NEW YORK (Reuters) – When college student Danny Franklin started thinking about jobs after graduation, his expectations were not very high.
The 21-year-old accounting major at Delaware State had the typical work experience of many young Americans: Not a whole lot.
Franklin’s job history included stints at McDonald’s, Sears, and Sam’s Club – but nothing that would really grab the attention of a big accounting firm.
No wonder Franklin’s LinkedIn page did not generate any job leads. Then his adviser in junior year told him about Handshake (joinhandshake.com), a jobs community for college kids and young alumni.
After a month or two of building his Handshake profile, he was taken aback: Companies were starting to contact him, instead of the other way around.
“I was very surprised and overwhelmed,” says Franklin. “Companies were telling me about internships, professional development events and inviting me to apply to all these things.”
Among the big-name firms that got in touch were consumer products giant Procter Gamble, and a couple of the nation’s largest accounting concerns, Deloitte and PwC.
Franklin ended up accepting a position with prominent investment managers Capital Group, in its Norfolk, Virginia. offices. He is slated to start a full-time position there in the fall, after his graduation this spring.
Franklin managed to solve a tricky puzzle young grads encounter when entering the workforce. How do you get that first job in your chosen field, when you do not have any experience yet?
“LinkedIn is more of a mid-career tool, when you already have work experience and your professional network is established,” says Garrett Lord, Handshake’s CEO and co-founder. “But many students don’t have that work experience yet and may not even know what they want. That’s where Handshake shines.”
After all, it is not easy for young adults to get on that first rung of the corporate ladder, even in a hot economy. In fact, 41.4 percent of recent grads are considered “underemployed,” or working in a lower-level gig that did not require a degree, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
It is an easier leap to make for students at big-name universities – like, say, Harvard or Yale – since Fortune 500 companies will physically come to their campuses and job fairs and actively recruit. But for students at smaller colleges that may not be on recruiters’ radars, like Danny Franklin at Delaware State, how are they supposed to get started in life?
It was a familiar problem for Garrett Lord, himself a graduate of Michigan Tech, which was not exactly the first stop on the trail for Google or Apple recruiters. That is why he and his co-founders started Handshake, to create something akin to LinkedIn, but focused on college kids and young grads across the country and not just those in the Ivy League.
Handshake’s numbers so far are impressive: 14 million college students and young alumni, more than 700 colleges in its network, 900,000 recruiters – and, notably, 100 percent of the Fortune 500.
It has obviously caught the attention of significant Silicon Valley movers, with backers like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (yes, that Zuckerberg), the Omidyar Network (that’s Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay), venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, and more.
It is certainly a sea change from the college jobs offices of yore. Those of us of a certain age remember dusty and disorganized operations, with harried supervisors, cluttered desks and index cards of random job offers tacked up on corkboards.
By and large, job-hunting at colleges does not work like that anymore. In fact, Handshake has partnered with 70 percent of the top 500 universities in the country, matching them with 350,000 companies trying to fill slots.
Of course, students do not necessarily need to choose between career apps. They can leverage all of them and boost their odds of getting HR managers’ attention.
When Danny Franklin racked up an impressive 3.5 GPA, joined his school’s accounting club and put in some volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, he uploaded it all – and, apparently, it paid off.
“Without that profile, I would probably still be applying for jobs.”
Editing by Lauren Young and Dan Grebler