Cat Career Tracks replaces software

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Winter Keefer

NMU Career Services is in the process of switching the Cat Career Tracks employment system from Gradleaders software to Handshake, a web application developed by three Michigan Technological University (MTU) graduates.

The Handshake contract will begin after NMU’s contract with Gradleaders ends in December. After Dec. 15, student and alumni Cat Career Track accounts will be switched to the Handshake system and employers with accounts in the previous system will be informed of the change with the opportunity to create a Handshake account.

Cat Career Tracks originally used a software from CSO Research, which was later bought out by Gradleaders, Assistant Director of NMU Career Services Melissa Sprouse said.

“We upgraded, as requested, to Gradleaders software and then we found that—students, alumni, employers, faculty—nobody likes this new software,” Sprouse said. “We found that it was really difficult to use. We lost some functionality, so we were not happy with where we were at.”

Handshake contacted the Career Service directors of all 15 Michigan universities to ask for feedback on their system, Sprouse said.

“So we were part of the process of helping Handshake come about, and when we realized that Gradleaders probably wasn’t going to be a good fit for us anymore, Handshake was kind of a logical transition,” Sprouse said.


Handshake was started in 2014 by MTU graduates Garrett Lord, Scott Ringwelski and Ben Christensen, according to the Handshake website. The Handshake website explains that Lord was frustrated with the difficulty MTU students had when trying to get their foot in the door with employers. Lord, Ringwelski and Christensen drove to college campuses across the country to learn about what employers and other university and college students were looking for in an employment system.

Handshake seems much more user friendly than Gradleaders was, Sprouse said. It also allows registered employers to have access to every school in the Handshake system. This means that large companies like IBM, Google and Apple will have quicker access to NMU students. Students who are graduating will also still have access to Handshake.

“We listened to all of the feedback and it was one of those thing where [Gradleaders] wasn’t user friendly on our end either,” Sprouse said. “So it’s just all around better to just move to something that everyone else will use, and log into and enjoy.”

If an employer is looking to hire before the December switch to Handshake, they can still use the old system by following a link through the Cat Career Track tab on NMU’s website or by calling the Career Service office.