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A Cambridge-based startup called Jobcase is trying to become the LinkedIn for everyone not on LinkedIn — that is, people who might not have an advanced skill set, or who are looking for advice and moral support.
Founder Fred Goff used to run a hedge fund, using machine learning to predict the markets and make money. But now, he's using those machine-learning algorithms to help people find jobs.
Goff created Jobcase in 2014, with a mission to serve people who were overlooked by traditional job websites.
"If you go from Dunkin' Donuts to Starbucks to Marriott, you [have to] prove yourself over and over and over, you constantly have to start over," he says.
He says it doesn't work anymore to move up the ladder at one company, like his grandfather did, working at a factory in Ohio.
"Everyone kind of has to be their own free agent, but it's not obvious how to work that," he says.
It was obvious to Goff, though. So he created a platform to manage the future of work.
These days, approximately 20 million people a month use Jobcase. And some companies, like Home Depot, use the site to find workers.
But it's not just about a transactional job search. If you surf the site, you'll notice a support group, with people offering advice to one another. And in a world where social media can seem toxic, people here are remarkably kind to one another, posting their successes or asking for prayers before an interview.
That community is what drew Ed Newport to Jobcase.
Newport lives in Springfield. He's been looking for work since Christmas. He's 55 with a degree in business administration. And over the years, he's had a mix of jobs; at one point he was an accountant, then a baker. He stumbled on Jobcase a couple of weeks ago.
He says it's unlike any other job website he's used, in part because of the community and diversity of workers — people with different educational and socioeconomic backgrounds who can help each other.
"It helps me to help others. Helps me to relieve stress of looking for employment, realize other people are going through the same ordeal as what I am," he says.
Hunting for a job has become more of an electronic exercise. And that's been a tough transition for some, according to workforce development specialists who run career centers around Boston.
Some entry-level workers might be intimidated by LinkedIn because of its more corporate nature.
"I think a website like [Jobcase] is useful for people that are close to being able to getting a job on their own. But they might need a little bit of support," says Sunny Schwartz, president of the Metro North Regional Employment Board, which covers 20 cities and towns north of Boston.
But Schwartz is skeptical Jobcase can help everyone find a job.
Unemployment in Massachusetts is low, around 3.5 percent. Schwartz says people who aren't working in this current economy probably have more barriers to entering the workforce. Maybe their English skills are poor, or they have a criminal record.
And in those situations, she says professional in-person help at a career center is more critical than an online platform.
As for Newport in Springfield, he's got a final round interview next week for an accounting clerk. It's a gig he found on Jobcase.
This segment aired on January 24, 2018.
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