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Career-minded Students Learn New Handshake

UML’s Move to New Platform Opens Door to More Jobs, Co-ops and Internships

A student shakes hands with a recruiter at the Accounting Career Fair Photo by Ed Brennen
A student shakes hands with Northwestern Mutual campus recruiter Courtney Pollard during the Accounting and Finance Career Fair at University Crossing.

09/30/2019
By Ed Brennen

A combination of LinkedIn, Indeed and Netflix.

That’s how one Career & Co-op Center staff member describes Handshake, the career networking and recruiting platform the university has introduced to students and alumni this fall in place of the former CareerLINK.

Used by more than 400,000 employers and 800 universities nationwide, Handshake has quickly emerged as a popular way for college students and recent grads to find internships, co-ops and full-time jobs, according to Greg Denon, associate dean of student affairs for career development.

“We looked at a couple of different options, but Handshake is really setting the standard for the next generation of platforms,” Denon says. “The core functionality is 10 times better than CareerLINK and the interface is a lot more contemporary, so it’s easier for students to search and apply for positions. Everything about it is easier.”

Of course, the most important difference for students and alumni is the volume and variety of opportunities available on Handshake.

Not only does the platform allow employers to post openings to a wide swath of member schools at once (as opposed to one by one), but companies can also target schools with specific programs or in certain geographic areas.
Alum Cheryl Medina talks to a student about working at the Dept. of Treasury Photo by Ed Brennen
Alum Cheryl Medina ’90, center, talks to a student about opportunities at the U.S. Department of Treasury during the Accounting and Finance Career Fair.

“Because employers can manage multiple target schools, it allows them to expand their pool,” says Denon, who adds that “we’re starting to get contacts and job postings from employers that we hadn’t been able to get before,” such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

The Career & Co-op Center now receives hundreds of job postings each day through Handshake, which Denon says is both “a blessing and a curse” since each posting must be evaluated and approved by staff members. They prioritize job leads in the New England area and those that best align with students’ career goals.

Denon has already noticed that some career fields, such as physical therapy, are better represented on Handshake than on the previous platform.

“We’ve been getting so many postings related to physical therapy, mostly rehab centers and outpatient work,” Denon says. “They’re coming in and want to get more of our Doctor of Physical Therapy students.”
 
Once a student has signed up for their free Handshake account by computer or mobile app, they create a public profile page (similar to LinkedIn) and upload their résumé. The profile page includes a photo and details such as school, major, graduation year, organizations and skills. Certain profile information, such as grade-point average, can be made private by users.

The employment search then works both ways. Companies can recruit job candidates based on their profiles. If an employer wants to contact a student directly, they can send a message through the system that the student receives as a blind email. Students can also look for employers and jobs as they would on search engines such as Indeed. If they’re not ready to apply right away, they can “follow” the opportunities that interest them. 
Recruiters from Melanson Heath talk to a student at the Accounting career fair Photo by Ed Brennen
Human resources manager Dorothy Young, right, talks to a student about Melanson Heath, one of the many companies at the Accounting and Finance Career Fair that partners with Handshake to recruit students.

Leanne Winton, a junior business administration major with an accounting concentration from Merrimack, N.H., likes how Handshake will recommend other jobs that she may be interested in based on her past search criteria – much like Netflix recommends other TV shows and movies.

“I’ve had jobs pop up that I wouldn’t have found because I never would have thought to look for the company,” says Winton, who is in search of a co-op position this year and is taking the professional development seminar with Asst. Director of Cooperative Education Jim McGonigle.

“He described Handshake as a combination of Indeed, LinkedIn and Netflix, which is an accurate description,” Winton says.

The Career & Co-op Center also uses Handshake to promote and register students for events on campus, from résumé workshops and employer visits to career fairs.

At the recent Accounting and Finance Career Fair at University Crossing, Prabakar Adithya, a sophomore business administration major from Chelmsford, was able to hone in on specific companies – RSM and Ernst & Young – thanks to the homework he’d done beforehand on Handshake.
 
“I could do background research on them rather than going in blind and trying to figure it out,” says Adithya, who came to the career fair with a résumé that had been reviewed and approved by a UML career counselor through Handshake.
 
Alum Cheryl Medina ’90 represented the U.S. Department of Treasury at the Accounting and Finance Career Fair. An audit manager for the Office of Inspector General based in Andover, Medina began working with Handshake earlier this year.
The Handshake app on an iPhone Photo by Ed Brennen
Students and alumni can access their free Handshake accounts via the mobile app.

“It helped me get the word out that we’re posting a job in the next couple of weeks,” says Medina, an accounting alum who began working for the Inspector General right out of college. “It’s a very convenient system.”

At the Northwestern Mutual booth, campus recruiter Courtney Pollard told students to sign up for the company’s upcoming recruiting session through the platform.

“Handshake is really up and coming,” says Pollard, who used the platform as a student at Endicott College and is now using it on the employer side. “It’s more geared toward students, which is huge.”

The positive reaction from employers doesn’t surprise Denon. When he met with recruiters at iRobot in Bedford over the summer and told them UML was moving to Handshake, the room erupted in applause.

“When you remove pain points,” Denon says, “good things happen.”