The Youth Group – Jack Parsons – S3E17

This week on our Legally Speaking Podcast, our host Robert Hanna was joined by Jack Parsons.

Jack Parsons is an award-winning young entrepreneur, public speaker and subject expert on youth and is known as the UK’s Chief Youth Officer.

Jack’s been honoured awards over the last 3 years including Young Digital Leader Of The Year, The 100 Faces of a Vibrant Economy, Most Connected Young Entrepreneur, 50 Top kindest leaders and Top 10 UK Young Entrepreneurs to Watch.

Jack is currently the CEO of The Youth Group which is building the world’s largest most connected marketplace and community for young people with one aim: to help improve the odds for young people across the commonwealth to achieve their full potential in work.

On top of running The Youth Group Jack advises a number of organizations and figure heads on young people.

Jack talks:

  •  Helping young people improve their career odds and overcome common challenges.
  • The work of The Youth Group and founding this initiative.
  • Early career networking & being 2019’s ‘Most Connected Young Entrepreneur’.
  • Tips for sparking entrepreneurial thinking.
  • Why kindness matters.


Rob Hanna (00:00):

Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast. I’m your host, Rob Hanna. This week, i’m absolutely delighted to be joined by Jack Parsons. Jack is an award winning young entrepreneur, public speaker and subject expert on youth and is known as the UKs chief youth Officer. Jack has been nominated for awards over the last three years, including young digital leader of the year, the hundred basis of the vibrant economy, most connected young entrepreneur, 50th top kindest leaders in the UK and top 10 UK entrepreneurs to watch.Jack is currently the CEO of the youth group, which is building the world’s largest and most connected marketplace and community for young people with one aim. To help improve the odds for young people across the Commonwealth to achieve their full potential in work. On top of running the youth group, Jack advises a number of organisations and figureheads on young people. So a very, very big welcome Jack.

Jack Parsons (01:04):

Thank you, Rob. Hello How are we?

Rob Hanna (01:04):

Very very well, so before we go through all of those amazing achievements, we were just talking off air. We do have our customary icebreaker opening question on the show, which is on the scale of one to 10, 10 being very real. How real would you rate the hit TV series suits in terms of its reality? Given you’re not legally qualified, you’re happy to use and express yourself in whichever way you wish in terms of your number.

Jack Parsons (01:34):

So I would say seven six is as realistic as number seven. You’ve got Louie running around. You’ve got a really smart young mind. You can remember things. I had a picture memory, so surely it’s a seven, it’s a seven. What I show a lot of our legal listeners listening and may contradict that we’ll let you off.

Rob Hanna (01:55):

So let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a bit about you, your family background and your upbringing.

Jack Parsons  (02:01):

I came from a disadvantaged background. I grew up on a council state. My mum was an alcoholic. She was only ever in three moods drunk, violent or asleep. School was a place for me to go and fit in and I had one school jumper. I went three nights a week without dinner, and I became a carer. I become the grown-up in the family, at really young age. Typically I’m really blunt. My mum was mentally ill and she tend to drink to cope with it. And my mom got really ill and my dad had no choice, but to take me in and we had a deal. My dad said, look, you can come and live under my roof as long as you make your bed every day. And as long as you apply for as many jobs as you can to try and get out there. So it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. So my upbringing was tough. It’s not the, it’s not the toughest upbringing. There’s some young people that are groomed into gangs. There’s some young people who never get to meet their parents. I had a tough upbringing, which really built what I’m about and that’s hard work and giving things a go.

Rob Hanna (03:01):

Brilliant. I love that. And thanks so much for being so open and sharing that with us. So let’s fast forward then to the current day, what you’ve done and what you’re achieving, because your slogan is, improving the odds for young people. So tell us more about that and where your passion came from in terms of starting that initiative.

Jack Parsons (03:21):

I believe business needs to be led with purpose these days. So whatever business you can make as much money in the world as you want, but have a purpose around it. I call it the duvet flip. What gets you out the Bed in the morning when you flip that duvet? Is it because you’ve got a really good legal case that you’re working on? Is it because you’re looking to go and break down doors or is it because you’re going to take kids to school, find your duvet flip. My duvet flip is to help young people and improve their odds. Over the last 24 months will even improve the odds for 90,000 young people. So we got a community is 1.7 million young people ages 18 to 30, all walks of life. So you’ve got young lawyers in there, but you’ve also got young people. Who’ve never walked into an office before. So we help them to get ready into and grow at work. So out of other 90,000, we’ve upskilled 21,000 of those young people with digital skills. And we put over 9,000 for their first time employment directly or indirectly in partnership with the likes of Prince, just trust YMCAs or all the other good organizations out there. And the reason why we do this, and the reason why I start this business, Robert is because young people feel overwhelmed when they enter the real world. How do I access opportunity? Where is the opportunity and how do I get started? And when I entered the workplace, it was quite tough. People looked down at me. I was the uneducated kid without a degree. I didn’t know a lot about a lot. But I had alot of common sense, and I wanted to work hard. But even though that I had the work ethic and I want it to just give something a go, my CV, let me down because I didn’t have the degree on it. So how can we really help young people break down those doors so they can really, really get meaningful opportunity. And definitely in this stage of life, we’re in, at the moment, everyone with the world pandemic. People need to really help people locally. And that’s what we do. We help young people find their passions, flip that duvet flip and get into employment.

Rob Hanna (05:29):

And I love that. I just absolutely love everything about that. So just to got to go a little bit deeper, you talked about sort of young people feeling overwhelmed. What are some of the other sort of most common challenges or extensions of that point? You see young people facing today, particularly one starting out with a career. Cause as you say, it can be rather overwhelming.

Jack Parsons (05:48):

Totally. It goes down to three things. One confidence, young people, and this is not every young person. There are some really, really confident young people just look at Mike Ross on suits, but there’s some young people that lack the confidence to ask the questions. Of course they’re so forward because the sense of rejection, they don’t like to be rejected or they fear rejection. So one that there’s a confidence issue. We need to build a bit of a toughness, mental toughness when it comes to ask you to use it’s okay to stall. It’s okay to get a knock back. It’s okay to not to get the first opportunity, but keep going. So there’s something around confidence and mental toughness. Secondly, network. Young people don’t have the network to open the doors. They don’t know a partner at a legal firm or the person who runs Google UK. So they can’t access these opportunities with their network. Third thing is, it goes into the mental state. Mental health is rising. Everyone has mental health. Yes. Some of us have really good mental health, but without fault, all of us get stressed. All of us get a bit of anxiety or overwhelmed. Sometimes it’s those three things, the confidence, the network, and then the mental health. That’s really been the everyday barriers for young people. And that’s what we focus on stage, not age, whereas a young person at their stage in life. And how can we help them overcome? And some of the brightest, young people in the country right now, even those young people feeling overwhelmed and not knowing how to navigate the system.

Rob Hanna (07:30):

And so let’s talk a little bit more about the youth group. Then tell us more about that. And then also what your role CEO of the youth group involves.

Jack Parsons (07:39):

So the youth group, we, I have a team of 50 young people here in London at work for the youth group. And we have an extended team of 1500 ambassadors, which has recently been changed to change makers across the country ,that jump on and support ambition. We worked with about 200 companies here in the UK and we’re soon open in New Zealand. And my role is different every day, one day I’m the CEO next day, I feel like the chief cleaning officer. You have to as being an entrepreneur yourself, but you will know you have to wear a number of hats. A lot of people see my role as being the spokesperson and I am the spokesperson. I go on TV. I go and meet some fantastic people. I advise at 10 Downing street, but I’m also grafting in every day, six days a week 8:00AM to at least 11:00 PM every day, because that’s what you got to do when you’re running an organization. That’s what you do when you really want to change the world for young people. So it’s not all glamour. Yes. People see the glamorous side. It didn’t always cut and ribbons and opening, digital embassies and stuff. I’m bombarded with paper work, emails, admin and to navigate how are we going to really make sure that we’re helping young people? So everyday is different. I love it. Sometimes I come off a call at the end of the day, my last call tonight is at 10:00 PM with the New Zealand government and TikTok tonight. And I’m thinking, wow, why did I put that in 10:00 PM time, I get off that call at 11:00 PM, shower and bed. Then you do what you need to do. And sometimes I get off the call and just want to burst out, crying, really do. And that is the case. I’ve come to terms of this. Okay. Because actually, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Rob Hanna (09:25):

And I love that. And the fact that you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable Jack, and I think what I would say is, as a fellow entrepreneur, you have to have that purpose and passion because there is no other reason to do it unless you really do. And it’s very clear with what you’re doing. There is a clear purpose and clear passion behind it and what you’re doing for the next generation is fantastic. So I really do commend you. I mean, in terms of kind of moving on from that, do you work with aspiring legal professionals? Because you know, legal sets are very, very tough as they’ve lots of sectors are to break into, but have you had much experience with that and any tips maybe to people listening and you would give to them in terms of giving them some more confidence.

Jack Parsons (10:02):

Totally, we worked with a number of young legal experts who want to get into a career. And one thing that helps that we’ve seen been a real big trend is when they go and volunteer at local charities or volunteer in a company or they’re getting their law degree, we’ve actually, we’ve got a young girl called Priyanka. She’s actually the chair of our youth board is she’s inspiring to be a commercial lawyer at the moment. She sits on our advisory board and she’s chairs it for us. And she also sits on the board of US embassy. And she’s like young 22 year old looking to be an aspiring lawyer she’s gone and done. She’s got out there and networked, volunteered a number of organisations, got herself up on stage. Everyone is the retrospectives. It doesn’t matter who you are or what profession you’re in. You can all add value in something. There might be a local charity that you could go and volunteer out or help the next door neighbor.

Rob Hanna (11:02):

I don’t know, really get your CV filled up with some voluntary positions ready for when you go into knocking on the door of one of the big law firms. Brilliant, brilliant. And again, I absolutely love that. I wish her the very best of luck with her legal journey. And, but again, moving on so many aspiring lawyers, current practicing legal professionals are advised. They need to showcase more entrepreneurial thinking in the modern world. And I know in 2019, I think I mentioned in the introduction you were named most connected young entrepreneur. So how did you achieve that? And what tips would you give to others? Maybe spark entrepreneurial thinking.

Jack Parsons (11:39):

So when I first started Robert, I had nothing to offer. I wasn’t the smartest person in the room. I didn’t have a degree and I had no experience. So what could I build that really helped me get ahead and actually become something. And one of the things I did was said to myself, I’m going to build a network, cause not what you know, it’s who, you know, and yes there is, you have to know, especially in the legal industry, but it’s also important to who, you know, so one day I sat in a coffee shop. I was 21 years old, did some work experience and then set up my own business. I reached out and reached out to people, anyone, three months, six months, eight months ahead of me, two years, five years ahead of me asking that they would come and have a coffee with me. I literally reached out to about a thousand individuals and I’ve got about 800 no’s and the rest didn’t come back. And I thought to myself, what am I doing wrong? So when I was in this coffee shop, I wanted to be afar. And I took a picture of two cups of tea in the coffee shop from nine and say, great day of meetings. I didn’t make no one that day. Those two cups of tea was drunk by me. It was one retweet and another retweet and someone liked it. And then the person who liked it, I jumped on, will you meet me? I want to talk to you about Youth and what we’re doing. And they said, yes. And what I used to do is take a note and see anything they knew or anything, I could learn from that coffee, I would pay for the coffee. I only had 10,000 pounds savings. So I had 10,000 pounds worth of coffee before I had to get back into work. I said, do you know anyone I should meet? And they know someone six months ahead of them. So I started building that network and now it’s turned into having 40% of the 100 CEO’s in my phonebook. It’s because I’ve become a social networker, connecting people, connecting in different places. It’s a spiral effect. And now I’ve got too many people wanting to have coffees with me. 700 people reach out a week in my inbox in LinkedIn, say, come have a coffee and you can’t have a coffee with everyone. To really build a network at the start, I started showcasing what I was doing in a meaningful way. Not bragging way saying, look at me, because the people I was meeting were good, but they weren’t Ronaldo’s or Mike Ross’s of the world, Harvey Specter’s, but they were good people. And that’s what I did. And that’s how the brand grew. But most importantly, I stayed consistent,

Rob Hanna (14:11):

Loved that. Love everything about that Jack. It’s the true ins and outs and warps and all of how you’ve got to where you are. And that’s again, very commendable. And I just want to talk about networking, it’s something I’m a massive advocate for, a lot of people who follow me know that LinkedIn is my main platform I’m really, really passionate about, but networking is another key skill that’s required in the legal sector. And you’ve already touched on this quite a bit, but is there any other tips you would say now to sort of how you go about your networks continue to build on those networks because you’re so early on into sort of, you know, a career and adaptively, you’re going to go so far in the future, but people listening to this thinking, I just want to pick two tips of networking off Jack, what would you say?

Jack Parsons (14:49):

When you’re in the room, be present as young professionals, we get nervous, the person who you get the opportunity to talk to.Treat them like they’re the only person in the room, the eye contact, don’t focus anything around you and ask questions, go from having all the answers to all the questions when networking, because you’re there to learn and grow. And people love to give advice and people love to give back and actually support, make them seem like the most important person in the room. And then thirdly don’t hide in the corner where the sandwiches are, go around the room, join the conversation. What worst can happen? Someone says, Oh, sorry, this is a private conversation. And you go, okay, apologies. Nothing bad can happen, but be present in that room and go from having all the answers to all the questions.

Rob Hanna (15:46):

Yeah. Again, really Sage advice. So thanks for sharing that, Jack. I mentioned at the top of this as well, you also sit as a non-executive director advisor, an ambassador for a range of government, private, public, and charity organizations. Do you want just tell us a bit more about that work and again, what inspired you to get involved with it? Totally. So I’m a big believer of diversity of fault. And if you’re just working in your business, you’re not seeing what the rest of the world is doing. So I lend my time, both voluntary and commercially to organizations and government institutions.

Rob Hanna (16:23):

For instance, I’m an international specifies the New Zealand government on youth. And I lend my time to them to help the government understand young people. It gives me the opportunity to actually learn different governance and different processes. How I can sign somebody off lead in my organization is different to our, a big government can sign things off. So actually going around other tables and other people’s playgrounds, it actually helps you to understand how they operate. So that’s what I do. I’m also an ambassador of Buckingham palace on young people across the Commonwealth. And I sit on several other commercial entities as non-execs and I try and keep the commercial to stuff private and not publicly put on it because it doesn’t need to be public knowledge. Really. I use them as my classrooms, anyone’s listening, who knows, I sit on their board, they’re going to go, Oh my God, he uses us as a classroom. But yeah, so it’s all about joining other places. So you can really, really learn and use it as a classroom to learn. For instance, I sit on the national grid for national grid for good and national grid, they founded 14 billion. And I give my perspective on diversity, young people and the modern way of thinking. So if you do get an opportunity to volunteer or be a trustee or a governor or a non-exec director, definitely jump at the opportunity and actually learn and use as your classroom to learn and get different diversity of thought.

Rob Hanna (17:51):

Yeah, no, that’s great. I just want to build on that because you really are a trailblazer when it comes to someone who could bring diverse groups of people together behind your entrepreneurial vision, so to speak, you know, what’s your secret? Do you have mentors yourself or is it just so self-belief, creativity or drive? What’s your secret?

Jack Parsons  (18:10):

I think it goes down to two main things and that is the passion and the energy to drive something forward. I love it when someone says no to me, because it might not be the right time or right place at the times on my side. And that is for any inspiring young lawyers out there or legal professionals, time is on your side and you learn and you grow and you reflect. So I do a lot of reflection when things go wrong and I get 300 things wrong a day, but I also get two things that are right in those two things turn into gold and that’s all that matters. Secondly, I surround myself with some really smart mentors. I have a fantastic advisory board from the COO of Google UK to the presser tech, UK, to the president of lion’s gate, the Biggest British film maker. And I asked a lot of questions to those people and clear experts in their own right. And I put my hand up when I don’t know the answer and I go, sorry, I don’t get what this is. Can you support? and that’s good, having a support network around you to really help you thrive, because we don’t know all the answers let’s not make out. We do. I definitely don’t the business landscape. So I only know a little fraction of it, but mine little fraction, which is youth and being entrepreneurial and building networks. It’s something I do really well. I’m not a good lawyer. Wouldn’t be able to read. I can’t read and write properly. But there’s someone out there who is really good to partner with them and seek advice when you need it.

Rob Hanna (19:40):

Brilliant advice. Again, absolutely love everything to do with that, Jack. And the other thing that you and I share great passion around is obviously kindness. And we’ve touched on mental health as well. Typically as there’s a high number of people in the legal sector, struggling in silence. And I was delighted to see that in 2019, you were named one of the top 50 kindness leaders. Why does kindness matter to you so much?

Jack Parsons (20:04):

My heart pumps when I see a sad person or a homeless person or someone who just needs a helping hand, whatever age they are. So, I’m a big believer in human first. We’re all human and everyone deserves respect, no matter what their background, no matter what their race, no matter what their interest is. And it really gets to me when people are horrible to others, I’ve got a big backbone. Anyone can break a brick around my face. I’ve been laughed out of rooms. That’s fine, you build a bit of a resilience around it. But I believe that we can all do things with kindness. And grace is so important. You don’t know what it’s taken for someone to get out of bed this morning, you don’t know what it’s taken before someone’s jumped on a podcast. I don’t know how your day has gone today, Robert. You could have been out in the best day or the worst day, but you’ve come home with a smile. You’re doing it, you’re turning up. So don’t judge and just sing. Nice. I think it’s really important to be nice in the world we live in. And I guess people got all stopped being a pansy or, well, it’s not nice, but actually I called a thing called chicken karma, not chicken korma, chicken karma. Karma comes back at you, and karma credits we’ll get you. If you’re not being kind in what you do.

Rob Hanna (21:17):

Yeah, no, I couldn’t agree more with everything to do with that. I think kindness really does matter, regardless of whatever your state is, whatever you get on to achieve. I always think kindness is what we should all practice and continue to kind of bang the drum to make sure that more people are doing it because yeah, particularly in modern times, a supportive culture is very, very important. And just moving on to parts, one of the reasons social media in 2017, you were named top 100 CEOs to follow on Twitter. So is that your sort of main social media platform or do you use lots of others too? And you’ve also been named young digital leader of the year in 2018. So what do you, would you say are the whole social media thing as well?

Jack Parsons (21:58):

So Twitter doesn’t mean gold, because I find it hard to write and read, Twitter is only 240 characters. So it really helps me just to get something out. I’m quite blunt, with my approach, five years of being an entrepreneur, you sit for all the loneliness and you just say, go just straight to the point. I want the news, not the weather and say, Twitter does meet gold. I like to use Twitter, etc, just get my opinions out. A lot of CEOs across the country, follow me on there as well. So I’m quite direct broadcasts to them, journalists and politicians as well. So I have a weekly or bi-weekly chat with Dominic Raab There’s a deputy prime minister. We talk on Twitter. It comes back within 40 minutes of me messaging him. Twitter is a great platform for quickness. The other platform that’s done me really well is LinkedIn 700 people, Rachel Austin for a coffee weekly saying, Oh, can we get a coffee? It’s a place of business. So those platforms have done me really well. The platforms that have not really done me well, it’s obviously Tik ToK and Instagram. I don’t know why I just not engaged with them as much. I just feel out of place in, you know, I’m a young person, social media is really important, but you have to be careful on what you put out because there’s more people watching than you actually know on these platforms. Just be very considerate what you say. And when you say it and why you say it, I’ll give you an example. About a year ago, I put online and I was having a mental challenge in my own mind just to fed up and I was coming off Twitter and I saying I’m going. And what I meant is I’m coming off Twitter. Community took that on Twitter CEOs also took that as I was going to commit suicide. And that’s turned into a investigation that turned into about 15 cops out all night, looking for me. And it turned into the whole bloody investigation thing that didn’t need to be in place or because I wrongly tweeted in a way that could have been to rotate into any direction. So social media can also be very dangerous if you’re not clear on the clarity on what you mean.

Rob Hanna (24:08):

Yeah, no, that’s again, really, really important point. So thanks for sharing that and that experience. So I guess as we look to wrap up Jack, what are your plans for the future? You’re definitely not someone who’s going to sit still. So you keep yourself very busy. You’re doing so much for the youth and the next generation and wider communities, but what goals or plans do you have for the future?

Jack Parsons (24:26):

Our community is at 1.7 million young people. I’ve got this ambition to get the community to 50 million youth across the Commonwealth. So we’re launching in New Zealand and Australia, Canada, India, and South Africa over the next six years, I’ve got about five years until I step down as CEO, just because then becomes too governance. And I’m not interested in the governance. I like to be out on the ground with youths, and actually helping grassroots, which I don’t get as much time these days. I still get time, but not as much because obviously you ran a business to really build a legacy where the youth group can stand on its own two feet without me. And I can be a nice ambassador to supporting youth across the country and across the Commonwealth while the youth group really helps young people get ahead.

Rob Hanna (25:18):

Brilliant. Well, listen, on behalf of all of us on the legally speaking podcast, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on Jack, but if people want to, I’m sure you’ve inspired a lot of people young and whatever throughout this podcast chat. So if they want to follow you or get in touch and learn more about the youth group, what’s the best way and platform for them to do that.

Jack Parsons (25:39):

So if you’re logged in Twitter, if you’re a smart lawyer, jump on Instagram because I don’t get as much in engagement on there. Google me, just the normal channels. So yeah, just to start with Google and decide if we can help or not.

Rob Hanna (25:57):

Brilliant. Thanks so much. Once again, wishing you lots of continued success with all your future entrepreneurials pursuits, but there are now over and out.

Jack Parsons (26:06):

Thank you

Rob Hanna (26:08):

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