Monday, March 9, 2009

Web site turns school ties into job opportunities MyWorkster helps students and alumni connect and network

By Dennis Carter, Assistant Editor
MyWorkster brings college students and alumni together on a "professional Facebook."

In a job market contracting every month, professional connections can be the difference between landing an interview or continuing an arduous job search. That's why the co-founders of MyWorkster created a professional networking site that connects students with alumni and allows members to search for contacts in their field who can give them an advantage over the competition.

Jeff Saliture and Doug Baruchin of Long Island have redeveloped the MyWorkster site, which first launched in 2006, making it easier for recent college graduates to pinpoint alumni who might offer a tip, give a phone number, or arrange an interview.

Baruchin and Saliture often compare MyWorkster to social-networking giant Facebook, but instead of sharing photos from last weekend's cookout, MyWorkster users strive to make a connection that could lead to a steady paycheck. There are about 5 million job opportunities on MyWorkster, the co-founders said.

"We wanted to create a professional Facebook," said Baruchin, 43, a former insurance agent, adding that Saliture's understanding of computer networking gelled with his own familiarity with face-to-face networking. "I understood that need for traditional networking, and he understood what was up and coming in [technology]."

Saliture said MyWorkster won't unveil its membership count until later this year, but 30 universities and colleges nationwide have created official MyWorkster pages, and dozens of other schools have unofficial sites started by alumni or students.

Saliture, 25, a 2008 Hofstra University graduate, said the Facebook-like front page creates a user-friendly atmosphere that makes MyWorkster different from button-down job search web sites.

"We're trying to make an addictive portal for the millennial generation," Saliture said, adding that connections made on MyWorkster can appear on a member's Facebook profile, and users' friends can be invited via Facebook.

Fred Burke, executive director of Hofstra's career center, said MyWorkster's latest changes allow students to narrow their search down to a handful of Hofstra alumni who might offer a helping hand to a fellow graduate.

"You have a chance to get an insider's scoop," said Burke, who added that 800 Hofstra alums have signed up for MyWorkster and a student launch is scheduled for mid-March.

As headlines trumpeting monthly job losses clutter the national headlines, Burke said finding new ways to form professional relationships will become critical in the coming months and years.

"I think in a job market like this, it could be an excellent way to build a professional network," he said. "It's very simple and it's very straightforward. … You have to utilize a lot of paths toward a career, and there's very little room for error these days."

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