New Portfolio Tool from Live It Benefits Students and Prospective EmployersKerry Small is issuing an invitation to an intentional college experience. His platform, Live It, is a three-dimensional portfolio allowing users to create, capture, and share not just their credentials, but themselves. What results is a collective representation of experiences that shape students’ development; it’s a story of the people they become across the pursuit of a college degree; it’s the vision of the futures they will create after graduation.

The ultimate goal of the platform is to provide employers and their prospective employees—college students—with a better system for getting to know each other to evaluate the quality of a future relationship. Students have a platform for organizing and sharing a broad portfolio of activities that complement their studies, and employers see a depth of information about students’ engagement during their college years that provides a depth of knowledge greater than a transcript and a resume.

Penn State thought highly enough of the concept to lend its name to the venture and take an equity interest in the Live It business, and employers have begun to offer their support as well.

Small was part of the first cohort to graduate from the Ben Franklin TechCelerator at State College, during which time his vision for Live It evolved beyond its initial conception.

“What was interesting to me as a small business owner and entrepreneur is how our vision changed over that 10-week period,” said Small. “It also gave me the foundation to ask questions to change it even further over the following two and a half years.”

“Being open to that change, to questioning your ideas and being wrong about things, has been critical for us to get to the point where we’ve been wrong enough to be right more often—pretty well spot on with our target audience.”New Portfolio Tool from Live It Benefits Students and Prospective Employers

Live It was conceived as a semi-closed debit card that parents and caring others could give students in lieu of the usual care package clutter. The card could be used at community partners like Tussey Mountain and 2000 Degrees—and it facilitated experiences.

The feedback was decidedly positive. According to Small, students who received the Live It card reported feeling that the university cared about them, that they were better acquainted with the retail partners, and that they knew the area better. “It wasn’t just about encouraging students to go out and find a restaurant,” said Small. “They were becoming more adventurous and more aware of their surroundings.”

Rather than solidifying his vision, this first wave of positive reviews directed Small back to the drawing board. “Because these students felt so highly about the school and the people who supported the cards, we asked, ‘Who else cares about these results?’” And that list extended well beyond parents to include alumni, instructors, and hiring corporations. The new mission required an alignment of interests.

Over the course of continuous beta testing, Small and his team have assembled a functional platform that provides students with a virtual portfolio where they can arrange and store their experiences, interact with fellow students along with mentors and recruiters, and receive feedback. Already this has proven itself to be a useful tool for both students and the companies that hire them.

Instead of listing data, users of the platform tell stories that provide a snapshot not just of what they’ve done but also of who they are. And for students who maintain a Live It presence throughout their college years, this can lend itself to much more than a robust resume.

“As we further refine it, we’ll get people who will join in and say I’m on it because it’s my own private sandbox and they can collect their experiences and control what gets published,” Small said. “They can have different tools and have an online diary and portfolio, a place to capture that. Over the course of those four years, they’ll see patterns.”

“Just reflecting alone, we’re told by behavioral scientists, is powerful,” Small continued. He believes regularly creating, capturing, and sharing experiences will allow students to better align their interests and activities, navigate the college experience, and land the best possible jobs for them.

Students and their families are investing ever-greater sums to acquire a college education, so the emphasis for a graduating senior is to obtain a good-paying job. The imperative for employers is to find highly qualified candidates to fill these jobs. The piece of the puzzle that’s most challenging to identify is ensuring that the applicant is a good fit—intellectually and socially—for the jobs companies need them to perform.

“Part of [hiring] is finding students by the skills they possess, those attributes they’re looking for, not just the majors, although that’s also valuable, majors, GPA etc.—but skills, by searching by tags, read the stories they talk about, and encourage them, just like any other mentor—by saying, this is interesting, here’s an opposing point of view; or this is really interesting, we have a program internally that will build on that, integrity of business... It’s a human development platform,” said Small.

This human development transfer technology aims to address widespread disengagement in the workplace. The most immediate goals for this small company with large ambition is to help Penn State students examine their college experience in greater depth and, by doing so, find more engaging employment opportunities. “This is part of the solution,” said Small. “It’s not the only one or the whole, but it’s a part.”

“A year ago, I hoped it was us. Six months ago, I thought it was us. Today, I believe it’s us.”