Monday, May 12, 2014

Meet Arfah Farooq

By Dr. Will 

Arfah was on the first pilot youth coaching programme run by Spark+Mettle that led me to co-found Discoverables a website that helps young people find and develop their key skills and strengths. Co-founding the platform has led her to secure investment from Big issue invest and Wayra UnLtd where she started my #startupkid journey.

She is passionate about empowering young people to discover themselves and build their skills and has just launched a new product called Up: a skills development and feedback tool for businesses and youth organisations.

Beyond the world of startups and technology, she graduated in Media and Communication at Goldsmiths College, University Of London; She love filmmaking, campaigning and once took part in the One and Other project, in which she stood on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square for a whole hour.

Meet Arfah Farooq.

Will: Tell me about Discoverables. Where did the idea come from? How does your approach to strengths development differ from Gallup’s StrengthsQuest or Marcus Buckingham’s StandOut?

Arfah: The idea of Discoverables spun out of our youth aspirations charity called Spark+Mettle. An online coaching programme deliver through the likes of Google Hangouts. We learned a lot about flourishing in life, soft skills and careers. Taking what I learned from this program and my experiences of CVs being so frustrating, led to us to co-found Discoverables. Our strengths set is built on our flourishing qualities in our charitable programme that we think are important. Gallup has his own which are just amazing but ours are more laymen term strengths which makes it easier for young people to understand.

We’ve now go on to to develop and launch a whole new product for businesses called Up.  Up is a skills development and feedback tool that enables young employees to match their weekly outcomes with their personal career goals & soft skills development. It supports managers to communicate with them in a timely and effective way. On Up, we have identified 9 soft skills that we have took from a future skills report, this allows employees to think about the skills they use and track their progress.

Will: The missions component of Discoverables is quite unique. Members complete missions to “prove” their strengths. Would you elaborate?

Arfah: The point of proving is to create evidence. Anyone can say they are creative or have spark but by taking the missions on Discoverables you are actually proving you have these qualities. It allows a person to build a more holistic picture of themselves.

Will: What has been some of the successes of members? Is there an example you can share?

Arfah: We’ve had some users go on to secure internships at variety of different companies.

Will: What made you make Discoverables a social network as opposed to a book?

Arfah: We want it to be relevant to young people. Young people spend time online more than anyone. 74% of that is “just for fun” so the aim with Discoverables was to try and convert that just for fun time into fun but meaningful and productive activity.

Will: Speaking of social, how are you using social in your own professional life? What do’s and dont’s do you have for young professionals?

Arfah: I use social media to keep up to date with trends and to networking with likeminded individuals and to potentially even collaborate with others. My biggest advice would be is watch what you say! Don’t put anything out there that you wouldn’t want your family to see. If you apply for a job, employers will google and stalk your social media so assumptions and impressions will be made before you are even invited for an interview, so make a good impression and tweet and share articles relevant to the industry.

Will: Before the end of the interview, I want to mention your TEDTalk. How did that happen? What was the genesis of your talk?

Arfah: I found out that a Tedx event was being hosted in my local borough and the topic of it was resilience so I got in touch with the organiser and just told her about Discoverables and how we are trying to build resilience in young people. I just really persuaded her to give me a shot. I also personally had a very tough start of the year so I talked about my experiences, how I bounced back and how when things get tough it’s important to find that one thing to pull you through.

Will: OK. We will end on this question. What would you say is the one thing young people are confused about in regards to the job market?  What advice do you have for them for beginning to figures things out?

Arfah: I think the one thing they are confused about is actually understanding a job description and what skills are required and figuring out if they have the relevant skills. The truth is they most likely do. There is a lot you do in your personal life that is relevant so you might not have the hard work experience, but don’t be afraid to look into your day to day that has shaped you to be who you are today.

Check out Arfah's TEDTalk:

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