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CareerConnect_Update 2 (17/01)

A digital tool connecting students to jobs that can interest them in college by gaining money and work experience in a top company.

Photo of Jie Dong
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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

High school and college students have a chance in summer to gain new perspectives about the college and learn more about a particular skill. Also many companies have great programs and positions which open to students. Due to the poor information and current job search technology which mainly focus on graduates, many students actually don’t know what are the possible jobs. The motivation here for us is how to integrate students’ skills & interests with available positions from tons of companies.


Through brainstorming, we got two ideas. One of them called “CareerConnect” temporarily. The basic functionality we came up with is an online job matching system in terms of mobile application. We planned to build partnership with different companies and collect their open positions with specific requirements. At the same time, create a matching system in which students can input their skills, interests even expectations. And then through a matching process, the student can find a company even a specific job in summer. Through attending programs or doing jobs in summer, the students could not only get paid, but also gain new perspectives including college awareness and career direction which help them better prepare for their education and future career. Finally, build a long-term relationship between the company and the student.

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CareerConnect is a digital tool for universities and students to make education more affordable by matching personalized work opportunities for students to earn money or course credit while gaining valuable experience.


For low-income students, the choice to go to college often competes with the responsibilities of supporting themselves and their families financially. CareerConnect is designed with their needs in mind, matching personalized work opportunities that further their academic goals while earning money or college credit.

Students can apply for opportunities specific to their academic interests and skill set. Experience in the field helps students focus their course of study, reducing the extra coursework spent before declaring a major or switching majors.

University administrators and career counselors can post listings from any department and target relevant students rather than send mass emails. In the process administrators screen job and internship opportunities to ensure they fit wage and course credit standards.

Employers benefit from having access to a local talent pool with valuable skill sets and developing relationships with universities and students for future recruitment.


To university:

  • attract a diverse group of students including those from lower-income backgrounds
  • whitelabel product that can be implemented by any university without the need for additional IT support
  • no more mass emails that end up in the spam folder - target the right students for the right opportunities
  • collect data and analytics on hiring trends and in-demand skills
  • establish and maintain relationships with employers

To students:

  • matching algorithm selects opportunities that are best fit with your skills and interests
  • gain work experience to refine your academic and career goals
  • earn money or college credit
  • browse listings within your academic department and across the university
  • work directly with career counselors or administrators at the university
  • establish and maintain relationships with employers

To employers:

  • recruit local talent pool of students with valuable skill sets
  • work directly with career counselors or administrators at the university
  • establish and maintain relationships with universities and students


Through talked with students and got feedback from both school staff and students, we further refined our target audience based on their technique experience, motivation, using behavior and evaluation. Then decided the opportunity space for our product. What thrills us the most is how we polish up our target audience. Through interviewing with many students, we find that studying abroad usually costs lots of money for international students, and most of them want to do part-time jobs to improve their life quality. On the other hand, because of competitive job market, international students are eager to make money and gain experience. In addition to lower-income students, we could explore our product for international students as well.

Following is the User Persona we drafted out which describes the characteristics about our target audience.

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User Journey Map

"User journey maps are used to visualise the experiences of people when using a product or service, evaluating each individual interaction and identifying improvements that can be made at each moment."

This is the user journey map that we designed for our target user.

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paper prototype

Based on the conceptual idea, we made paper prototypes to test our idea to see if it may make sense, and to get feedbacks from our users. After our participants went through our product, they gave us many great and valuable insights so that we can further refine our ideas. 

Because we tested both American student and Chinese student, the feedbacks we got are from different perspective. We synthesized the most valuable viewpoints to further improve our product's functionality.

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Digital prototype

We built a digital prototype to better display our product. How it works? What is functionality? How is the screen flow and interactions. Please take 2 minutes to try our prototype and welcome any feedbacks. We will appreciate it so much.

Business model canvas

We have refined our product for students, schools and companies, because we are looking for a bridge that could connect students and companies to help both sides benefit from our solution. Here is our business model canvas. 

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What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

By doing user testing with students in campus, we would determine necessary elements for a job searching. We will also interview experts in industry to find out the scale of jobs for high school and college students, to check if they can convert the traditional job requirements to specific interests and skills as well. Through these process, we could future design the matching system.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Diversity insights from OpenIDEO community inspired us generate many ideas, also the feedbacks from peers can help us re-think and refine our ideas. By going through the workflow in this challenge, we would gradually find out the pain points and the key elements to solve the problem in an iterative design process.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

  • Yes


Join the conversation:

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We’re thrilled to have you in our Refinement phase, Jie! We love that your idea focuses on the career aspect of education from an earlier stage than graduation. We’re excited to see the matching, online, and relationship building elements of your idea evolve. Your persona and user experience map are a strong foundation for narrowing the focus and building out your idea further.

In the Refinement phase, we’d love to see you continue developing the viability, desirability and feasibility of your idea. The following are some feedback and provocations to consider. Your idea encompasses many different elements of the students’ experience. As you continue prototyping, it will be helpful to narrow which element you’d like to focus on. It seems as though you’ve already collected some information from students regarding the matching app, so perhaps building on that would be the most efficient way to proceed.

Here are some key questions and milestones we encourage from all ideas in the Refinement:
1. How might this idea address the unique needs of low-income families and first generation college students?
2. Clearly summarize the value proposition of your idea in 1-2 sentences
3. Identify assumptions that need to be answered in order to validate your value proposition.
4. Collect feedback from potential partners and users to answer the assumptions you’ve identified.
5. Communicate your idea in a visual way with user experience maps

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 12/22" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

We’re excited to see this idea progress in the next weeks!

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