Milimo Banji, better known as Mils by friends and colleagues alike, is one of those rare people that makes you trust anything he says.
From a beaming smile to his intense passion for whichever of his many projects is currently at his fingertips, Mils is the kind of person you want in charge. Coming from most people it would sound insane, but when he tells me he’s going to prepare 100 million young people for the world of work through online content and offline events, I believe him. And I want him to succeed.
Like any good story about an aspiring world-beater, Mils is a dropout. After three years of studying Aerospace Engineering here at the University of Manchester, Mils decided university life wasn’t for him and began a startup trying to embed drone technology into more of our businesses. However, it was Mils’ Plan B that would prove most fruitful in the end.
Identifying a failure in universities to inform students about their career options, and an unwillingness from students to engage with career planning for much of this process, Mils founded Student Inspire Network in 2017. The idea was to provide focused insights into different career paths and employment opportunities through easily digestible video content, bringing university Careers Services away from leaflets containing easily-Googleable information and into the 21st century.
After much time refining and perfecting his approach, Mils and his ever-growing team are preparing to launch TapIn: an organisation looking to provide a holistic approach to career planning for young people. They’ll be offering videos, online guides, workshops, talks, and anything else that can help a disillusioned generation find some much-needed direction and a career that truly works for them.
In the eyes of Mils and many others, universities don’t understand how to adequately help students with career planning. This creates a huge information gap for students unsure how they’re going to progress outside of the student bubble, a situation that causes great anxiety for many students each year.
At the University of Manchester, the Careers Service is ranked outside the top 20 nationally, while the University itself is ranked 8th. Universities are yet to treat employability seriously, especially in a student-focused light.
Instead, Mils argued current efforts to aid employability on campus, such as careers fairs and talks from potential employers, are overly corporate and focus on the university’s business interests rather than the needs of the student. “It’s like Tinder,” Mils tells me with a chuckle. “There’s nothing immersive or hands-on, it’s just a roulette.” Students get a couple of minutes to hear what is essentially a pre-recorded message from a company and then move onto the next stand that has a free water bottle and some Maoams to offer you.
“It’s about merchandise and flashiness, not the students,” Mils says, as I conveniently follow with an anecdote about the fancy water bottle and portable charger I got last week, from a company whose name or even industry I could not remember.
This impersonal approach to careers seems to be a societal epidemic, rather than one simply existing within the university bubble. Mils tells me that in Manchester alone, there are currently 12,000 recruitment agencies, which I had to verify due to how ridiculous it seems. The need for so many companies to exist that simply fill vacancies speaks to how robotic our jobs market has become. People lack the drive or initiative to find a career they care about, and an organisation like TapIn, that gives people the skills and knowledge to do so from their first job, could go a long way to fixing this issue.
This company rather than student-led approach to careers within universities is extremely toxic, and this is the gap Mils wants TapIn to fill. “Universities take a high ground thinking they know what students want, but they must actually talk to them more,” Mils says, again pushing home just how out of touch universities are. This arrogance and unwillingness to change are what Mils sees as the biggest issues with how career planning is presented to students, and it’s having real consequences.
He wants TapIn to fill the void where universities are unable, or simply unwilling, to. Now having settled on a content strategy of longer, more in-depth videos, Mils believes any student could gain value from what TapIn has to offer. Dividing content into four sections, Law, STEM, Banking & Finance and Creative Fields, any degree is catered for and there are valuable insights to be gained no matter what one’s own interests are.
These more substantial videos will go deep into the application processes for a range of companies, giving you advice on types of questions, candidate profiles and everything you need to give yourself the best possible chance at your dream role.
Mils was keen to not understate the importance of offline events in addition to this content, hoping TapIn could create a significant on-campus presence, directly interacting with students and creating the dialogue that is so essential to cater for the ever-changing needs of the student populace. This means more hands-on workshops and events away from traditional university models of careers fairs and employer talks, meaning students can get help with their CVs, have practice interviews and talk directly to people who were in their exact position just a few years ago.
For those students who are lost in the big, nebulous world of careers, Mils also had plenty of advice. Before our campus is overrun by more careers events than we’ve ever seen, take the time to make simple measures that could go a long way. Mils is one of LinkedIn’s biggest proponents, and he’s always quick to talk about how just one message could change everything. “Message around and be curious about careers,” he tells me with his unique brand of passionate wisdom. “You might send 50 messages and only get 3 back, but those 3 could be huge”.
It’s important to remember the humanity of everyone involved in the careers process, and Mils provides a great reminder here. Curiosity and a willingness to chat with a variety of people engaged in different industries will often do more than waltzing around a careers fair inundated by tote bags and lollipops. Don’t be afraid to sit in on a law talk or message an investment banker, even if you’re on a break from writing about Venetian salt trade for your History degree. You never know when you could find your ideal career, and it’s that curiosity and drive which Mils so desperately wants to inject into our youth that will get you there.