The Radleian Society recently ran a survey for those who left Radley 7 years ago, to find out what they experienced in their careers after they left Radley. One of the most dominant themes was that boys wished they had used the Radley network earlier on for advice. As one Old Radleian put it: ‘If you can start internships in your first year of university you have a big advantage, so I would have liked more contact with the alumni network earlier on’.
The challenges the boys are facing when entering the world of work today are greater than ever before, not just because of the pandemic, but also because of the way the workplace has transformed. Individuals are much more likely to change jobs or careers regularly and a positive attitude to adopting new skills in order to grasp opportunities.
To find out more about what Radleians are encountering after Radley, we interviewed Sebastian Aldous (2012, E)
What was it like for you when you first left Radley?
When I left Radley I went to Durham university to study Ancient History, and I didn’t actually find Durham that different to Radley when I got there. The most significant thing was the change of pace. Radley is such a full-on environment, and I found that at university I actually had a lot more time on my hands! This meant I was able to think about starting my own business and work out the skills I needed to do this, and because Radley had taught us how to keep ‘on top of things’, I have been able to build my business and do my degree at the same time.
Had you always wanted to start your own business?
Yes, I always wanted to start my own business, and a lot of this came from the things I tried at Radley – including attempting to sell a lot of stuff from China from my Shell room! Some of my ideas were better than others, I started the photography society, and I remember the school really supporting me to do this, with people like Mr Holden being a great mentor along the way. They let me use a room and set up the cameras and computers to process the photographs. Thinking back it was great that when I wanted to ‘just start something’, the school embraced it and helped, we were lucky.
When did you first start thinking about setting up your business after you left Radley?
I had always enjoyed working with technology, and as I had more time on my hands, I spent my first term at university learning how to code. I spoke to my brother about the idea of a helping students to talk to employers online, but doing it in a more personal way than the big recruitment agencies, and together we started to work out how we could actually make this into a business.
Describe your start-up and how things have gone so far.
My business, Varsity Careers Hub (VCH), is a software enabled recruitment firm, a platform that connects highly qualified job seekers with top companies. There are lots of larger recruitment firms out there, but they don’t do what we do, which is much more efficient because it is so targeted. Through our software, companies can find exactly the profile of individual they need and approach them in a very personal way, eliminating a lot of legwork. Students can also use the software to find and easily approach the right kind of company for them. We have a highly qualified ‘human’ recruitment service that works alongside the platform, which companies can also use to find people. Currently we have over 20,000 students and more than 150 employers using VCH, and we have recently scaled up our team to 6 people with two more planned hires for January; our revenues are growing quickly and we are going in for another SEIS funding round in early January so we are currently looking for investors for that.
How has the Radley network helped you so far?
I hadn’t really had any connection with Radley since I left, so I decided to get in touch with the Radleian Society office to find out the best way to access the Radley network – I wanted to be quite targeted in my approaches and make sure the relationships were right. They looked through their platforms, Radley Connect and LinkedIn, and identified several people for me to connect with who had the right experience. They asked them on my behalf if they were happy to talk to me, and I had some excellent conversations with various people, some of which are still ongoing.
One OR, who had himself set up his own business, gave me some excellent advice around getting ‘my books in order’ right from the beginning. He said I needed to make sure I set my business up in the right way, get the accounting, admin, and legalities right before we start to grow. He also introduced me to someone in a similar space who gave me advice on my software and how to improve and test it. This was invaluable at this stage as I had zero experience.
The Radleian Society also put me in touch with Tom Cornell (1987), who is very well advanced in his career. I remember being nervous about talking to someone with so much experience on the phone, but I am so glad I did. We continued to talk every couple of weeks and he then introduced us to several big companies, who were traditionally quite hard to get hold of, to help us develop meaningful partnerships early on. He advised us on our big decisions, assisted us in commercially evaluating our business and has been a brilliant sounding board throughout the last year – he is now a fully fledged investor/advisor and is helping us to raise investment so we can expand.
What advice would you give to others who are starting out in their careers?
Make sure you use the Radley network as early on as possible to test out your ideas and get advice in a safe environment. Try and do it in quite a targeted way, so you are not spamming people them, and make sure you have thought through your ideas before you approach them so you aren’t wasting their time. If I’m honest, if I had done it earlier I would have saved myself about a year’s worth of work!
If you would like to find out more about VCH or are interested in participating in the funding round then please reach out to RFL who can put you in touch.