By RACHEL MANNING
Starting next year, the University Mary Washington will be replacing Employ-an Eagle with a new system called Handshake. According to their official website, Handshake was started in 2014 in San Francisco, and has continued to grow. Handshake is similar to LinkedIn in that students can set up a profile that employers can look at. This profile will have pertinent information such as the student’s current year, major, interests and any previous work experience or internship experience they might have.
As of now, there are about 170 universities around the country who have signed up for the program. It is gaining popularity because it does a better job of connecting students to employers than other websites or services do.
“What makes [Handshake] different from LinkedIn is that we recruit different employers who are local to the area as well as alum who may be in management positions or may own their own company,” said assistant director at the Center for Career and Professional Development Kyle Danzey. In other words, Handshake is locally-based and tailored to each university that uses it.
Another way Handshake is different from both LinkedIn and Employ-an-Eagle is that students do not need to sign up for an account all on their own. According to Danzey, “The way it works is that all students are imported into the system, and so they’re able to search for and apply to different jobs and internships within the system.”
The system also has significant improvements from its predecessor, Employ-an-Eagle, according to Danzey.
“It’s more user-friendly than Employ-an-Eagle,” Danzey said. “Employ-an-Eagle did not have an automatic import for students, so students had to register on their own. But now it’s going to be imported from Banner, which is the system that houses all the student information.” This makes it much easier for students to navigate the often-difficult process of finding a job or internship.
However, some students feel that Handshake will not be beneficial to everyone, despite its advantages over other systems.
“Handshake would be better for certain industries than others,” said senior computer science and music double major Michael Prime. “For example, you can’t apply for jobs in the music industry; you’ve got to have connections. I can’t just go on Handshake and search for jobs in that field. But, you can apply in the computer science field, because they’re hiring all the time.”
Handshake does more than help students find and apply to jobs and internships, though. According to Mary Becelia, career coach at the Center for Career and Professional Development, it hosts several professional development modules. If a student wants to know how to build a resume or do an interview, they can view the Handshake module on the subject. Students can also set up appointments through Handshake if they want in-person assistance.
“This does not mean that we’re no longer here to offer in-person help or workshops… We still do individual coaching, we still have peer career advisers,” Becelia said. “We hope that it will bring students closer, not be a ‘oh I’ll just do it all on Handshake instead’ thing.”
Indeed, it seems that students do plan on going to the career center for advice more than they plan on using Handshake. Junior and English major, Aripra Mohan has had many troubles with Employ-an-Eagle.
“Many times, I ran into technical difficulties using Employ-an-Eagle,” Mohan said. “I often had trouble logging on and navigating through the portal. Employ-an-Eagle never updated my student information, nor does it let me update it myself.”
She is disappointed with the current system, and would rather find jobs on her own than try out a whole new system. She said, “I honestly don’t plan on using [Handshake] I’m going to look for jobs and internships outside the UMW Career Center and only visit the Career Center when I need a resume or cover letter reviewed.”
While the benefits of Handshake are clear, students will have to see if it works for them. Prime, like Mohan, did not use UMW’s system, Employ-an-Eagle, to get his job. He handed out resumes at the Job and Internship fair instead.
The employees at the UMW Career Center hope that they can encourage people to use Handshake with social media announcements, emails and their official launch event. They plan on sending out the official announcement email in mid-March. May 2, they are going to host their big launch event where students will be able to open their account, get t-shirts and other free items and meet President Paino.
“The goal of the launch event is to have students actually activate their account,” Danzey said, because, even though students will be automatically imported into the system, they still need to activate their accounts in order to access the benefits Handshake offers.