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Handshake graphicIn its latest effort to give current students and recent graduates a competitive advantage in the workplace, Whitman College signed an agreement with Handshake, a leading platform for connecting candidates to employers for internships, jobs, research opportunities and post-graduation positions.

More than 180,000 employers—from Fortune 500 companies (Google, Genentech) to nonprofit giants (United Nations, Teach For America) to government entities (U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey)—utilize the portal. They post positions for and find talent from upward of 350 participating American colleges and universities. Based in San Francisco, Handshake has seen exponential growth and garnered media praise since its founding in 2014 by a trio of Michigan State University engineering students.  

"The transition to Handshake will be a game-changer for our students and young alumni," said Kimberly Rolfe, director for business engagement at Whitman. "Handshake is on the cutting-edge of career development for the next generation."  

Her colleague Gayle Townsend '80, assistant director of career development and the college's main career counselor, agreed. "This new dynamic platform will be helpful to students as they progress toward their life after Whitman," she said.  

Set up like Facebook pages, Handshake provides networking opportunities, job postings, outcome tracking, appointment scheduling, customized profiles and career counseling, among other services, "all in a platform that is engaging and user-friendly," Rolfe said. The platform applies technological advances like algorithm-driven content and social media-like views as well as offers updates about workshops, speakers and events on a local, regional and national scale. Through these digital best practices, most schools experience a twofold to threefold increase in opportunities for their constituents within six months, according to Handshake press materials. 

"The breadth of this system allows students and young alumni to access internship, full-time and part-time positions in a variety of locations across the country, including Walla Walla, Portland, Seattle and other parts of the region most popular with Whitties, not to mention possibilities from international organizations," Rolfe said. 

"And Handshake's keyword capabilities and tailor-made searching allow alumni and parents interested in getting more Whitties into their organization to take concrete steps in that direction, whether hiring managers or not," she added. "In fact, we have already sent invitations to alumni, parents and employers to create profiles, connect with Whitman and begin recruiting at Whitman through the platform."

Townsend pointed to Handshake's interactive and real-time capabilities, "which let students schedule their own appointments and confer with Student Engagement Center staff easily," she said. "Also, my team can view student profiles and get a sense of what types of companies and internships they are looking at and what kinds of campus activities and events they participate in. This means we gain a greater in-depth perspective of students. And that results in a more comprehensive counseling experience." 

Launched at Whitman in early August, Handshake also became the primary online way for current Whitties to seek work study and non-work study campus jobs.

Handshake replaces iEngage, which housed Whitman's online jobs and internships portal from 2012 through this year." iEngage served our purposes at the time, but Handshake lets us scale up the access Whitman students and recent graduates will have to incredible opportunities in a way that previous resources couldn't," said Rolfe.

To learn more about Handshake at Whitman College, contact the Student Engagement Center by email at sec_info@whitman.edu or by phone at (509) 527-5183.