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San Diego State University

@State - the SDSU Student Newsletter

A New Secret Weapon for Mastering the Job Hunt

It’s a typical scenario that plays out every semester: students walk on to campus for an afternoon class only to find rows upon rows of booths, each staffed by company representatives hoping to attract cream-of-the-crop candidates starting their careers.

After browsing the Career Fair booths from a distance, not knowing what each prospective employer is looking for in a potential employee, and without the time to find out, many students just keep walking. Some might walk right past their dream job without realizing it.

screen shot from the Proximity phone appFor SDSU engineering professor Mahasweta Sarkar, this was an unnerving problem. Luckily for students and employers alike, Sarkar set out two years ago on a mission to create a solution.

Last month, Sarkar unveiled Proximity, the location-based matchmaking smartphone app she’s hoping will revolutionize how students and employers find each other.

Students who attended the Oct. 24 Engineering and Sciences Career Fair were the first users of Proximity, and while its launch is years in the making, it took students just moments to realize what makes the free app so valuable.

After downloading the app, students enter their Red ID and last name to activate an account. A list of all attending employers  appears along with their company descriptions. Then, with a touch of the “Match Me” button, the app filters through that list and selects the top 10 companies uniquely suited to the user.

Right now, the selected matches are based on students’ majors, but Sarkar said it won’t be long until the app makes even finer-tuned suggestions based on students’ skills, interests, and keywords from their resume. By the time the Spring Career and Internship Fair takes over Library Walk in February, the app will also incorporate an interactive map that pinpoints where students can find their matches.

Mahasweta Sarkar and Chris Paolini
Professor Mahasweta Sarkar and Chris Paolini, systems analyst.

Improving students’ professional connections through Career Fairs is just the start for Proximity. Sarkar and Chris Paolini, operating systems analyst in SDSU’s College of Engineering, are also working on Campus Buddy, a component of the app geared to helping students make useful connections in their personal lives.

Students looking for carpool companions, tutors, study groups, and classmates with other common interests can use the app to connect to people they would have otherwise missed. When two students with similar needs — both looking for roommates, for example — come within a 33-foot radius of each other, Campus Buddy will detect the match and the Proximity users will be alerted of each other.

“Proximity is based on this idea of connecting people in real time, automatically,” Sarkar said.  “When you’re on campus, you probably come in contact with hundreds of new people every day without even knowing it. You might not exchange ‘hellos’ or greetings, but there is certainly valuable information that could be exchanged. It’s all about tapping into that opportunity and using technology to make our lives better.”