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Chris Carey founded Blue Chip Career in March 2009 after seeing many of his friends struggle with the job search. He noticed that networking was awkward and that it was hard to find the right people to speak to for industry-specific career advice. Inspired to do something about it, Chris spent his nights and weekend outlining his solution while working as an investment banking analyst.
The solution: Blue Chip Career – an online platform that facilitates career guidance by pairing job seekers with industry experts. The company has developed a mentor network of more than 200 professionals with a focus on finance, consulting, and corporate roles. Today, almost three years later, the mentor network rivals that of a top university or grad school, yet is accessible to everyone.
MO: How does Blue Chip Career work?
Chris: On our website, www.bluechipcareer.com, one may browse our mentor network by industry experience or by a keyword search to find the best mentor to help with his or her job search, interview prep, or career development. Our team frequently provides personalized mentor matches for prospective clients as well. After a mentor is selected, the client is introduced to the mentor within 24 hours. The mentee shares his or her resume, job search goals, and any additional relevant information with their mentor ahead of time, and the mentor tailors their session according the mentee’s needs. Typical topics covered include: interview prep, job search strategies, industry insight, resume reviews, and networking tips.
MO: How do you attract mentors? What does the process involve and what traits are you looking for in an individual?
Chris: One of the most rewarding parts of building Blue Chip Career has been the genuine interest and enthusiasm we’ve seen from top professionals in participating in our program. We don’t disclose our recruitment methods for mentors, but I will say that we currently have a mentor network of greater than 200 top professionals yet have accepted less than 20% of applicants. The mentors we accept must have deep industry expertise, a passion for mentoring, and a history of involvement in the recruiting or professional development process at their firms. We screen our mentors through a resume review and an informational interview, and we actively monitor mentors’ performance as reflected by client feedback.
The most promising aspects of Blue Chip Career’s business model is that our mentors participate primarily out of altruism, rather than compensation; this enables us to execute a low-cost strategy while delivering our clients a high-quality service. The sentiment we hear frequently from mentors is that it is a great platform to help young professionals beyond their existing networks.
MO: How important are mentors in the process career development and even possibly personal enrichment?
Chris: Career development is tough – the average baby boomer help 11 jobs prior to reaching age 42, and this number will be significantly higher for our generation. I don’t think this is a bad thing – there is a natural trial and error process to finding what you’re passionate about. However, since everyone has unique interests and a career story, I believe that it takes a personalized touch to offer people the appropriate guidance.
Having a mentor is particularly important for young professionals (especially with the job market in the doldrums). It can be dispiriting to believe one’s opportunities are limited because of economic factors beyond one’s control – but mentors (who have overcome myriad challenges themselves) are well equipped to guide and inspire young people through the first few years of their careers.
MO: How did your past experience with mentoring inspire and influence your vision to start Blue Chip?
Chris: During high school and college, I was actively involved in youth mentoring and tutoring. I did it because it was fun, rewarding, and impactful. The personal satisfaction I received from mentoring led me to believe that the concept of an expert mentoring network available at a low cost would be a viable business model. With regards to the long-term vision of the company, we are first and foremost focused on developing a platform that facilitates a genuine and highly productive mentoring experience. It is not only critical to delivering a great service, but it’s very important that our mentors enjoy participating.
MO: Where does your passion for entrepreneurship come from?
Chris: I’m a first-time entrepreneur and have only been working on Blue Chip Career for two full years, so entrepreneurship is pretty new to me and it’s hard to describe my feelings about it. Since I was pretty young, I’ve always enjoyed coming up with different ideas for businesses or inventions; when I came up with the idea for Blue Chip Career, I was excited about the prospect of advancing beyond being an “ideas man”. I finally had an idea I was ready to after. Since venturing beyond that stage, I’ve developed a passion for the company we’re building, and I think my favorite part of being an entrepreneur is seeing our service in practice. I have the most fun talking with clients and seeing how our mentors are helping people take the next step in their career.
MO: How have you managed to successfully increase your marketing efforts and your client base?
Chris: We’ve been growing our sales and client base at a rate of 25-50% month over month since this past July due to a mix of marketing efforts including affiliate programs and partnerships, on-campus marketing reps, collaboration with student clubs, and word-of-mouth referrals. We have been successfully establishing and building partnerships with complementary professional development companies like WallStreetOasis.com (a finance community for young professionals) and Wall Street Prep (a financial training company). While we’ve been growing our client base very quickly, out greatest driver in sales growth has been the loyalty of our existing clients. More than two-thirds of our clients purchase multiple sessions, and we’ve had many instances of clients using it for a period of 6-12 months as they progress from targeting their job search, preparing for interviews, and then positioning themselves for promotions once they land their job. We view this client loyalty as a reflection of the quality of our mentors’ guidance, and their interest in going above and beyond to help their mentees succeed.
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