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Ask James Caan – Issue 106

Written by Kimberley Startup | August 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

James Caan Online RecruitmentDear member,

I’m always uplifted when I hear of people who have taken on a challenge in their career. This could be working their way up within a company, or gaining recognition as an industry thought leader. Whatever the accomplishment, in these times of economic uncertainty, it really serves to verify why I am so passionate about recruitment.

The challenge, in Michelle’s case, was a brave transition to a new career.

She wrote:

‘I am a business woman who has had a varied career. However, I wanted a change so decided to return to university for 4 years and now have a first class honours degree in retail buying and fashion. Now, I am stuck. I appreciate that while I do have a lot of experience and strong skills, I need to begin at assistant level to learn the industry.

‘After a few interviews I am realising there is a potential problem – I am perceived as too experienced for the roles, but don’t have the experience to apply for higher roles. In an interview I had, they expressed concerns about how I would cope with not being in charge. The problem is I’m a professional person with a strong personality applying for a job where they normally pick fresh faced graduates.’

Michelle, the industry you are going into is one that is very familiar to me. Having spent years investing in companies, including my wife’s fashion boutique, I know that fashion is an exciting sector to work in.

Your ‘Catch 22’ predicament is not uncommon. The recession has forced a considerable number of people to reassess their career situation and in some cases, go for the job they really want.

Whilst this ability to pursue a new career route is refreshing, some jobseekers find it difficult to get past the concerns a hiring manager may display when considering you for a junior position.

For example, how will you cope with senior authority? Will the job present you with enough of a challenge? These are the kinds of questions they will be asking themselves; so you need to ensure that you effectively address any concerns.

It’s about how you present your attributes. Think carefully about the skills you have acquired and how they can be tailored to that business in particular. Getting employers’ interest is all about creating a need: you need to demonstrate you’re not a risky hiring decision; instead, you can bring a wealth of commercial experience that will create considerable value.

For example, you have worked hard in a competitive environment to earn your credentials; but, instead of placing emphasis on your professional achievements, alter the focus to what it has then enabled you to do – go and study for what you really want – and then apply to the business.

I think you’ve got a terrific advantage: many graduates come straight out of University unprepared for the jobs market. A major selling point, on your part, is that you’ve already proven yourself to be a dedicated worker and able to apply the same attitude to a range of situations. This gives you credibility for being diverse and, like you say, good at adapting to challenging situations.

As you know, fashion is fast-paced and incredibly competitive, so ensure to network and scour every avenue possible to find the right business for you. I’d make sure to use the big sites, such as Drapers ( to look for opportunities, but also contact smaller businesses too.

Some jobseekers dismiss smaller businesses, thinking they may pay less or there isn’t enough opportunity. I couldn’t disagree further. And in fact, your wealth of experience may in fact play to your advantage here. It’s all about creating a need and filling it, after all.


James Caan

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