AUSTIN (KXAN) — You go to college and then get a job.
That’s usually the plan for college students as they seek to advance their knowledge and turn it into a career. But for 2020 alumni across America, they’re entering a workforce wearing masks in the face of the coronavirus. Jobs aren’t as readily available as unemployment continues to rise.
However, the University of Texas at Austin sees a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel for their Longhorns in the shade of burnt orange.
“The urgency was obvious. If you’re going to move into this job market, you’re going to need a connection more than ever. And so why not create a way for Longhorns to help other Longhorns. That was really the driving force behind accelerating the platform,” Texas Exes executive director Chuck Harris said.
Texas Exes, UT’s official alumni association, started a platform appropriately titled “Hooked In.”
The platform became a “passion project” for Harris. He should know because they bumped up its release months earlier than expected due to the pandemic.
“Oh my god, yeah, obviously, not at all how we planned… Literally, something like this, done in a regimented way, would take about a year…. We don’t have a year” Harris said. “When we saw the economy and everything happening, we partnered with our career office at the university, Texas Career Engagement — a number of the colleges there, and said, ‘Hey, we gotta get this thing to market.’ So we launched from ‘go’ to ‘show,’ to launch, in six weeks. And so in six weeks, we got this thing from contracting with our technology partner to 3,900 students and alums on the platform.”
The idea for the website started in Fall 2019 but went live with a soft opening last week, and so far they’ve been pleased with its performance. But the “UT-wide initiative” is a work in progress which they hope will organically grow as more join. Texas Exes sent out more than 200,000 invitations.
“The easiest way to think about it is it’s a private burnt orange LinkedIn, so we invite our alumni and friends to join on one half and then we have students, particularly the May  grads joining now. And the system has an algorithm to compare. When you join the platform, you identify things you’d be interested in doing: ‘I’d like to be a mentor, I could provide resume review,’ but most importantly, you join and say I’ll help open doors at work.”
The site currently has more than 500 job postings. When students join, they can log in and state what they’re specifically searching for.
“They say, ‘hey, I’m looking for career advice, or resume review, or ‘I need help getting a job’ in the system, and then we’ll pair those together and help them find each other.”
Harris shared what it means to have this accessible to graduates.
The moment that has all of our hearts and minds are these grads. You know, two months ago was this promised economy. We really focused on that, but obviously we want to help all Longhorns in need. In fact, we encourage and are trying to work with other Longhorns who may be in the workforce that have lost their job or are about to lose their job, and help them find another job, leveraging the power of the Longhorn network to do that. The secret ingredient to this is the 500,000 alumni we have around the world. They are our true brothers and sisters in this fight.
A fight Harris said is worth fighting.
“There’s so much pain out there that [the platform] doesn’t really feel like work. It feels great. We’re just on the precipice, and we’re really looking forward to seeing the impact that it has. The first job we’re able to connect someone to, there’ll be a virtual party somewhere. And hopefully, there are hundreds if not thousands that follow that.”
You can either sign in with your LinkedIn account or by registering with an email. The platform screens who can join to make sure you’re burnt orange. Learn more on their website here.