Facebook announced today that it’s pivoting a mentorship tool it started testing among groups earlier this year, as the company tries to position itself more as a site for personal and professional development.
With mentorship, users will be able to sign up on their own as either a mentor or a mentee within specific groups. When Facebook first started testing the feature, it put the onus on group administrators to pair mentors and mentees. Interested mentors and mentees answer questions about what they’re looking for assistance on, or what they can provide answers on. Users can then browse a list of available mentors and mentees, and message people they’re interested in connecting with. If a user is no longer able to serve as a mentor or mentee, they can take themselves off the list.
“One of the pain points of that product was that admins often weren’t able to match up everybody in their group just because of time, or they weren’t able to match them up with maybe the best person,” Sean O’Reilly, Facebook’s engineering lead for mentorship, told VentureBeat in a phone interview.
Facebook is still only testing the tool among parenting and professional development group, though O’Reilly said that the number of groups who have used it so far is in the thousands. He said that among career related groups, many are using the mentorship tool to find someone to field questions they don’t feel comfortable asking through their chain of management. One of the groups piloting the mentorship tool is Female Navy Officers, where O’Reilly said group members are using it to ask questions about what it’s like being a woman in the Navy.
It’s clear that Facebook hasn’t yet figured out how to facilitate the offline and online interactions that it sees as necessary to making people feel good about spending time on Facebook amid headlines of fake accounts trying to spread politically divisive content. Helping someone find a mentor is particularly complicated because sometimes it takes trial and error for people to figure out what they want in a mentor or mentee.
Perhaps a more hands-off approach will make groups more receptive to using the tool, but that won’t necessarily encourage people to stick with their mentor or mentee.
Facebook also made some other career announcements today, notably that it’s launching its own online education site called Learn with Facebook. Learn with Facebook will live on its own dedicated site, and at launch will include 13 nine-minute-long courses that cover hard and soft skills, such as an introduction to marketing analytics and interview tips.
Fatima Saliu, head of policy marketing at Facebook, tells VentureBeat that the bite-sized courses will be geared toward people starting their career or people re-entering the workforce and just starting to brush up on new skills.
“We see this as the beginning of their career process — so it’s a matter of helping them understanding everything from the terminology to some of the new specific language that is relative to digital marketing such as analytics, etc.,” Saliu told VentureBeat.
Given that the courses are so short, it severely limits just how useful it will actually be for job seekers, and means that Learn with Facebook is still a long ways away from competing with offerings like LinkedIn Learning. It sounds more like Facebook is just beginning to gauge how receptive users will be to using its career development tools.