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Calgary’s Next Economy: Buoyancy is poised to give job seekers a behavioural boost

Jon MacConnell wants you to have the confidence to get your next job.

He’s founder of a Calgary-based company called Buoyancy. They’re looking at the job search process from a different perspective – the searcher.

“We’re focused on really helping job seekers feel the motivational and emotional aspects of the job search,” MacConnell said.

Typically, job search is recruitment focused, said MacConnell. It’s tailored to the segment of the population that are job ready and really engaged with the process. If you think of your typical job posting, those that apply are ready to go. They apply, they wait, they get an interview and possibly a job.  

Not enough of it is geared towards the beginning part of the process, MacConnell said. That’s when people are struggling with the employment journey.

“We believe that by leveraging behavioral science and technology we can do that at scale, in a way that helps a whole lot of people,” MacConnell said.

“it’s about helping deal with the fundamental, foundational, motivational layers and emotional layers, so that people can actually activate themselves and get into that proper headspace for effective job search.”

MacConnell had his own experience with career change. He spent time in the oil and gas sector as an engineer. He dealt with budget planning and the tech side of things. In 2018, he went back to school to train as a behavioural scientist at the London School of Economics.

That’s where he learned more about behavioural interventions that could help the typical job seeker. He said the world’s biggest companies are using this type of tool to influence our behaviour – why not use it to get a job?

Job seeking in practice

MacConnell said behavioural science is really good at getting average impact in larger populations and moving them a little. That’s the concept they want to apply to individual job seekers.

When you look into individual behaviours of job seekers and use predictive modeling to intervene, that’s when you start to see results. You use specific cues to nudge an individual to support themselves or help themselves.

It comes down to having a job coach. Peer-to-peer support, MacConnell said. It’s someone to help sift through information, direct a person to the right skill building and take a tactical approach to the job search.

“If you start with just those three things you can do a whole lot of good,” he said.

What they’ve done is taken information or material that might be condensed into a weekend, or week-long course and spread it out over six-to-eight months.

It’s access to a career coach, peer support, and micro courses that are focused on motivation and tactical job search. MacConnell wants to help people get out of their own way in the job search by blending in behavioural science.

They’ve taken the longer term approach because the material is easier to absorb and this gives users bite-sized content they can use immediately.

Entrepreneurial structure

Even though MacConnell has a wealth of job experience and the background in behavioural science, working in the Platform Calgary Junction program has provided structure.

“It’s not lost on me that the journey of a job seeker is so parallel to the journey of a start-up entrepreneur,” he said.

“It is brutally difficult to get to get motivated, to get focused in a given day and so Junction really helps provide that structure.”

Participation has helped bridge the knowledge gaps in some areas, MacConnell said.

“Very few of us are good at all aspects of this business, and to some degree as a start-up entrepreneur, you do need to understand a little bit of a whole lot,” he said.

MacConnell said if asked a year ago where he thought he’d be, he’d have missed the mark.

“I would have erroneously expected that I would have already conquered the world,” he said.

But that’s the goal. He thinks that there’s a different way for people to tackle the job search. People are struggling – with job transition, job options and find it tough to keep their chin up and dig for that new opportunity.

“We want to do what we can to help those folks today,” MacConnell said.

While they aren’t fully commercial with their launch today, they do expect to expand in the Alberta job market over the next year. Then it’s west to Vancouver and perhaps east to Toronto.

In three years, MacConnell has his eyes set on opportunities south of the border.

“Assuming that we get traction and we can figure this out, yeah, we absolutely would love to see it go North America-wide or global.”