Over 80% of LinkedIn users either want to find a mentor or become a mentor (LinkedIn, 2017). However, most professionals have difficulty with knowing where to start.
LinkedIn has the unique position to greater connect its community and integrate mentorship with its core offerings.
*Disclaimer: I do not work for LinkedIn, and the views in this case study are my own.
Early career professionals find it difficult to receive career guidance and advice from others with their aspired skills and experiences. They may not know anybody within their own circle that is willing to help address their career questions and anxieties.
LinkedIn “Mentorship” enables early-career professionals to find and book 1:1 calls with mentors in their industry. Since 57% of LinkedIn’s traffic is mobile, we chose to first design Mentorship for the app.
I designed the Onboarding, Mentor Profile, and Booking flow, while Jennifer designed for Search and Dashboard.
Personalized mentor recommendations
A short onboarding process helps mentees find listed mentors in their desired industry. Afterward, they can easily view upcoming bookings.
Book mentors and align them with mentee goals
Our research showed that establishing goals and expectations from the very beginning leads to more successful mentorship relationships.
Mentor profiles for personal connection
On top of imported LinkedIn Experience and Education, mentor profiles include Why I Mentor, Expertise, and Review sections.
Although I imagine for the new feature to be initially free, LinkedIn could potentially position Mentorship as part of the Premium package, or increase revenue through other ways:
Data, data, data. Mentorship harnesses new user data and insights to leverage. For instance, a mentee’s desired career progression could be predicted far in advance — therefore, boosting their enterprise recruitment software or better matching LinkedIn Jobs with the right candidates.
Increased Engagement. Increasing session length and engagement means increasing delivered value for professionals. Mentorship creates the opportunity to both deliver career value and allow users to connect with professionals outside of their circle.
My main research objective was to understand how people seek for career guidance online and discover pain points and opportunities to improve the experience.
While conducting secondary research, I unexpectedly discovered that LinkedIn had tested a mentorship feature in 2017. Ideally, I would have access to LinkedIn’s data about why the feature was disbanded despite being highly anticipated. Instead, we had to make assumptions on what went wrong.
Hari Srinivasan, LinkedIn’s VP of Product:
“One of the reasons mentorships fail is because the mentee isn’t always able to articulate what they need or asks too much of a mentor.”
My hypothesis was that LinkedIn’s previous mentorship platform did not adequately align with expectations of mentorship. The mentorship feature was called “Career Advice: Get advice” and utilized Tinder’s design pattern to swipe through and message with matched mentors:
From this discovery, I decided to focus our research on mentorship to understand if we’re solving for the right pain point. If done right, Mentorship could have the opportunity to deliver upon LinkedIn’s value proposition and contribute toward long-term growth.
I advocated to first conduct a literature review to quickly discover factors that create a high-engagement mentorship. We discovered most successful mentorships have the following in common:
The mentorship IKEA effect. People tend to greater value things that they’ve input some effort into. When mentees have perceived input into the matching process, they are more likely to be committed and satisfied with their mentor relationships.
Setting early goals and expectations. For a two-way successful mentorship, it’s important to set mentorship goals and expectations from the very start.
Role modeling requires identification. Previously, I thought that mentees preferred mentors farther along in their career; however, mentees are actually more likely to role model with those in their next aspired position.
From there, I hypothesized that some required effort into the search process (vs. automatic matches) would lead to higher mentorship success rates. At the same time, the mentee’s search process should not be too prolonged.
I then distributed a survey to gather quantitative and qualitative data on online mentorship experiences for mentees and mentors. Finding and scheduling mentorships were repeated pain points:
Mentees struggle with finding a good mentor that they can “click” with.
Both mentors and mentees have difficulties matching availabilities with busy work schedules.
Despite LinkedIn being the world’s largest professional network, users feel more comfortable reaching out to strangers on other social media platforms (competitors such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.):
To better understand people’s actual mentorship motivations, frustrations, and experiences, we interviewed 5 mentees and 6 mentors.
Talking with mentees validated my hypothesis that their biggest pain points centered around the search process, as they struggled to find mentors they could click with:
“I need to feel a personal connection with my mentor, but it’s difficult to sense that online.”
“Searching for a mentor is like online dating; it’s tiring. I hate trying to go through every profile.”
Surprisingly, I found that mentees and mentors look for different things. While the mentees highly prioritized mentor personality and shared interests, the mentors cared more about a mentee’s dedication and engagement:
“I wish to have some guidance before meetings to prepare and know what to expect.”
“The ideal mentee is committed and driven. The bad ones expected me to do the work for them.”
Mapping out the user journey exposed that the mentee’s search process for a suitable mentor was the most significant problem, so I decided to first focus our project scope on the mentee’s experience.
With our research in mind, we mind mapped 6 “How Might We” statements to explore all solutions:
With the mentee’s pain points and opportunities in mind, I then led a Crazy Eights ideation workshop, where we collectively sketched a total of 40 screens for Search, Mentor Profile, and Booking.
Mentor Profile. However, I struggled to decide how to best present mentor profile info without overwhelming mentees, while also integrating with LinkedIn’s design. After multiple explorations, I went from using accordion menus to tab bars, which is an existing LinkedIn component.
In order to speed up our work process, I designed the Mentor Profile and Booking screens, while Jennifer created the Dashboard and Listings screens. We created mid-fidelity wireframes to rapidly align on a cohesive flow.
After making sure that our designs were consistent with each other, we then designed out the high-fidelity screens for testing.
Housing Mentorship in My Network
The majority of our users expected to find the new mentorship feature in the My Network navigation.
Publicizing Mentorship in-app
To draw in new users, the Mentorship feature can be displayed on the Homepage during the initial release period.
Connecting mentor and regular profiles
Similar to the Premium badge, mentors can choose to display their mentor badge on their main LinkedIn profile.
A split test of the prototype with 11 target users uncovered the following insights for my Mentor Profile and Booking screens.
What users say they want vs. actually expect may conflict. The previously interviewed mentees emphasized mentor personality and common interests, but the usability testers found them to be irrelevant. This could be due to Similarities and Interests being established only after connecting 1:1.
Clearly differentiate between mentor and regular profiles. I found it challenging to both differentiate and integrate the mentor profile with the regular LI profile, as some mentees were confused if they were different. After 24 more explorations, I made changes to the mentor profile visual hierarchy and added purple mentor badges.
Setting expectations with proper onboarding. At first, I thought users would like to go straight into Mentorship. But I learned that new features often need to set user expectations, as mentees wanted to know about pricing, 1:1 session length, and how the mentor recommendations were populated.
Results. LinkedIn Mentorship received very positive feedback, with the average mentee rating of 4.6 out of 5 for ease of use, deeming the product “extremely easy to use.” If I was part of the internal LinkedIn team, I would also track for product adoption, engagement, and growth.
“This feature would enhance my experience with LinkedIn, and I would actually use it more often.”
“Why doesn’t LinkedIn already do this? I want Mentorship as soon as possible.”
What I’ve Learned. I learned that users may have certain expectations about frequently used products like LinkedIn, and adding a new feature requires a delicate balance of new and familiar design patterns.
Next Steps. If I were to revisit this project, I would design and test the mentor flow. People might also want to sign-up as both a mentor and mentee, so having an integrated dashboard would be crucial.