Dan Miller, 19, has developed an app with the ambitious goal of connecting five million students with employers by 2022, but he’s concerned that his own tender age is deterring more blue-chip firms from getting involved. He asks our panel of IoD members for advice
Unemployment may be at a 42-year low in the UK, yet many key sectors of the economy are still facing skills shortages.
The government has come up with initiatives to prepare young people better for work, such as the apprenticeship levy and the new T-levels. These have attracted mixed reviews so far, but Dan Miller, 19, is a firm believer in the saying “if you want something done right, do it yourself”.
In 2015, while Miller was studying at independent school Trent College in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, he started Young Professionals UK. His objective was to help students learn more about the world of work – and make better career choices as a result – by bringing them together with employers under one roof.
“The careers advice I had wasn’t great. I should have done an apprenticeship, but my advisers didn’t seem to understand what they were. I was encouraged to do A-levels, even though that wasn’t the right route for me,” recalls Miller, who is dyslexic.
Aware that many other young people also needed better guidance, he “got on the phone to some big employers in the Midlands and asked them if they wanted to get involved. A few weeks later Rolls-Royce came back to me and agreed to invest in my business, saying: ‘You’re a local lad; we want to support you.’”
Today Miller’s network encompasses 2,000 schools and 30 global brands, including Barclays, Experian and EY.
“Our networking events were great, but the next stage was to take the business digital with an app,” he says. “I wanted to enable students to apply for work-experience placements or apprenticeships with three touches of a button.”
Miller raised £50,000 to develop the app via funding platform Rockstar Hubs International and launched it in July 2017.
“We have 4,500 students using the app now and the downloads are racking up. The target is five million by 2022,” he says. “We’re working with seven of the FTSE 100 and three of the big four auditors, but when I approach a new client I sometimes face scepticism about the idea of investing in someone of my age.
“Yet our message would be more powerful if people could make the link between Young Professionals and its 19-year-old CEO. I’m good at posting on LinkedIn about the business, but I need to know how I can best position my personal brand so that it makes Young Professionals more attractive.”
Over to our panel of experts…
Founder, Tartle Media
Your efforts to gain press coverage are working – you’re in Director, after all – but writing op-eds will really show off your expertise. Most papers run these online. Keep the pitch short: a headline, a bullet-point synopsis and a line on why your experiences make you the best person to write it. Give it a news angle for a better chance of being commissioned.
Once it’s published, make it go further by sharing it on LinkedIn. If you aren’t making LinkedIn videos to tell your story yet, you’re missing a trick: video will account for 79 per cent of global web traffic by 2020, according to Cisco. Keep them short, add subtitles and seek feedback to ensure that they’re striking an authoritative note.
Emily Garnham is a member of IoD 99
Regional director, The Marketing Centre
Once you’ve defined your value proposition and target market, you need to choose the most appopriate channels. LinkedIn may be the obvious answer, but Twitter and Facebook will also reach a B2B audience. It’s not just about social media, though. All of your channels – website, print, PR, trade stand and so on – should convey a consistent message.
John Courtney is a member of IoD South West
CEO, Carpe Diem
I was also encouraged to follow an academic route that wasn’t right for me before I started my own firm at a tender age, so I congratulate you. One error I made was taking too long to find a trusted mentor. The right person will add real value and help you develop a lot more quickly. Consider appointing them as a non-executive director. When you’re pitching to potential clients, start by referring to your “experienced team” to show that you’ve made a sensible decision in hiring a seasoned campaigner to advise you.
Bill Carr is chair of IoD Cheshire
Founder and MD, Addidi
Addidi’s first investment was in a young female entrepreneur who wowed all the angels with her energy and clarity. Like her, you must fully understand your business model and tell a convincing story. What is your big vision, how will you achieve it, what are the KPIs and how will you monetise your offering? Connecting five million students with employers by 2020 is laudable, but you need to be explicit as to why that’s your goal, for instance. And you say you want to make it easy for students to apply for work-experience placements or apprenticeships, but you need to give clear reasons why they should be doing this.
Anna Sofat is a member of IoD London
Managing consultant, Attitude Solutions
I’ve tried out your app, scrolled through your social media feeds and read what others are saying about you – you’ve achieved a lot in a short time. Here are six pointers to consider:
1. There is no commercial reason why your age should be a barrier. In fact, it’s a differentiator. You have many credible employers backing you, so take heart.
2. You’ve created yourself a niche and now you need to dominate it. Use your unique voice to build authority and become the go-to person for connecting young talent with great employers.
3. Use a wide range of platforms, including LinkedIn and Twitter, to build your reputation as a leading authority in your field.
4. Find a good PR person to hasten the above process.
5. Speak with strangers every day. Press the flesh, not just the keyboard.
6. Sometimes you’ll need to tackle scepticism head on. Develop the skill of framing, especially “pre-framing”, your business conversations.
Richard Maybury is chair of IoD Surrey
Become a member of the IoD
The IoD has a range of memberships for directors, founders and co-founders, providing all the resources and facilities needed to enhance your business. To find out more about membership offerings and to join today, visit iod.com/membership
To join Director’s reader panel or to seek its advice, email firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting your IoD membership number