By Marcus Lavergne
College students face some of life’s most pressing challenges both inside and outside of the classroom. From engineering to pre-med and everything in between, students at the University of Nevada, Reno, work to develop the skills it takes to work in a seemingly endless list of professions.
After getting a degree, for many the next question is how to find that “dream” job, or at least a starting rung on the ladder up to it. Finding that starting point has proven to be easier said than done. Statistics from a 2014 aftercollege.com SurveyMonkey questionnaire showed that around 83 percent of graduating seniors leave college without a job lined up, although 72 percent said they were actively searching.
According to that same survey, which included a group of 1,494 participants made up of college students and recent graduates, nearly half of the participants were looking toward their institutions to do a better job in preparing them for the workforce. Forty-eight percent of students wished for more networking opportunities as well as a greater emphasis on job-readiness education mixed in with academic work.
Between graduating students, alumni and employers, there are mixed opinions on who’s at fault for the millennials’ lack of success in the working world after college. A study conducted by Bentley University in 2013 showed that some employers believed millennials were simply not prepared to work — contrary to what some millennials believe. Some said it takes a different approach to reach out to potential employees — one that involves the consideration of graduates’ “values and passions,” while others believe that it’s an issue of connectivity.
George Nicholas firmly believes in the latter. Nicholas graduated from UNR last May as a mechanical engineering major. One day, while relaxing with his father, he had a troubling thought.
“We were in the hot tub in my house in Stockton,” Nicholas said. “We were talking about my capstone project, and I was laughing about this team. They were creating a treadmill for [reptiles] for some researchers. It was just crazy, [they] have all this potential. I’m sure the researchers were thrilled, but this wasn’t gonna turn into a job or internship for them.”
Nicholas took that thought and turned it into an online job-matching platform, Dringo. According to Nicholas, COO and founder and co-founder Frank Olson, Dringo is a Reno-centric, user-friendlier database, a place where graduating students and alumni can find projects, internships and connect with employers more efficiently.
“We had the idea,” Nicholas said. “Let’s make it easy for these kids to go find companies and entrepreneurs to work with. It would be awesome if we can make this easy, because right now the students have no idea what’s available, and there’s really nowhere you can go online and find projects or do anything like this.”
The Dringo team began conducting market research last summer, and through talking with northern Nevada organizations like Economic Development in Reno-Sparks- Tahoe, the Chamber of Commerce and 1 Million Cups found that the community has a hard time figuring out what students are doing at UNR.
“What the university has in place right now doesn’t seem to be accomplishing what the community wants,” Nicholas said. “As a third party we feel that we can communicate with both sides and facilitate this. As students, we have the best, basic view of what the students need.”
Through Dringo, students can obtain a free membership and filter through positions, projects and internships. Businesses, project managers, employers and others can find student profiles and resumes easily. The website creates an open two-way link between the two groups.
Olson, an electrical engineer and UNR alum, also enjoys the local centricity of Dringo, which separates them from other job-matching sites like LinkedIn. According to him, positions in his field pull students toward regions like the Bay Area and away from the university. He says Dringo will help keep students in Reno where they’re needed.
“[Dringo] allows companies to look into the current students and grab their interest before they leave, show them that there are companies here that want and need their help or their skills,” Olson said.
Aside from keeping Reno businesses and students together and emphasizing simplified communication, Nicholas says Dringo will help make sure the most qualified potential employee gets the job, rather than the person who performs best during the interview.
According to Nicholas, the opportunity to work alongside students and alumni on projects before and during the hiring process makes for a better understanding of potential employees. Many of the projects are connected to classes that students are required to take, and Nicholas believes they should be “worth more than just a grade.” He says it can also lead to better decision making on behalf of employers.
“I know that a lot of times students who aren’t super charismatic go into an interview and don’t just kill it,” Nicholas said. “They feel kind of put out because they might be a better employee but they can’t go in and knock the person’s socks off. Now, the job’s no longer gonna go to the best talker, it’s gonna go to the person who can prove that they can do it.”
Nicholas and Olson hope Dringo will replace job boards and their potential to cause information overload with a more personable and efficient system catered to the needs of UNR students and the Reno community. Dringo’s website, dringo.org, launched last week, but remains in beta stage.
Marcus Lavergne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @mlavergne21.