Why You Shouldn't Omit Your College Graduation Year on LinkedIn

April 14, 2015

Hiding the year you graduated from college on your LinkedIn profile is like being that teacher who uses the same, ancient picture for the yearbook year after year. At best, you’re fooling yourself. At worst, you’re missing an opportunity to get the right people to connect with you.

Most commonly, people omit their graduation year on LinkedIn because they're afraid of seeming either too old or too young. We worry about how we will be judged when we share our age. But can you think of a more important data point for determining if someone’s “legit,” or what you might have in common with them, than where and when they went to school? With that in mind, our fears pale when compared to the benefits of including our graduation year.

Here’s specifically how including your college graduation date helps you make connections:

1. Shows people how they know you

Your name and photo are the first things people look at to determine if they know you. But as you age, move, change your hair, get glasses, get married and change your name—especially if you have a common name—your name and photo sometimes are no longer enough. Additional context clues, including where you live, where you’ve worked, and what college (graduation date included) you went to become more important.

2. Shows if you’re connected to anyone they know and trust

We typically think of learning about someone’s connections by looking at…well, someone’s connections. But connection lists are imperfect: we don’t always connect with the people we know, and we sometimes connect with people we don’t. And sometimes, our networks simply don’t overlap.

Knowing where someone worked sounds nice, but it isn’t always useful. Even at a mid-size company where you know someone who worked there, it’s unlikely that the two worked together long enough for your colleague to be able to provide meaningful insights.

But knowing where *and when* someone graduated college provides a fixed anchor point to understand their network. Not only can we now connect via a sibling, friend, or colleague we know who graduated around the same time, we can also make certain assumptions about them.

Which brings me to the next reason it’s worthwhile to share where and when you graduated.

3. Proves that you are…a real person

Let’s not overlook the fact that if someone doesn’t recognize you or can’t figure out who you are by emailing a mutual friend, they may question if you’re real. That’s when they start looking for context clues to see (a) if you’re a real person and (b) legit.

If you work for a small company that many people haven't heard of, including your college and year you graduated *may* provide an important additional data point, especially if they can dial a friend and find someone who knows you from way back when. (Emphasis on “may” for this one… especially if no one’s ever heard of your college.)

4. Reveals what you have in common

if I know how old you are, I can take an educated guess about at least a few things we might have in common, such as stage of life and cultural experiences. And sometimes, that’s all I might need to spark the conversation that in turn sparks a relationship. Sharing your graduation date is a super easy way to share your approximate age.

Note: This does not apply to grad school. When you graduated grad school tells me nothing - I don’t know if you rolled straight from undergrad into school, if you worked for 1, 2, or 10 years before going back, or how long your grad program took to complete.

5. Bypasses the “getting to know you” conversation

One of the beautiful things about LinkedIn is that it lets us move conversations forward by making us much smarter about how we have them. When you meet someone cold, you have no idea what to connect on. Sometimes relationships die before they ever have a chance because we don’t ask the right question up front.

Letting people see where and when you went to school gives them a chance to better prepare for the “Oh, you went to IU? My brother went there, what year did you graduate?” conversation. I can do some homework before we meet so when I ask the question live, I’m ready for a follow up like, “Did you ever know a guy named Mike Smith?” (I already know you did. *I did my homework.* It took 5 minutes and I’m ready with an anecdote about how Mike and I lived together in New York for a year). The point is, I can tip the odds to make our conversation more targeted, productive and successful.

Alternatively, if I find out you went to Duke and we’re the same age, I figure maybe you know my ex-girlfriend from high school and then maybe I avoid asking about college altogether…

Conclusion

Sharing your age can be scary. It’s certainly impolite based on pre-social media etiquette standards. But when it comes to leveraging social media sites like LinkedIn to build your network, it’s extraordinarily helpful.

Your age is your truth. Where you went to school is your truth. Don’t run away from what’s true. Yes, you should cultivate an image of yourself that puts your best foot forward…but that image should be based on what’s true, and it’s hard to be authentic if you’re telling a lie by omission, which is what we’re talking about.

Own your truth, share your graduation date.

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Jason Seiden is CEO of Brand Amper, a SaaS Employer Branding solution that activates the voice of employees to strengthen and amplify a consistent, genuine, and powerful company story. Follow @Seiden for more from Jason.

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*Image by Kat

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