- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2009

Sean Fuller, a 20-year-old junior at the University of the District of Columbia, had been to job fairs before, but never so successfully as last fall.

Then in his second year at UDC, he was surprised to find an internship opportunity in sales with an independent agency for Aflac, the insurance company.

“Being a sophomore at the time, getting an internship was something that would never happen,” the Jamaica-born computer science major said.

The internship ended in June, but Mr. Fuller is now a certified Aflac trainee who participates in sales pitches to employers interested in offering disability and other insurance to their employees.

A successful sale can net him a hefty commission.

He first contacted Aflac through Zippyjobs.com, run by a local startup the university chose to power its own careers Web site.

Student Employment Council Inc., which administers Zippyjobs.com, arranged the fall job fair and invited Aflac.

“UDC asked us to help attract more employers to the career and scholarship fair,” said Jason Panda, a Georgetown Law graduate who co-founded Student Employment Council in 2006.

“Sean had found an Aflac job on our Web site, and we arranged for a face-to-face meeting with a recruiter when they came in,” he said.

“Our Web site is really unique in that it is the first and only site that allows students to look for jobs based on a variety of tools such as proximity to campus, grade-point average and major,” Mr. Panda said.

“The site is highly targeted, we say it’s like e-Harmony for job searches. We don’t just want to present you with a list of 10,000 jobs it will take you hours to go through.”

Zippyjobs.com also offers a “job concierge” service, where students who aren’t finding the job they want can ask Student Employment Council to help.

Mr. Panda founded the company with Khalil Jai Hokimi, a former executive with D.C. educational software company Blackboard Inc.

Finding a job with flexible hours that is close to home or school can be difficult and time-consuming, and that has fostered a new generation of job sites such as Zippyjobs.com that are free for students to use and affordable for employers.

When 21-year old Laura Golden, a student at Hillsdale College in Michigan, started looking for a part-time job during the school year to offset the cost of tuition, “it was a nightmare,” she said.

One of her scholarships required her to work eight hours a week. It doesn’t sound like much — but finding any work is difficult in this economy.

Miss Golden scrambled to try to find a number of odd jobs such as baby-sitting, tutoring and working at a child-care center.

“It would have been really nice to use [a Web site to find a job] because I was really struggling for a while,” she said.

Many other students find themselves in the same position, seeking part-time employment both during the school year and while on vacation.

Thai Nguyen, chief executive of Jobaphiles.com and a recent graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., said sites such as his are essential for “those students in the middle, who are not eligible for financial aid.”

Jobaphiles.com allows students to post profiles and resumes and employers to post openings and encourages interaction between the two. Students can include salary bids, indicating the amount of compensation they are seeking.

Mike Swells, director of marketing and public relations for RISE, a Boston nightclub popular with students, recently posted an opening on the site and was impressed by the responses.

Mr. Swells, who is seeking to hire a club promoter, said Jobaphiles is the perfect resource because it caters to the college population his business attracts.

“Jobaphiles lets students find us, so once we describe what we’re looking for, they’re only going to submit an application if they’re really interested and meet our requirements,” he said.

Jobaphiles is free both for students and employers. It’s revenue comes mostly from advertisements. Zippyjobs charges employers from $25 to $100 a month, while another site, CollegeHelpers.com, charges from $20 to $60.

Fred Grant, owner of CollegeHelpers.com, said that is a small price to pay for connecting to job seekers.

Many schools focus solely on postgraduate job opportunities but not on part-time jobs for current students, he said.

So he communicates with colleges and universities nationwide in an effort to bring the CollegeHelpers site to the attention of the students.

“Jobs on the site range from things like child care and yard work to internships and part-time restaurant jobs,” said Mr. Grant.

Kelsey Heiner, a 20-year-old Boston College student, used CollegeHelpers.com to find a baby-sitting job during the school year.

“I was looking for something that didn’t take a ton of time and wasn’t too stressful … I posted my profile on the site and listed that I was interested in child care, and the site matched me with a list of employers in need of my service,”she said.

Miss Heiner was able to state what kind of hours she could work as well as how far she was willing to commute, so that the job wouldn’t interfere with her classes.

“It was convenient because it’s hard to get jobs on campus, and with other part-time jobs, hours are less flexible and it’s hard if, like me, you can only work one or two days a week,” she said.

She ultimately found a position only a short walk from campus, and because of this convenience, “even though I baby-sat during the week, on weekends I could also be flexible according to [the family’s] schedule if they needed me on occasional Saturday afternoons for a couple of hours. … So it was nice for both of us to have that option,” she said.

Cathy McCarthy, senior vice president of marketing at SnagAJob.com, said the hourly employment the site specializes in is perfect for many students.

“It’s typically a good match for students because they need flexibility, and hourly jobs can provide that flexibility to them with different positions and shift durations,” she said.

“Our site has [a variety of positions] where the majority don’t require advanced degrees. So a student would have the qualifications, versus other job sites which may only post jobs that require advanced degrees.”

Through SnagAJob.com, a student can fill out the free application once, and send it to as many employers as he chooses, optimizing his exposure without having to visit each business to see if it is hiring.

At their best, student job services can be as much about learning and career choices as making money.

“A lot of students look for jobs just for a paycheck, but you can get a job that is fun and adds to your resume,” said Mr. Panda of Student Employment Council. “It can help you find the ideal job when you graduate.”

For Mr. Fuller, his internship at Aflac taught an important lesson that students focused on one particular field can miss.

“It showed me how internships outside your major can be applied to your major,” he said.

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