Combating Record Unemployment with the Help of Strangers
MIT Technology Review
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Frederick Goff SM ’01 and his teammates from a machine-learning-based hedge fund decided to apply their technology to job search engines, for which there was widespread demand. In 2015, they created a new platform, Jobcase, to help people “manage their own future of work with a set of open tools.” The result: a social-media platform where strangers help strangers get jobs.
While Jobcase was built to be inclusive of all workers, Goff says its focus is on the 67% of people in the US without a four-year degree, who are likely to face such challenges as frequent job changes and displacement by automation. Free to all users, the site has no premium memberships or paywalls; Jobcase’s revenue comes from employers who pay to list jobs and hiring events.
Jobcase applies machine learning and search engine optimization to help users find jobs and explore career paths related to their current work. For instance, it might alert someone searching for cashier positions that medical billing specialists have an 80% overlap in talents and skills, then suggest related openings and additional skill-building opportunities.
But it’s the community that really sets the platform apart, says Goff. Its algorithms connect users to other users they can learn from—pulling from the more than 112 million registered Jobcasers. “We’re just a bunch of quants and computer and data scientists; we know we don’t have all the answers,” says Goff. “We want the platform to provide the connective tissues so that people can help each other navigate.”
We’re just a bunch of quants and computer and data scientists; we know we don’t have all the answers. We want the platform to provide the connective tissues so that people can help each other navigate.
Goff gives the example of an early adopter with attention deficit disorder who had struggled to find work. After joining Jobcase, she wrote about the experience of suddenly having a community of people assisting her search and even pointing her to companies with programs that could accommodate her needs.
With Covid-19 pushing the US from a 3.5% unemployment average in February to 10.2% in July, Goff knows how urgently job seekers need support. Within two weeks of the pandemic’s start, Jobcase launched an unemployment resource microsite, including specifics on each state’s benefits and articles on topics such as the difference between furloughs and layoffs and managing personal finances while unemployed.
“We built Jobcase to try to minimize anxiety and maximize success,” says Goff. “When anxiety is at its absolute peak in our country, specifically with regard to work life, there’s no mission I’d rather be on right now.”
This story also appears in the November/December issue of Technology Review's MIT News magazine.
Portrait of Fred Goff (top): Michael Prince/The Forbes Collection via Contour RA