Kansas City Job seekers was born in a way that many startups come to life. An individual needs something or is confronted with a problem, he searches for ways to obtain or solve it, and finally, he creates a solution or option for people in similar situations.
When Mark Van Baale found himself unemployed and looking for work in 2010, he had a difficult time tracking down the necessary information and connections to get his foot in the door at the right place. It was tough for him to find resources or other people in the same boat. So, he joined a group called New Landings, whose purpose was to help individuals in the Kansas City area find jobs. They offered workshops and posted information about networking events on their LinkedIn page for members looking to gain connections and/or find job opportunities.
However, one day, Mark experienced a glitch on the LinkedIn informational page when he was trying to access details about upcoming networking events. This got him to thinking that a blog or a website specifically intended for this information would be easier to navigate. And thus, he transformed his problem into an opportunity: Kansas City Job Seekers.
While there are other great blogs and sites that offer similar information, Kansas City Job Seekers has become a central resource. The website began as a place that listed all of the upcoming networking events in the area, and later, it incorporated job leads.
Now, where does one actually find jobs to share with site visitors, and how does he spread the word about such a new project? For starters, websites like Indeed.com and CareerBuilder.com were helpful resources for Mark, as they aggregate a multitude of job types and companies. This allowed him to peruse the listings to find marketing, social media and graphic design job openings in the area, and then post the information on his own site.
Mark was also active on social media outlets such as Twitter and LinkedIn, on which he announced the launch of Kansas City Job Seekers. His connections, such as New Landings group members, caught wind of his project and they started sending job seekers there. Eventually, others started to get involved as well. When people and companies came across or had a job opening available, they would send it to Mark to be posted on the website, in hopes of obtaining a wider reach.
The site spread mostly by word of mouth, to the point that job seekers from all over the country visited it. It eventually became one of the go-to spots for job information in the Kansas City area. This is largely due to the support of community members. “When I moved to Kansas City, I realized that I didn’t know how caring the community was at large. It’s there to help job seekers find the resources they need”
ESTABLISHING A FACE
As the social media and marketing industries continued to grow rapidly, Mark realized that he may have identified his niche. Visitors began frequenting the website for the sheer fact that it offered jobs specific to those particular fields. Concurrently, he established his own values, choosing not to post anything related to tobacco, alcohol or gambling.
Mark likes to think of himself as the middleman, helping job seekers get in touch with the experts that they should be connected with. He also puts people in touch with his contacts in order to help them improve their resumes. This gives them the opportunity to have their resumes and profiles be shown in a more positive light, making it easier to be found and searched for online.
“I’m not a recruiter myself, but if someone reaches out to me, I’ll try to get them connected with somebody who can help them. There have been times in the past when I have gone to other people to get help on my resume.”
Because you can only put so much on a resume, Mark is an advocate for providing as much information about your experience and trade as you can on different outlets; portfolio websites and LinkedIn accounts, for example. He believes that the more details you share, the better off you will be.
Additionally, Mark informs visitors about future workshops held by recruiting agencies for the purpose of improving resumes or better network themselves, and, each week, an e-newsletter gets sent out offering links to networking events, information on new jobs and more.
THE BENEFITS, THE CHALLENGES & THE FUTURE
While building the Kansas City Job Seekers, Mark has reaped its benefits. Though he was sharing information about networking opportunities as a hobby, he was also connecting with a lot of people himself, and even found some work. In fact, his current job for the City of Kansas City fell in his lap because the job opening was sent to him to post on the site.
Despite the fact that Mark’s services have been free thus far, he continues with his venture because he thoroughly enjoys helping others. His efforts have made a positive impact on Kansas City community members, which has pushed and enabled him to continue to manage it over the last five years.
In 2016, however, he hopes to make his venture profitable. Currently, he posts jobs for free. In the future, he would like to optimize the website in such a way that certain jobs are featured more prominently, ultimately gaining more attention than others might. These slots could be potential money makers. He also hopes to feature other Kansas City businesses that specialize in helping people in the area, with information on how they connect.
Most people would get frustrated and discouraged after having trouble finding a job. But not Mark Van Baale. He turned his problem into an opportunity “I want Kansas City Job Seekers to be a resource that people can continue to go to. I appreciate those who continue to share the site with job seekers, and I hope it’s a useful resource for them and that it helps them find the right contacts or the right job for what they are looking for.”
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