Graduation

The stress of finding and building a professional network or, worse, finding a job right out of college, can be crippling. At the same time, it’s there, and is becoming a greater concern for students each year.

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce says that the overall unemployment rate for recent grads is 7.9 percent. Additionally, data from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, 36.7 percent of recent college grads are faced with “mal-employment.” Mal-employment means the student is employed, but is working in a position that doesn’t represent the student’s intended professional trajectory. It also represents those who work part-time but are looking for a full-time role and those dreaded internships.

This is one of the reasons former Googler Sanjeev Agrawal founded Collegefeed. After launching last March, Collegefeed has worked to connect college students with real employers and jobs. Today the company is announcing its availability to any student globally, and is adding a new networking feature for students to connect with other students.

When it first launched, Collegefeed was tailored for students to learn about open jobs and companies that may be a good fit. In July, Erin Griffith wrote about the site’s recommendation feature that matched students with companies and vice versa. The site has always listed numerous job listings for students to peruse, hoping to pique their employment interest. But the focus, at that point, was on building a student-to-business relationship.

Now Agrawal has higher hopes than being just a job-posting website; he wants to make it easier for students to break into the professional world. “One important step [of Collegefeed] is to show [college students] that it’s important to get serious about your career,” Agrawal told me. He sees the goal of Collegefeed as being “educate, coach, teach, and inform.”

To foster this, he has created a way for students connect with each other. This means that users can view and connect with others’ profiles to begin building a professional network. Collegefeed recommends students who may be a good networking fit and encourages them to connect.

This new feature is a bit like LinkedIn, but Agrawal is quick to mention that the Collegefeed’s entire focus is on students and early careers. “When I was a student,” he said, “I was intimidated by someone who was in the industry for over 10 years.” Though LinkedIn is the ultimate resource for professional networking, it could be viewed as a daunting behemoth of tenured executives for bright-eyed students just hoping to get an entry-level position in his or her intended field.

Agrawal also sees this new networking feature as a way to foster a healthy dose of competition. “We see a lot of people checking each other out, seeing what others have done,” he said. And that can turn into a connection based on similar interests. There’s even a “hall of fame” section of the website, which highlights the most industrious students on the site.

And this exhibits to students how networking with others similar to you is helpful in the long-run. “Being professional socially is better than being professional individually,” Agrawal says.

Now colleges are hoping to get in on this to help foster students’ post-graduation employment. This is because building a career network tied to only one college is both limiting and difficult. I can speak to this personally. I attended a tiny 1,400 person school, the career services office of which offered mainly to “help with resumes” or “connect students with alums whose expertise may or may not be germane to your aspirations.” Agrawal sees Collegefeed as being a new way for counselors to help built out students’ professional networks. “There are large and small universities that are coming en masse,” he said. “It is something that helps both counselors and students.”

And, according to him, the site’s fastest growth is coming precisely from universities using it from a career purposes perspective. Back in July the site had fewer than 10,000 users. Agrawal told USA Today last month that it now has “tens of thousands” of students using it.

Perhaps most importantly, he does not want this to become another Facebook. The connection aspect of this site is to show students the opportunities around them, not to simply match people based on their interests. “You don’t want this to be generated into ‘I want to date,'” he said. Instead, its ultimate focus is, “I’m interested in a project you did.”

And if Agrawal can truly make a social network tailored toward young adults that isn’t based on sex or personal interests, well, that would be something.

[Image Credit: j.o.h.n. walker on Flickr]