You’ve all heard stories of crap careers advice, hours spent searching and applying, low confidence and challenging processes. Why? because someone decided a few decades ago that’s the process? Well, no! We should be making it as damn easy, inspiring and engaging as possible.

 
I was seeing first hand, as a teacher, just how frustrating and dated the school leaves careers process is. I set about to fix it and flip the careers process on it’s head, I quickly realised that if I was going to make the impact I wanted to make, then I was needing to become a facilitator not a dictator. My vision was a starting point sure, but ultimately over 2500 young people shaped the solution in to what it is now; miFuture The School Leavers app.
 
I left teaching with a tremendous amount of energy to solve this problem, armed with a solution that young people were now excited to see come to life I spent 3 years diving deeper into Generation Z. I visited schools, employability projects, housing associations, schools, community first and PRU groups, charities, anyone who would have me.
 
It was an opportunity to observe how they engage with digital solutions, to find out what frustrated them, noting what functionality they championed and which online processes were a turn off. The insight was incredible and I wanted them to be involved in every part of building this solution.
 
This time was invaluable and I absorbed everything I could. To show my gratitude for their input I made a promise. A promise to over 2500 young people, that we were going to make it happen. Yikes!
 

Initially out of touch 

Together we were able to identify their current frustrations without making assumptions and allow them to generate exciting solutions, this process ultimately redefined what miFuture would become.
 
When teaching I had the idea of a ‘Facebook for Careers’ an all-singing and dancing portal of information and guidance, with a user news feed of opportunities offering a easy ‘one click apply’. I envisaged a platform with video, written guides, quizzes and action plans, yeah all that ‘sexy’ stuff that would excite a teacher, but not a Gen Z’er.
 
These functions are already provided by various brands and they actually frustrate this on-demand one-touch generation. What didn’t exist was an instant gratification personalised experience, similar to dating apps, where you can make something happen right here and now, a pre-qualified, personal match that can be ‘actioned’ in just a swipe.
 
I was coming at it from the wrong point of view, I needed to listen, step back and hand over control to Generation Z (Gen Z). miFuture has evolved into a uniquely positioned solution for the school leavers market, thanks mainly to these 3 reasons:

 

To demonstrate a class discussion

1. Keep it simple

 
Above all the purpose was “great” and they were inspired to get involved, but they were honest in describing just how “crap” the current build trajectory would be.
 
They didn’t hold back (another reason to love young people is their honesty) they threw out over 80% of the original functions and stripped it back to focus solely on their two biggest frustrations: finding opportunities and applying for them.
 
“We only want to see opportunities that we can actually apply for.” 
 
In hindsight this is obvious! If you’ve been on a job finding mission you know the results are often ineligible. When a school leaver eventually finds an opportunity, excitement is often short lived as they read that it requires ‘x amount of experience’ or ‘post grad only’. It is a disheartening experience and one we were instructed to avoid, so we flipped it, now they only see what they can actually apply for, it gives a sense of ‘wow all these want me’ and that’s a fantastic way to feel about your career hey? 
 
So simplicity is now key…

Create a profile  >  Get curated matches  >  Swipe to apply

It couldn’t be easier and it keeps us honest when considering adding additional functionality, if it’s not a simple process we don’t build it.

2. App first 

 
My first iteration was fairly basic website etching towards a Facebook for careers, in 2017 we pivoted to a mobile responsive desktop with a complementary app. After a huge realisation and pivot in late 2018 miFuture launched as App only, scrapping all our web based products.
 
In two years the landscape that Generation Z demanded to apply for opportunities not only evolved but it shifted completely.
 
Their perception and belief is that they will find jobs, courses and training positions through their phone, and only their phone.
 
This is huge! This is a shift that those in charge of careers and recruitment hasn’t prepared for, I hadn’t prepared for it, but we adapted, went with it and refused to add resistance.
 
By doing so miFuture, in the simplicity mentioned in point 1, was able to give school leavers exactly what they wanted.

3. App Discipline

 
Understanding how young people use their phones was incredibly valuable.
 
Very quickly we learned that they have a repetitive compartmentalised approach to app engagement and a clear purpose is attached to each.
 

Facebook is for ‘old people and my family’. Twitter is for ‘businesses and serious people’. Instagram is where ‘I document the best of my life’. Snapchat is where I have ‘fun’ and ‘chat’.

 
It became clear that Generation Z are disciplined and purposeful when it comes to using apps, even as they open these apps their communication style and behaviour would adapt to those they were now engaging with. Fascinating!
 
Crucially, not once was of these channels mentioned as a route to look for career opportunities, they may passively absorb content yes, but given the fact that organisations have 1.2 seconds to capture and 8 seconds to engage – it’s highly unlikely they would penetrate these channels and be seen.
 
‘Careers’ doesn’t fit in this social media world and they were honest in telling us so.
 
Instead they want a compartmentalised ‘functional’ app that sits alongside the likes of Uber, Just Eat, Dominoes, Amazon, Banking, Tinder etc. Apps that are not for socialising or communicating but serve a particular isolated purpose on their phone and ready for an action. Double fascinating! 
 

“When I want a pizza I open Dominoes, select what I want, order and track it coming. I probably use it couple of times a month. I’ll do the same with miFuture… I’ll open it, swipe through, and track the ones I’ve applied for, like a couple of times a month.” KS4 School Leaver, Bridgend

So miFuture sits on their phones ready and waiting to be actioned, like the dominoes app she’d open on a Friday to get that pizza. miFuture sits in wait for when she wants to check out career opportunities in the area. 

What a journey

It’s taken over 3 years to get the solution right, taking time to test different iterations and review regularly, now we can get started. The temptation with any start up is to get to market as quickly as possible, on this occasion doing so would have been hugely detrimental to not just the product we built but our understanding for who we built if with and why.
 
Having spent time with young people in groups of all sizes, abilities and economical backgrounds I can honestly say that miFuture app is was co- created by Generation Z school leavers for our school leavers.
 
Gem Hallett
Chief Mobiliser @miFutureApp