Atention, Cal U students and alumni: There are 400,000 potential employers waiting to meet you.

That’s the impressive number of businesses using Handshake, an online career platform. It includes businesses of all sizes and 100% of theFortune 500 companies.

Cal U began using Handshake to connect with employers in2017. Students started using the platform in 2018.

“Handshake’s motto is ‘Democratizing Opportunity,’” says Rhonda Gifford, director of the University’s Career and Professional Development Center.

Rhonda Gifford

“It was founded by graduates of a school similar to Cal U, in that it wasn’t located near a major metropolitan area that a lot of recruiters would flock to. Handshake wants those students to have the same opportunities.

“A student can connect with employers like JP Morgan Chase even if they don’t come `to campus.”

Student benefits

Cal U students are registered with a Handshake account when they enroll at the University, and the account remains active after they graduate.

The account gives them access to job opportunities from across the country. During the 2018-2019 academic year,4,300 employers posted almost 30,000 jobs and internships directed specifically to students at Cal U.

The platform is also a “one-stop shop” where students can find on-campus employment, register for internships,prepare for career fairs, make appointments with career coaches, upload resumes and access career tip sheets.

Resumes that Cal U students upload to Handshake automatically get a second look from the Career andProfessional Development Center to ensure the best chance of success.

“It’s a wonderful feature for our online students,” Gifford says. “Through Handshake, they have access to everything our career center has to offer. They can make an appointment, upload a resume and meet with a career coach and never have to set foot in our office.”

Senior Brittany Kach is an accounting major who secured two internships through Handshake. The rose plastic® company, in nearbyCoal Center, Pa., contacted her for a summer internship in 2018. She completed another summer internship, at PNC in Pittsburgh, in 2019.

Accounting major Brittany Katch found internships through Handshake.

That 10-week experience led to an offer to return to PNC after she graduates in May 2020. Kach will participate in the company’s year-long finance and accounting development program before being placed in a permanent position.

“I don’t think I would have purposefully gone to PNC’s website to look for opportunities,” she says.

“Handshake is easy to navigate, and it’s easy to narrow your job search by location. What’s nice is employers can set criteria, but if there’s something you don’t match, it tells you how important that is.

“For example, if a company wants a business management major but you majored in economics, maybe you could apply anyway.”

Handshake has a peer-to-peer feature,where job-seekers can pose questions about other people’s experiences with an employer.

“If you want to know what it’s like to work for Google, you can ask someone who works for Google,” Gifford explains.

“We always encourage students to network and job-shadow, but I think this is a really easy, comfortable way for them to make connections.”

“I like how people can leave job reviews,” Kach says of the peer-to-peer capabilities. “When I interned at rose plastic,® it prompted me to leave a review, and it was nice to be able to recommend the experience.

“It also helped to calm my nerves about not knowing anyone at PNC, because I could get some information first about what it’s like there.”

Handshake has a mobile app that has a “very cool social media feel,” Gifford says. “Students fill out their interests initially, and the more they use it, the better the recommendations get.”

Employer benefits

Handshake is ideal for businesses that are seeking interns or looking to hire newer graduates, Gifford says.

“Handshake’s mission is to help the new college graduate transition into the workplace.”

It’s a convenient platform for employers because they can reach students at more than 700 schools with one account.

Alumna Brittany Pattison Madoni ’07 works in human resources for Ensinger, a plastics manufacturer headquartered in Washington, Pa., with production facilities in New Jersey, Texas and Delaware. This fall, in addition to taking part in Cal U’s on-campus career fair, the company usedHandshake in its search for a technical sales intern.

“There are definitely advantages to using Handshake when (a business has) multiple locations, since students right out of college are more willing to travel or may want to move to different locations before they settle,” Madoni says.

HR professional Brittany Madoni '07 (left) utilizes both Handshake and on-campus recreuiting.

Alaina Emery works as a human resources business partner for the City of Pittsburgh Department of Human Resources and Civil Service.

She says the ability to recruit nationally is a Handshake benefit.

“It’s a critical tool to help us reach targeted audiences across the country. We are able to get jobs and internships in front of thousands of students very quickly.

“We started using it as a way to register for career events,and then when we recognized what a powerful application it is, we started taking advantage of all the opportunities.”

Both HR professionals have advice for students.

“It’s extremely important for students to start using the platform to get a head start on their job search or get work experience through internships,” Madoni says.

“It’s also important to see some of the different businesses out there and to get familiar with the jobs that are available.”

“This platform puts a large portion of employers seeking talent at your fingertips,” Emery adds. “It is a great resource to use when seeking professional experience.”