Today we began previewing Kickstart, a new service aimed at helping college students and recent grads connect with alumni, employers, and professionals. You may have seen some of the press coverage of the launch. Our first day live has been exciting, with the number of profiles in the system growing steadily by the hour.
Kickstart was inspired by research we did with college students who are experiencing first hand the biggest transition of their lives: their initial career choice and job/internship search. Students and recent grads kept saying, "I don't know who to connect with to help me get a job."
With this in mind, we came up with the idea of creating a community where students and alumni connect around finding internships, jobs, and career advice. Students, while active online socially and looking at job listings, don't have a way to create and ultimately benefit from a truly "professional" network.
The existing options available to students are either too tailored towards seasoned professionals or too geared towards staying in touch with friends. This problem is compounded by the fact that finding that first job or internship is one of the most stressful parts of a student or recent grad’s life. After all, for every student whose parents helped him get an internship with an investment bank, thousands are left pounding the pavement and sending resumes into the black holes of company recruiting sites.
This "preview" release of Kickstart is intended as a first step towards creating a community for college students and alumni to connect. For this release, we’re focused on getting alums and professional signed up in advance of our rollout to schools in January. You’ll notice that, for now, the site is streamlined towards setting up profiles and basic connections and messaging.
Why would alumni sign up? An interesting thing we noticed is that a generic "help the students!" message sent to alumni generally gets resistance. However, if a junior at your school in the same major reaches out with a personal message for advice, we’ve found that most people are more than happy to help. It's also a great way to source good candidates and to reconnect with fellow alums and old colleagues.
To help encourage people to join, we're offering a $25,000 dollar grant for the U.S. college that has the most alumni signed up by the end of the year.
We expect Kickstart to evolve rapidly now that it’s public. We’re working on the next batch of features, and we’re putting them in front of our target users to ensure we keep addressing their needs. We’d love to hear any ideas to make this professional network the place for college students, recent grads and alums connect and meet their goals.
Cynthia Johanson, Dan Wascovich and the Kickstart Team