LinkedIn's big play for students

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With LinkedIn shares off nearly 55 percent over the past 12 months, the business network is focusing on its youngest demographic: college students looking for a job.

The company on Monday is launching a new job search app targeted at college kids, LinkedIn Students. Unlike the job search app LinkedIn launched nearly two years ago, which is designed to help people who know what they're looking for find it, this new app is designed to help students explore different career paths and to figure out what would be the best fit for them.

This new app, which is launching first in the U.S. and will roll out to the rest of the world this year, presents students with information on what careers similar students from their college have embarked upon, and where people in their major generally end up. Users just have to input their school, major and graduation year, and the app will serve up job and internship recommendations. And, in this era of Tinder, the job options are presented in a similar swipe left/swipe right format, with the option to tap to learn more.

LinkedIn also shares relevant articles selected for their resonance to students. Users of the new app can also find alumni from their schools at companies they're interested in, to help build valuable alumni networks before students have professional networks of their own.

In a blog post announcing the news, LinkedIn said its pilot tests of the app at San Jose State and University of Central Florida found they're helping concerns address concerns about debt and translating their major to a job.

"It's no mystery that these types of concerns are shared by students across the country," product manager Ada Yu wrote in the post. "An understandable trend given the uncertainties that come with an economy mired in $1.2 trillion of student loan debt and an unemployment rate among college graduates of 7.2 percent (compared with only 5.5 percent in 2007)."

The company has no immediate plans to make money from the app — no subscription model is in the works. It's also not seeking ads, other than some sponsored content in an area offering more information to help students with their resumes. Of course there's massive value down the line if LinkedIn can hook students — the company has said there are as many as 40 million on the network.

If the company can provide a satisfying first interaction with LinkedIn, students are much more likely to turn to the social media site when looking for their next job and maintaining their professional network. That means more revenue for LinkedIn, not just from subscriptions, but also from greater exposure for sponsored content within a stream of articles, and customers for its professional education. LinkedIn hasn't yet integrated Lynda courses directly into the Students app, but there seems to be clear potential to market to students looking to beef up their resumes.