In a job market contracting every month, professional connections can be the difference between landing an interview or continuing an arduous job search. That’s why the co-founders of MyWorkster created a professional networking site that connects students with alumni and allows members to search for contacts in their field who can give them an advantage over the competition.

Jeff Saliture and Doug Baruchin of Long Island have redeveloped the MyWorkster site, which first launched in 2006, making it easier for recent college graduates to pinpoint alumni who might offer a tip, give a phone number, or arrange an interview.

Baruchin and Saliture often compare MyWorkster to social-networking giant Facebook, but instead of sharing photos from last weekend’s cookout, MyWorkster users strive to make a connection that could lead to a steady paycheck. There are about 5 million job opportunities on MyWorkster, the co-founders said.

"We wanted to create a professional Facebook," said Baruchin, 43, a former insurance agent, adding that Saliture’s understanding of computer networking gelled with his own familiarity with face-to-face networking. "I understood that need for traditional networking, and he understood what was up and coming in [technology]."

Saliture said MyWorkster won’t unveil its membership count until later this year, but 30 universities and colleges nationwide have created official MyWorkster pages, and dozens of other schools have unofficial sites started by alumni or students.

Saliture, 25, a 2008 Hofstra University graduate, said the Facebook-like front page creates a user-friendly atmosphere that makes MyWorkster different from button-down job search web sites.

"We’re trying to make an addictive portal for the millennial generation," Saliture said, adding that connections made on MyWorkster can appear on a member’s Facebook profile, and users’ friends can be invited via Facebook.

Fred Burke, executive director of Hofstra’s career center, said MyWorkster’s latest changes allow students to narrow their search down to a handful of Hofstra alumni who might offer a helping hand to a fellow graduate.

"You have a chance to get an insider’s scoop," said Burke, who added that 800 Hofstra alums have signed up for MyWorkster and a student launch is scheduled for mid-March.

As headlines trumpeting monthly job losses clutter the national headlines, Burke said finding new ways to form professional relationships will become critical in the coming months and years.

"I think in a job market like this, it could be an excellent way to build a professional network," he said. "It’s very simple and it’s very straightforward. … You have to utilize a lot of paths toward a career, and there’s very little room for error these days."

MyWorkster offers a menu of options for pinpointing job searches. A member can search by industry, school, profession, or zip code, among other categories. Members also can narrow searches down to graduation year, perhaps helping a student connect with someone they went to college with rather than an alum who graduated 20 years earlier. 

If a student would like to apply for an internship or entry-level job with a specific company, he or she can narrow the search that way, too, Baruchin said. If the user finds an alum at that company, he said, a connection is more likely.

"It’s in people’s nature to help fellow alumni," Baruchin said. "It’s helping people land interviews every day."

Burke, the head of Hofstra’s career center, said advisors there remind students and recent graduates that networking sites like MyWorkster require careful monitoring of personal information or photos that might drive employers away.

"We have to remind students to remain professional," he said, "especially if [their MyWorkster profile] is connected to their Facebook [account]."

Saliture said MyWorkster originated in a dorm room among a group of discouraged and tech-savvy college students conducting exhaustive online job searches. Making a web site that streamlined the time-consuming process, he said, was the answer.

"We were incredibly frustrated with the process," Saliture said. "It was cumbersome and it lacked such human quality. … We knew we could do better."

Links:

MyWorkster

Hofstra University