As a college freshman attempting to narrow a seemingly endless field of career options, Rachel Gogos never did find a straightforward, navigable trail toward her destiny.
Instead, the English major at the State University of New York at Buffalo followed a twisting path that shifted from earning a master’s degree at New York University to taking a run at law school, then doing a United Nations internship and a stint at The Wall Street Journal before ending up in the realm of entrepreneurship.
Hoping to spare this generation of college students the frustration of her early years, Ms. Gogos, 33, created the MyPath101 app in 2012 to serve as the college and career planning road map she wishes she and her peers had.
“I started this to help students find their path at that critical point when they’re 18, 19, 20 years old in a more efficient way, to help them find their purpose,” Ms. Gogos said. “I really struggled with that and feel like I lost some time. If I look back on my life, there is a very windy road that leads me to today and that happens to most people.”
Part personality assessment, image consultant and career counselor, MyPath101 is a website and app designed to steer students toward solid decisions during each phase of their pre-collegiate or post-graduate careers. Based in McMurray, the company has five employees.
Although MyPath101’s identity and personal branding assessment features questions and activities designed to pinpoint an individual’s most important career qualities, Ms. Gogos stresses that the product isn’t an assessment tool.
The site uses three separate modules — identity and personal branding, social media management, and career marketing — to help students recognize their passions and strengths in choosing a major, to make social media accounts job ready, and to provide expert advice to seniors ready to dive into the job search.
“There are a lot of assessments out there where you can type in responses and it will tell you what you might be good at. We didn’t want to replicate those,“ she said.
“What doesn’t exist is someone just helping you by asking you these open-ended questions that are very simple in nature but are really hard to answer,“ Ms. Gogos said.
“We don’t always take the time to stop and think, what am I really good at or what do I really want to do, what really is my mission? What do I want to impact in my life? What legacy do I want to leave behind? How do I define success? These are all questions we ask.”
After a three-month pilot at the University of Pittsburgh in March 2013, MyPath101 is up and serving around 1,000 students nationwide, including hundreds at the university, which uses the service in its office of career development and placement assistance.
Ms. Gogos did not reveal revenues but said her company is “close” to being profitable.
Students and parents can access modules and paths for a free monthly membership but must pay $77 for a quarterly membership or $247 for an annual membership for increased access to guest webinars and live Q&A sessions with MyPath’s panel of branding and coaching experts.
Universities that order the service pay on a sliding scale that depends upon how many students are being signed up at a given time.
In coming months, Ms. Gogos said universities will be able to use MyPath101’s open-ended format to license the product and create a customized site directed specifically toward their students.
Cheryl Finlay, director of Pitt’s office of career development and placement assistance, said some students use the program as more than simply a supplement to their services.
“Although our students still prefer the one-on-one career counseling through CDPA, we do acknowledge that today’s students are very comfortable with online learning. We are pleased that MyPath101 provides a reliable, user-friendly service to those students who prefer to receive career counseling virtually,” she said in an email statement.
For Ashley Mayo, a Pitt graduate who was a marketing intern for the career development office in her junior year, MyPath101 wasn’t a replacement for what she learned through counselors so much as a means to customize those lessons for the life she hoped to build.
It also became a means to help narrow her goals and allow her to graduate from the school in only 3½ years. The majority of University of Pittsburgh students, 62 percent, graduate in four years, a figure nearly twice the national average.
“As a student, you are constantly told what you should do and when to do it, but MyPath101 doesn’t do that,” Ms. Mayo said. “Students can complete each path at their own pace and time frame, which is very helpful for the typical college student.”
Katie McGovern, an 18-year-old Pitt freshman, said the program helped her identify a passion for childhood education and science in a more specific way than mandatory career planning courses in high school.
“I chose MyPath101 and it related more to your passions for what you wanted to do, which I thought was more necessary to figuring out what you wanted to do than taking a quiz that says you’d be a good teacher,” she said.
For Ms. Gogos, who is reaching out to schools and directly selling the product to parents and students across the country, the idea isn’t to put the nation’s career counselors out of jobs. Instead, her hope is that she can make their jobs easier by helping students decide what’s ultimately important when it comes to the jobs they hope to hold in the future.
“Our goal with MyPath is to support what’s already going on on a campus or in a high school and help students prepare themselves before they go into those meetings.” she said.
Deborah M. Todd: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1652. Twitter: @deborahtodd.