SF college students find work through locally based networking site 

During their first summer home from college, San Francisco residents and best friends Joey Toboni and Justin Ohanessian tried to find work. They applied for countless restaurant server jobs all over The City, but were consistently turned down.

“No one wanted to hire a couple of inexperienced college kids for two to three months,” Ohanessian said.

A month into their summer and “pretty broke,” Toboni and Ohanessian, now both 29, posted an ad on Craigslist offering their services for anything from yard work to moving. They were quickly hired for a moving job that paid well and allowed them to work together.

Then they landed another odd job, and another. Before they knew it, their summer was over and their bank accounts were full.

That’s when Toboni and Ohanessian realized they were sitting on a potentially brilliant business plan: a network for residents looking to hire help for odd jobs, and ambitious college students who aren’t necessarily qualified or able to commit to full-time work.

“There’s a real demand for people who need these odd jobs done,” Toboni said. “And they like having college students work for them.”

Slightly more than 34 percent of recent high school graduates who were enrolled in college were working or looking for work in October, according to data released in April by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, the unemployment rate for college students was 8.6 percent.

Five years after graduating from college, Toboni and Ohanessian in September 2012 launched their website, College Labor, to connect people who need work done with college students looking for a job.

The process includes vetting students through interviews and references in order to provide reliable employees for customers. It also keeps students from having to spend time scouring other resources for work.

The site also allows college students to explore different work environments and forge relationships with potential future employers.

“Flexibility is very unique to this kind of opportunity,” said Joseph Engleman, 20, a junior at University of San Francisco who has found work through College Labor for more than a year.

Engleman added that he too knows of many students who have trouble finding work.

“It’s a major problem,” he said. “[There are] all kinds of students I know who can’t find steady work.”

So far, some 180 students and recent graduates, primarily in The City, have found work through College Labor, though hundreds apply to join the networking site. Toboni and Ohanessian — who both also have full-time jobs outside of running the site — are hoping to eventually expand their business.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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