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I was so clueless what to do when I graduated from college that I joined the Peace Corps. While this worked out well for me, the solution to rising levels of unemployment and uncertainty about  the future is not always to go live in a rural village. It could be to work for a startup, and recruiting network Readyforce is embarking on a cross country bus trip to connect college kids with jobs in the technology industry.

Readyforce is a platform that brings together top engineering students with fast growing startups. Students and startups can enter their search parameters and receive relevant results. It is a tool for students looking for jobs and companies looking for hires, and provides a more specific, curated alternative to traditional job search sites.

This grand adventure is called Hacker Tour. On a bus emblazoned with startup logos, a Readyforce team is visiting 19 campuses in 11 states. The journey kicked off at Cornell University in mid-September and since has stopped off at top engineering schools like MIT, Carnegie Mellon, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and Harvey Mudd. Still ahead are University of Texas- Austin and Stanford.

Readyforce is touring on behalf of 150 technology companies, including hot startups like Square, Box, Etsy, and Chegg, and large corporations, like security company Raytheon. The crew sets up booths at career fairs, makes presentations to students, and holds their own events where students can learn more about careers in startups and technology. Rather than handing in a resume or standing stiffly in a suit, the college kids are presented with an alternative method of finding the perfect job.  

I chatted with Readyforce executive Anna Binder while she was at the University of California-Berkeley campus. Binder has worked in HR for technology companies for over a decade and said the climate for developer recruitment is changing.

“Connecting technical students to tech startups wouldn’t have worked 10 years ago,” she said. “Back in the early 2000s, the appetite for college hires not very high. Startups didn’t have the overhead for sophisticated training programs or recruiting tools. Today, people are getting more creative and resourceful about how solving talent problem. They are open to engineers fresh out of school. Not only are they cheaper, but if you light up somebody early in their career, you can grow, motivate and inspire them. They will be willing to walk on fire for you.”

While it may be more risky than a job at a firmly established business, startups have a lot to offer twenty-somethings who are just entering the workforce. Perks like a more casual work environment and a steady stream of parties aside, there are learning opportunities that arise from being part of a small team.

“Part of our message is be the CEO of your own career,” Binder said. “Often, you go to your first job out of college because somebody expects it of you, or it was presented to you, or its what your parents feel good about. Going to a startup is an amazing place to start your career because you can have a huge impact in  short amount of time. Things progress really fast, it is a good place to take risks, you can make mistakes and learn from then.

While students may want to work for startups and startups may want to hire recent graduates, there are obstacles to connecting the two that Readyforce strives to overcome. Startups do not have the capital, bandwidth, or time to travel the country visiting college campuses, and most students do not have the on-the-ground network that is such a significant part of developer recruitment. Furthermore, startups often do not post position openings on public job boards. By using Readyforce, they can extend their reach to universities around the country without having to strain resources.

Companies create profiles that students can peruse on the site, including information about the industry, location, number of employees etc…Profiles are ranked by level of completeness and students can “Get Introduced” directly on the site. Students also create profiles with information about their educational background, skill sets, and what they are looking for. Readyforce works on both ends to make the best matches.

The Hacker Tour is both a marketing campaign for Readyforce (which is itself a startup), but also a way to raise awareness about entrepreneurship as a viable career path and let students know the scope of their options and make the connections they need. In case the prospect of 2 years in a 115 degree rice paddy isn’t appealing.

Readyforce is based in San Francisco, CA and has raised $14 million in venture funding.

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