When Hanna Kassis and Joe Carrabia tried their hand at professional networking, they were disappointed by the unwelcoming, clique-like atmosphere.
It was this experience that drove them, along with friend Morgan Tondo, to create the Youngstown Social Network, which helps graduating college seniors, job seekers, entrepreneurs, business professionals and salesmen network with each other. Close to 100 people attended the trio's first mixer, which was held June 25 in the Huntington VIP room at the Covelli Centre in downtown Youngstown.
The mixer featured ice-breaker rounds, where participants exchanged contact information. The fourth round was for follow-ups.
"That's really the bread and butter of the event," Kassis, 23, of Girard, said of the follow-up round.
Kassis, who graduated from Youngstown State University in December with a master's degree, met Carrabia through YSU business classes, and knew Tondo, who is employed at Turning Technologies, from Girard. Together, the three founded the Youngstown Social Network May 6.
"We just wanted to put on a mixer to connect job seekers with employers," Kassis said.
My experience as a social networker
Tribune Chronicle correspondent
Graduation was a dizzy experience punctuated by the repeated employment inquiries. Well-meaning relatives were unaware that I dreaded this question. No, I didn't know if I was going to grad school. No, I don't have a job yet. No, I didn't hear that such-and-such was hiring.
I was nervous not only about applying for jobs, but also about communicating with business professionals. Also, it seemed that I didn't know where to find any - business professionals, that is. My dad advised me to network. I told him that so far, at age 22, my network consisted of maybe three people. Clearly, networking gold.
So at any rate, when I heard about the Youngstown Social Network, it seemed to be just what I needed. A chance to hand my resume out to people that may in fact, be hiring? Yes, sign me up.
As it turned out, the mixer proved to be that and a little more. I exchanged resumes in return for business cards (feeling oddly embarrassed that I didn't have a business card; what was I, 12?) but I also got to try my hand at real networking.
It can be intimidating talking with someone new, especially when that someone wears an excellent suit and hands you a flashy business card. But the ice-breakers made it easy. The ice-breakers forced conversation, actually, which was good. Suddenly, I found myself not only talking about my job experience, but also doing the "Oh, you worked at such-and-such? I know --- who worked there?"
I left with a little bit more confidence, a folder full of business cards, and a job interview. I also resolved to get myself a business card.
The feedback was also positive, Kassis said. A couple comments mentioned expensive beer and loud music. However, one responder wrote about connecting with an old business contact. Others responded positively about their ability to gather or distribute resumes.
Initially, Kassis and the others expected about 40 people to show up. Once word got out, however, more people e-mailed their R.S.V.P's. Despite the popularity, Kassis, who is the founder of College Finance 101, said they plan to keep the mixers either a semiannual or annual event. They will also put more emphasis on placing participants in categories that will make it easier to network. For example, engineering students would be placed with engineering firms. The mixers will take place at different venues in Youngstown.
Carrabia, 26, who works at Cumulus Media, said he is even interested in offering Youngstown Social Network to high school students in the future, to illustrate the importance of networking at a young age. For now though, he realizes the importance of connecting people.
"I think we can build the community," Carrabia said.