UM alum directs college grads toward their perfect job

by Rachel E. Anderson
The Oxford Eagle

IMG_3307Finding a job is hard. Finding a job you love is even harder. However, Alexander Ray is easing the job search process for college graduates with his startup Zyn Careers.

Ray and partner Caleb Robinson, both graduates of
the University of Mississippi from Madison, Mississippi, have launched Zyn Careers, a website offering direction for finding satisfying jobs.  

Last September, Ray came back to Oxford feeling unsatisfied after completing an engineering internship. He knew he did not want to return to the company for future work.

He began thinking about job satisfaction and what leads to career satisfaction, wondering if he was the only one with these worries.

“I started researching and found out that more than half of Americans are unhappy at work. At any given time over 6 million people are looking for a new job, and over one-third of people quit their new job within the first six months, largely due to job satisfaction issues,” said Ray.

With continued research, Ray discovered that employers also were having troubles. He found that on average employers spent two months searching for a new employee and that the cost of hiring was more than twice the employee’s salary.

Ray and Robinson recognized the severity of these issues and realized they could solve them with a computer program. They worked with a team of management professors, especially Dr. Walter Davis, at the University of Mississippi to develop a computer algorithm to predict job satisfaction.

Working with the University of Mississippi Career Center and the team of professors, Ray and Robinson launched a proof of concept with 100 Ole Miss students and 100 employers nationwide in March 2015. The concept proved to be successful, validating their work thus far.

Ray and Robinson began presenting their idea in multiple competitions, earning a top three finish in the Gillespie Business Plan Competition, first place in the Innovate Mississippi New Venture Challenge, and a grant from the Rebel Venture Capital Fund.

After building an employer side of the website and completing a Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 1.31.06 AMdesign overhaul, the public beta version of Zyn Careers was launched in August 2015.  Since then, Zyn Careers has been working with the University of Mississippi and the Mississippi State University career centers to reach a user base of over 500 users and 150 employers.

“There are a lot of other job searching websites based on the skills people have, but even with that, it is almost impossible to get direction in your job search. You don’t know where you want to work. You don’t know where you’ll enjoy working. We’re the first company that offers that,” explained Ray.

Ray hopes for Zyn Careers to become the best place to find a satisfying job in the United States.

Currently, Zyn Careers is targeting college graduates and current students. They plan to expand to servicing MBA students and other young professionals in the near future and eventually expand to accommodating anyone in search of a job.

IMG_3333To use Zyn Careers, a person creates a free account on their website and takes a five minute personality quiz. The quiz contains 60 questions asking users to rank different values such as “Flexibility” and “Being Team-Oriented” on a Likert scale. Once completed, the user is matched with a list of companies sharing these values.

Ray has been pleasantly surprised by all the positive feedback he has received for creating Zyn Careers. He is especially grateful to the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce for their support.

The Chamber of Commerce put Ray in touch with many local businesses and agencies in Mississippi. Through their assistance, 20 companies in Oxford have created profiles on Zyn Careers.

In return, the Chamber of Commerce appreciates what Zyn Careers is adding to the community.

“Zyn Careers is unique in that they offer a service that could directly benefit both sides of the employment spectrum here in Lafayette County.  For job candidates, Zyn Careers can offer them an opportunity to match their corporate cultural preferences to potential employers.  Meanwhile, these same employers get the benefit of hiring employees that have a much higher potential for fitting in which could improve their retention rates and mitigate many of their workforce issues,” said Allen Kurr, Vice President of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation.

Ray plans on working with Zyn Careers to expand to more companies and users for the next two years. After those two years, he will move to Boston, Massachusetts to attend Harvard University for his MBA as part of the 2+2 Program. He looks forward to the grow of his startup and the difference he is making in the job market.

“I think everybody should know to prioritize their own IMG_3313happiness and to recognize their own value in a workplace. Don’t go somewhere where you’re just a dispensable piece of a big mechanism. Go somewhere where your work matters,” said Ray.

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