Little did I know, when I walked into the 2008 Spring ERE Expo, nervous and open-eyed, it would dramatically change the course of my life and work.
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I was a junior at Stanford University and the president of Stanford Women in Business, a pre-professional organization of 400 undergraduate women. I helped recruiters meet talented women in our organization, and I had recently thought of an idea for a startup to improve diversity recruiting. I named the startup Anapata, the Swahili phrase meaning to find, to obtain, to achieve.
I had come to the ERE Expo 2008 to learn about the recruiting industry’s technological advances and needs firsthand from the movers and shakers of the industry.
Arriving at the conference mid-session, I started my experience at the exhibit hall. It was here that I found the world of recruiting software. In traditional online recruiting, there were the big job sites — Monster, CareerBuilder, Simply Hired, and the like — followed by the niche job sites, such as the Ladders and AfterCollege. There was no existing company that helped employers with diversity recruiting. None.
The hot new category of companies present in the exhibition hall was social media companies, LinkedIn being featured first, immediately next to the door. In addition, social media companies were highlighted all over the conference. Clint Heiden represented VisualCV in the Startup Forum panel. A whole session was dedicated to using Diigo for social webpage marking. Penelope Trunk, founder of Brazen Careerist and a keynote speaker, shared her expertise on Gen Y and emphasized the necessity of online social media as a modern recruiting tool.
Social media marketing was a hot strategy that most companies already included in their budgets; however, social media recruiting was new and brilliant. The job search was no longer a sporadic and private chore but rather a social activity and a continual process. In other words, the norm was becoming a world in which candidates considered their careers not one path to a dream destination, but a lifelong journey comprised of many interesting stopovers that is navigated by creating and maintaining relationships with recruiters, mentors, and colleagues via online social media.
I was inspired. I was so taken away by Penelope’s grasp on social media recruiting that I waited eagerly after her talk to ask for five minutes of her time and hear her thoughts on my new idea.
The idea was to use social media to transform diversity recruiting. I would provide group management tools and professional networks for diversity organizations across the country. The majority of diversity organizations at colleges and graduate schools do not have the budget or means to create a strong website. This lack of online presence makes it unnecessarily difficult, if not impossible, for outside entities — similar groups at other schools, employers, recruiters, and non-profits — to find or collaborate with these groups. Anapata would provide a place for these groups to maintain their web presence and their national network in one place, and in doing so, groups would help their members discover more employers, mentors, and diversity-focused resources towards achieving their career goals.
Student organizations are crucial to recruiting. Active participants in these organizations are those students who take the self-initiative to learn and engage in a particular subject (be it finance, clean energy, or engineering). These students are often the visionaries in their field. And, as a bonus, their participation in these organizations teaches them the extra ingredients for success — teamwork, leadership, follow-through, and dedication. There are a few companies that focus on helping employers reach student groups — a popular one being AfterCollege, a company that provides targeted job boards for student group websites. Direct student group recruiting, building a long-term relationship with group members and hiring the right students, however, would be Anapata’s unique platform.
It was in the conference center bar with Penelope (literally on drink napkins) that the business plan for Anapata became clear. I had originally thought of Anapata as a Google-like tool for recruiters to easily search resumes and meet diverse students for particular job opportunities. However, my means and market were not well defined. Five minutes turned into two hours, and by the time Penelope left the bar, I had a smart executable business plan. Penelope encouraged the idea of using social media, namely student group management and networking, as my primary means for diversity recruiting. We also discussed a number of initial markets and decided to focus on the legal profession. Minorities are underrepresented in law more than in any other line of work in the country. What’s more, the use of web-based recruiting and online networks in legal industry is abysmal. I was ready to revolutionize. Meeting Penelope at the ERE Expo was one of the best things to happen to Anapata.
A year later, Anapata is now an online diversity recruiting platform helping employers find talented and diverse law students at law schools across the United States. Anapata provides professional diversity networks, targeted job opportunities, and sophisticated online tools (such as mentor matching and web-based job interviews) to help diverse law students find the right employment. In turn, Anapata has not only created a place for employers to meet diverse talent from across the nation, but has also designed sophisticated recruiting tools to help employers find diverse candidates based on geographic interests, work preferences, group affiliations, academic performance, and extracurricular activities.
Attending the ERE Expo was an incredible experience for me. I heard recruiters’ discussions on student outreach and diversity firsthand, learned about the new methods and resources for successful recruiting, and gained a “pick up the phone” advisor — Penelope — who made clear to me that she is the type of advisor who will always “pick up the phone.” In the coming months, I’m excited to expand Anapata not only into a larger office space but also as a service to diversity networks in other industries. I’m so grateful for the support of ERE and Penelope, and I continue learning from them both through this exhilarating journey and recruiting revolution.