Equals6 Portal Helps Students Find That First Job

There has been a lot of talk in business circles of late about the problem graduates have in finding employment. A Halifax firm believes it has an answer.

Equals6 is an online portal that students can use in their academic and career development, to connect with like-minded individuals and also with potential employers. It is the brainchild of Haligonian Andy Osburn, who stresses that this is a “professional” network, not a “social” one. If you want to exchange photos go elsewhere, but if you want to build an online portfolio of your goals, experience, skills, work samples, etc., then this is the place.

Osburn likens it to LinkedIn, a professional network typically used by people who are already employed. Like LinkedIn, members can join groups, showcase talents, and outline their interests. And like LinkedIn, they can build an online profile, share it with others and communicate with their contacts.

But unlike LinkedIn, Equals6 is targeted for people as young as kids in Grade 11. Osburn is hoping to attract the right audience: bright, motivated high-school and post-secondary students who want to make good decisions about their academic progress, which educational institutions to consider, and what potential employers might be out there. It also has an online portfolio component based on the model followed by NSCC.

The main problem Equals6 hopes to solve is of getting that first job. Osburn hopes that if enough students sign up (for free), they will not only help each other out, but they will also form a base of potential employees. And it is the employers who are seeking the best and the brightest who pay for the service via such features as job postings and scholarship management.

The next six months will be crucial to building the critical mass needed to make the network fly, and Osburn is not taking any chances. He has instituted a “student ambassador” program, whereby he pays students to promote the network, starting with Nova Scotia and in Massachusetts, locations with many universities graduating people who have a challenge finding work.

He is also offering scholarships, based on site usage, academic merit, and community involvement. The first set of high-school and post-secondary scholarships is set to be awarded on June 1, 2011, so kids sign up and be counted! The goal is to have 10,000 users by the end of 2011.

The site itself is very easy to traverse. There are two main parts to it: one for students and educators, and one for organizations. To find the site, Google “Equals6” and it will be the top entry. Don’t expect anything like Facebook – the site is intentionally designed to portray a serious, professional look.

Equals6 is self-funding, with five equity partners, designed after holding many focus groups, and largely developed by students. A board of advisors, with members from business and academia, keeps things on track and also chooses the Equals6 scholarship winners.

Plans in the works for the network include an “Equals6 certification program”, where achievements are measured in such things as education and training referrals, ethics training, and group facilitation.

Asked about the name, Osburn explained it as the last part of the phrase “Two plus two equals six”. Huh? Well, as it turns out the real phrase is “One plus one equals three”, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but the name Equals3 had already been taken.

“Equals6” sounds better anyway maintains Osburn, and who am I to argue.

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