Matchmaker, matchmaker, find me a job: Pol Sci alum helps launch careers of new graduates

Graduation is quickly approaching, and while seniors are celebrating, they may also be asking an important question: What’s next?

Scott Dettman has some suggestions. Dettman, himself a UWM graduate who earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the university, is the CEO of Avenica. Based in Minnesota, Avenica is a nationwide career matchmaking service, launching the careers of entry-level workers by rethinking the hiring process. The company is growing and Dettman hopes that his organization’s approach will make others rethink how they attract new talent.

Dettman sat down to talk about Avenica, the labor market, and what new graduates should keep in mind as they venture into the working world.

Tell me about your company. Avenica sounds like an interesting place to work.

We aim to unleash human potential through launching careers. For a long time, the labor market has been really demand-oriented. People have jobs that they need to fill and they will go search for people that are interested in those jobs.

We are trying to flip that and turn this into a supply side market.

We meet with new talent, and then we work to connect them with hiring partners that we have all over the country, because we have hundreds and hundreds of people looking for high-potential, early-career talent. We have launched thousands of careers by doing that. Last year, 62% of the careers we launched were for BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) candidates. We’re still small, but we are starting to turn some heads.

Is this more of a personality match than a job skills match?

You have to have an understanding of where people are coming from if you’re going to be able to effectively communicate and work well as a team. You can find some of those individual quirks that make a team unique, but that are also pivotal to gluing that team together. We try to identify those things. That’s really what we’re matching.

We have some companies, some Fortune 500 companies, that don’t even interview the people that they are hiring from us. We guarantee that our candidate is going to be there, do a good job, and stick around for six months or we’ll give their money back. Job candidates don’t pay anything. Our hiring partners pay, but because we don’t have expensive recruiting systems, we can charge a fraction of what most other companies do to launch talent. We’re eliminating barriers on both sides.

Do companies not already have access to talent just through people applying for jobs?

We’ve actually calculated that something like 80% of the available talent is never looked at, because of the way that job descriptions are currently written. Employers are only really seeing about 20% of the available talent. That’s like only brushing your teeth on Tuesday. That would be stupid, right? But, that’s how hiring is done today. The intention was to be more efficient, but the reality is that it’s actually commoditizing human potential.

We had a candidate who applied to work at a company on their own about five times, and never was given an interview. We launched that career for that individual at that company. That person has now been promoted twice in the last 18 months. That’s just one of dozens of case studies where companies are getting it wrong over and over. The secret behind every great company is great people. It always starts with people. And if you can’t figure that part out, you’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage.

You’ve seen a lot of success, but can one company really reshape the job market that much?

By 2030, we want to be launching 50,000 careers a year. That would be roughly 1.75% of the number of people that graduate from college each year. That’s still a small amount, but it’s also the amount of the auto market that Tesla currently owns. But there is now a Ford F150 pickup truck that is fully electric, right? You can see the impact Tesla has made.

We’re hoping to eliminate the ideas of résumés from people’s minds and start thinking differently about human potential. Résumés are 540 years old. The first one was made by Leonardo da Vinci. He got a lot of stuff right, but the résumé wasn’t one of those things, and it’s time to move beyond it.

The future in my mind looks like having something that amounts to a digital key, if this makes sense. That key will give you a robust amount of data about who a job seeker is, what they care about, what other people say about them, and tell their full story. And then we can use that key to match them, through big data and algorithms, to the kinds of roles and environments where that person will thrive.

You graduated with your Bachelor’s degree in 2009 in the middle of the Great Recession. You’ve got some personal experience with having a hard time finding a job after college.

I think I applied to something like 400 jobs, and I got one interview.

(How I finally got hired) is a funny story. I was invited for an interview for a marketing position with a consulting firm in the Greater Milwaukee area, and they did healthcare revenue. I wasn’t actually there to interview, apparently. I was actually brought in to meet with the CEO, mostly because he was going to explain to me why, with my degree in political science, there was no way I could do a job in marketing. I said, well, let me tell you why I think you’re wrong. I told him my story, spilled my guts to him. He paused and kind of sat back and said, Okay, I’m not going hire you for this job, but come back tomorrow for a better one. And he put me in charge of a division they were creating that was focused on healthcare and technology consulting.

You went back to UWM for your Master’s degree and took PhD classes, worked at Manpower Group, and eventually came to your current position at Avenica. Did your UWM education help you on your way?

Political science, in a lot of ways, is the study of the interaction between people and institutions. So much of it bordered on economic theory as well. I did an executive-level management class through Harvard Business School, and you know, it was fine. But I feel like I learned more about how to run a company by studying political science than I did from the things I learned in business courses.

Our UWM seniors are about to graduate. What’s the labor market like for them? Do you have any advice?

My biggest suggestion would be to identify someone or something on the company’s platform that can help you tell your story. If you’re betting on just submitting your résumé, that doesn’t necessarily translate into success. If you’re studying something like liberal arts, you’re really training to be a thinker, leader. Those are those are roles that are harder to come by early in your career. You want to be thinking about the types of roles that feed into those other kinds of roles. What are the paths you can take to get you to where you want to go where you can really exercise those muscles?

By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science