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Handshake replaces PioneerLink for College career search process

By Carter Howe

The Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) has adopted college career counseling platform Handshake to be their online source to search for jobs and interviews, schedule appointments and access other documents from the CLS. This switch also included shutting down the old PioneerLink portal.

Administrators at the CLS decided to make the transition to Handshake, which was finalized in June, because the platform offers more functionality, a mobile app and more access to internship and job opportunities.

The CLS made the decision to switch to Handshake while assessing PioneerLink as part of a regular review of tools and resources that the CLS offers. After a review process of PioneerLink and other comparable platforms that included demoing the product, having current students test the platform and talking with other institutions that had adopted Handshake, it was chosen as the best option.

“We conducted a benchmark analysis of comparable products — Symplicity (aka, PioneerLink), Purple Briefcase, and Handshake — and it was clear that Handshake was the front runner,” said Mark Peltz, Daniel and Patricia Jipp Finkelman Dean of Careers, Life, and Service in an email to The S&B.

One of the big selling points of the platform is its wide user base of both employers and fellow educational institutions. According to Handshake’s website, over nine million undergraduates at more than 500 universities use the platform.

The company lists a variety of educational institutions as its clients, including prestigious private universities, public universities and other liberal arts colleges. More than 250,000 employers, including all Fortune 500 companies, use Handshake to attract applicants.

However, despite the prevalence of large corporations on the platform, Peltz said that students looking at many different types of careers will be able to find opportunities on the platform. “It would be a mistake to assume Handshake is only useful for business-bound students.  Not true.  There are opportunities in health care, non-profit, start-ups, government, education and more.  The broad range of employers (by industry) was a key selling point to us.”

In addition to the large employer network, Handshake also includes features that were absent on the old PioneerLink platform, such as a more extensive job search function that uses information students submit about their interests, what city they would like to work in, and other information to receive a customized list of suggested jobs.

A new “student profile” section allows students to add information such as special skills, projects or courses they have completed to their profile in addition to traditional documents like resumes and cover letters.

Peltz stressed that the transition to Handshake will not remove any functionality or change the nature of the relationship between the CLS and students.

Handshake was founded in 2013 by three graduates of Michigan Technological University who felt they and other Michigan Tech students, despite being well-qualified applicants, were not receiving access to job opportunities because they had not attended a highly prestigious school.

Its website proclaims that “We are democratizing opportunity. Because building your career shouldn’t depend on where you go to school, what you’re majoring in, or who your parents know.”

Peltz said that Handshake’s roots as a platform designed to increase access to opportunity was a personally exciting selling point for him.

“The traditional undergraduate recruiting model was defined by large employers focusing on a relatively small, select group of core schools.  While efficient in some ways, this model overlooks the vast majority of available talent.  So, upon graduation, [Handshake founder] Garrett Lord and a few close friends founded a start-up that would focus its efforts on democratizing access to opportunity. The movement has become Handshake, and I’m thrilled Grinnell is going to be part of this movement.”

Ultimately, Peltz said that Handshake will be helpful to the CLS first and foremost because of its focus on helping students find opportunities that connect to them.

“Handshake claims ‘students first’ as a core value, and I believe their product delivers on that promise.  In order to help students design lives that provide them a sense of meaning and purpose, the CLS needs to have tools that are responsive to student interests, values and strengths and provide them contemporary ways to explore opportunities, showcase their many talents, and make connections both within and beyond Grinnell,” he said. “Handshake is the best tool we found to help make those endeavors a reality for our students.”

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