As an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, Fredrik Marø, a native of Norway, knew he wanted to work in investment banking in New York. He asked the career services office at Penn's business school, the Wharton School, for leads to alumni with Scandinavian backgrounds who might be able to help. The career officer handed him a binder full of names and wished him good luck.
"As a sophomore in college, [that] was pretty intimidating, and I got nowhere quickly," says Marø, who adds that without intercession from Penn, a managing director at Goldman Sachs would be highly unlikely to critique his résumé on a cold call.
Fast forward about five years, and Marø, now an M.B.A. student at Harvard Business School, found that its career services office couldn't help him, either. So he and three friends in M.B.A. programs at Harvard and Penn decided to cofound Evisors, which they describe as "an online marketplace for expertise." Evisors connects students with experts in M.B.A.-related fields, who share their experiences and answer students' questions in one-on-one phone sessions.
"Career offices are doing a great job, but not even Harvard Business School—with 40 career coaches on staff—can cover all the jobs, industries, and functions that students are interested in," says Marø, Evisors's CEO. "Career offices teach students basic job seeking skills like how to write a résumé, but to get the job in this economy they need company and industry expertise, which we provide."
Asked about the competition, Marø says many schools work with consultants, offer students subscriptions to career publications such as the Vault and WetFeet guides, and use a product called InterviewStream, a web-based video interviewing service. But Evisors is unique in its scale—1,000 experts to Harvard's 40—and its on-demand nature, where experts don't need to actually visit schools, he says.
[Learn why you should consider a school's career services before applying.]
The immediacy of Facebook has led students to expect nearly instantaneous responses to their queries, according to Marø, which is why he and his cofounders conceived of Evisors as an "on-demand" LinkedIn, where experts are actually accessible and respond to E-mails and phone calls from strangers. Since Evisors launched in September 2010, 20 schools have become clients of Evisors. Students at those schools can look through Evisors's online database of nearly 1,000 career coaches, CEOs, and entrepreneurs, which are separated into three areas: admissions, career, and business.
A recent TechCrunch article compared Evisors to Quora, a site where users ask and answer questions and evaluate other users' content, because Evisors users who work with experts can evaluate them. Schools either pre-pay by the hour to purchase Evisors sessions for students and alumni, or they can subscribe to an institutional service. The school-wide service lands students and alumni a 20 percent discount on Evisors's regular rates, which range from $30 an hour to $600 an hour, depending on the expert, Marø says.
Evisors also launched a series of webinars, or online seminars, with its experts in September 2011. Also that month, Evisors announced 15 new partnerships with schools such as Boston College's Carroll School of Management, Emory University's Goizueta Business School, Fordham University's School of Business Administration, and Oklahoma State University's Spears School of Business. Marø says 13 of the 15 new additions are business schools.
Donna Modica, associate director of graduate management career services at the Carroll School, confirmed that BC signed up for Evisors's webinars. "For students, the webinar provides valuable insight directly from professionals who have worked in the field," she says.
[Read tips for using an M.B.A. to change careers.]
Maria Ponomareva, an M.B.A. student at McGill University in Montreal, says the Amsterdam-based expert she interacted with in a one-on-one, 45-minute phone session gave both general advice and a specific tip on a computer program, which she then chose to use in her internship.
Ponomareva says she also had success writing to McGill alumni on LinkedIn, but that Evisors added a personal touch. "If you can actually have a real talk with the person in the field, that's great," she says.
Although she recommends the service to other business students, Ponomareva says it's not necessarily going to lead to jobs, because local experts are necessary to get "actionable advice" or business leads. "Because it's so global it's very useful for general purposes," she says, "but it's local [contacts] that would actually know how to help more with what you are looking for, like internships."
Jorge Paramo, a graduate student at Texas Christian University's Neeley School of Business, who has participated in an hourlong conference call with an Evisors expert, recommends the service to business school applicants. Evisors is a "direct channel of interaction" between students and industry professionals, which can provide "invaluable advice and insight" and can give an edge to business students, who often "have a lot on our plate and our stakes are high," he says.
[Check out M.B.A. application tips from admissions officials.]
"I believe [Evisors] can help students get a job because of the direct advice," he says.
Paul Hardister, assistant director of Claremont Graduate University's Office of Career Management, says CGU has run three Evisors webinars, and has three more scheduled. He believes Evisors can empower career services offices at smaller colleges and universities, which don't tend to have deep reserves of alumni.
Hardister wouldn't recommend that applicants select a school just because they see on Evisors's website that it's a partnering institution. "However, I think Evisors can help level the playing field," he says.
Ryan Paugh, chief of staff and community director at the nonprofit Young Entrepreneur Council, says there are a wide range of free and nearly free platforms available to students.
Paugh, who was not familiar with Evisors, says his organization runs "interactive live chats" during which an expert, via live video feed, offers 15 minutes of "tips and tricks" to viewers. Viewers can then submit questions via Twitter or a widget on the nonprofit's website, and the presenter responds.
"In my experience, there's a lot that young people interested in entrepreneurship can do for free or for fairly cheap—do-it-yourself educational experience," he says.
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