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Company helps students prepare for job market

In today’s job market, the unemployed face major challenges. Recent college graduates often find themselves thrust into the real world, jobless and left to determine their own way along the job-search route. Purple Briefcase Inc. wants to change that.

The Fairport company provides a platform that shares insider tips to help students stand out in the competitive job market and recruiting world.

“What would have been a way that I or anyone would have (gone) looking for a job, say, five years ago or two years ago is dramatically different in today’s market,” said Allison Keenan, co-founder with her husband, Brian, of Purple Briefcase. “Keeping the students well-educated on career advancement and career preparation is very critical to understand and hopefully reduce underemployment and unemployment from a student perspective.”

Purple Briefcase has seven employees and expects to add five more this year. By 2015 the company expects to have 25 employees, to do 80 percent of its hiring in Rochester and to have some regional sales teams.

The Keenans expect revenues to grow more than 300 percent this year. Le Moyne College in Syracuse is the first to use the product. Its career and advising department introduced its students to the website a few weeks ago at the start of the spring semester.

“I think that they had such a great branding … their website was great, their platform was great,” said Patti Bevans, director of career advising and development at Le Moyne College. “Technology is where our students are, and so I knew that this would be something that they would latch onto.”

The platform gives students an opportunity for some self-discovery and career exploration so they are more knowledgeable when they meet the Le Moyne staff, she said.

“We see it as a complement to the services that (we) offer and certainly not a replacement,” Bevans added.

Some 10 other universities are in the final stages of review and negotiations with Purple Briefcase. A long-term goal is to have 30 universities using the product by year’s end. 

The platform moves away from information presented in a PDF format to video that uses language that the tech-savvy students can relate to.

The career-based videos include topics such as the importance of using keyword density—the percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a page compared with the number of words on a page. The better the density the more noticed a resume becomes. Other topics include ways to build repertoire in an interviewer’s office and advice from mid-stage career professionals. The videos are generally three minutes long.

“What we find is that students sometimes wait to go to the career center until they get nervous about getting a job,” said Brian Keenan. “They’re not as proactive as a lot of colleges would like them to be, so our tool sort of dovetails with the efforts of the professionals who work in career services.”

The Keenans founded their company last spring.

Previously they owned Keenan, Keenan and Associates Inc., which did business as the Employment Store for a decade. The regional recruitment firm grew into one of the largest upstate recruiting and contract staffing companies. Changing from recruiters to employment advisers allowed the Keenans to share years of insider tips with job seekers.

“There (are) so many things that we’re bringing to this business,” said Brian Keenan. “When you hire as many folks over a career as we have, you get to the point where you review resumes very quickly. Reviewing tons of resumes gives you the opportunity to see which ones stand out to you and why.”

The Employment Store was merged into a larger company called Core Education and Consulting Solutions Inc. By the time the Keenans left, the company had grown to 40 employees.

They chose the name Purple Briefcase as a hybrid to symbolize positive attention and professionalism.

After college, on one of Brian Keenan’s first job interviews, another applicant wore a purple suit, standing out in the wrong way to get a recruiter’s attention.

“He was dressed head to toe in purple: (a purple) suit and purple shoes,” he said. “We came to the revelation that what he did right was he made me remember him, but I sort of remember him as almost a caricature or a clown. We say you can stand out, but you always have to remember to stand out in a professional way.”

Purple Briefcase has high potential to alter lives through timely and specific guidance, Le Moyne officials say.

“When you’re in the employment field in general you have a very dramatic impact on people’s lives,” said Brian Keenan. “We’re trying to take a slightly different approach here. We think that we can help many more people by teaching them a little bit of an insider’s opinion.”

2/21/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected]

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