Mike Isaac

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Social Startup FirstJob Aims at Entry-Level Career Seekers

FirstJobI remember my first job after college. I made a little more than nine dollars an hour, pouring nonfat lattes and cleaning up spills.

For me, that was fine. But for Eyal Grayevsky, a business adminstration graduate of CU Boulder, along with others coming out of school with tens of thousands in debt, that may not be the case.

Like so many other graduates, Grayevsky had a tough time finding relevant work after school, despite his professional degree. And most of the positions he kept finding after visiting resources like Monster.com and CareerBuilder were for positions far out of reach, tailored for people much further along in their careers. There were occasional gems — entry-level positions he’d go for — but surfacing them amid all the rest was annoying and time-consuming.

“I didn’t know where to start,” Grayevsky said. “For people like me, there’s no one central place to go.” So, instead of searching until he found the perfect job site, he created it.

It’s called FirstJob, a fairly simple portal for twentysomethings looking for entry-level work that’s actually relevant to their chosen career path. The site is something of an amalgam of familiar social destinations: FirstJob connects to LinkedIn and Facebook and pulls your data from those sites, automatically creating a profile for first-time users. From there, you’re able to ask for things similar to what LinkedIn offers — asking a friend to “vouch” for one of your skills is tantamount to a LinkedIn “endorsement,” or more generally a Facebook “Like.”

What Grayevsky and his small team of engineers pride themselves on, however, is their data. FirstJob crawls the Web in search of open APIs from other job portals, collecting all of the relevant postings and filtering out other types, like high-experience positions or service-level and retail jobs. The result, in theory, is a finer-tuned database of pertinent postings for first-time seekers.

Screenshot_3_24_13_11_51_PMThe connections to social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn matter. Job searches carried out on FirstJob take into account your existing network of connections, and give more visibility to job openings where you may already know two or three people working at the company. So, if I type in “designer” into the search field, I may see some open slots over at Microsoft first, where I know four or five Facebook friends who happen to work there. Ideally, you leverage your personal connections for a better chance at scoring the job.

You’ll note that that whole scenario is imperfect. I, like many others, have accepted Facebook and LinkedIn requests from scores of people whom I consider relatively “weak ties,” folks I may have come across in my professional or personal life at some point. They’re certainly not all people who would vouch for me were I to apply for a job, or even folks I’d necessarily feel comfortable asking about a possible job opening.

But Grayevsky’s point remains: If you can find those basic connections in the first place, it’s a better lead than you’d have on, say, a Monster or Craigslist.

It’s worrisome to think that at some point Facebook or LinkedIn could cut FirstJob off from API access. After all, helping people find jobs is part of LinkedIn’s very purpose, and Facebook has signaled in the past that it, too, intends to dabble in the job-hunting space. And neither company is afraid of snipping access to potential competitors.

Grayevsky doesn’t seem concerned. “I don’t foresee us getting cut off, but it’s not a major feature we’re relying on, and it’s not the end of the world if we do get cut off,” he said.

The team hopes to add additional social features, like Q&A sections for specific career-related topics. But for now they’re focused on expanding the company’s presence by hiring paid “ambassadors” to represent FirstJob at career fairs on college campuses around the country. The site opens widely on Monday, with updates in the weeks to come.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work