have mentally done this on the drive into work one morning).
Yes, you know she’s the Slayer and she saved the world, a lot. But did you know about her retail experience in the Doublemeat Palace or the Magic Box, her transferable skills with a variety of weapons, project management (planning for an apocalypse is an oft-sought skill), problem solving (defeating a demon/robot/human hybrid) and team working (killing her boyfriend Angel to save the world and killing herself for the same reason).
I’m already feeling more inspired to sort out my own LinkedIn account, so why shouldn’t girls, young women feel the same flash of inspiration by taking someone who matters to them (is Bella from Twilight still a thing? Hermione?) and mapping their own personal skills and achievements in a way that can later be used as a foundation to get into higher education, and higher-paid jobs?
Furthermore, it’s all in the palms of their hands. At the tap of an app they could share that LinkedIn profile with someone they meet at a jobs fair and launch themselves.
When do we start to encourage children – and particularly young women – to start thinking about their online presence, their ‘brand’? I have a friend whose birth gift to his grandson was a custom URL. Children nowadays will never experience life without the Internet (zombie apocalypse allowing). What is missing, however, is any education about the best way to do that – yesterday was the time to start, but now would be good too.
Karen Steel is web editor at Stoke-on-Trent City Council.