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Ask James Caan – Issue 125

Written by Kimberley Startup | January 16, 2013 | 0 Comments

James Caan Online RecruitmentDear member,

Achieving your dream career can be hard, but it’s even harder if you’re entering the job market as a mature graduate.

Yet there is one thing that I have always maintained when it comes to the age debate, and that is the older job seeker always has the one thing that the younger generation hopes for – experience.

Take Lisa for example. She went to university with 12 years’ professional experience in the print industry. She achieved a first class honours, and since, has been unable to get her foot on the career ladder in the creative sector.

She writes:

‘I graduated with a First in Illustration and Design in 2012, and have applied for creative roles. Having received next to no response, I took my CV to the university careers service, altered it, and have continued to apply for both creative roles, and graduate roles requiring 2:1 plus degree level’.

Having left the workplace to be a stay-at-home mum, like many others, Lisa felt assured that gaining a degree as a mature student would add value to her application.

The unfortunate news is, Lisa is far from the only person out there struggling to find a route back into work that’ll make the most of her experience and qualifications. As such, many are questioning why employers are so reluctant to allow mature graduate job seekers to bring so much extra value to their roles.

Firstly, Lisa, I think it is admirable how hard you are working to get back into work with the challenges of managing childcare following a career break. And also, many congratulations on achieving your first class degree.

This is clear evidence of your self-motivation, adaptability, time management and organisational skills – all key competencies that employers look for in a potential employee.

Frustratingly, however, it is this very diversity and experience that seems to complicate a mature graduate’s move from higher education into employment.

Whilst employers vary greatly in their attitudes towards age and employment, it’s worth taking the time to identify their particular concerns in order to increase your chances of countering them, for example, higher salary expectations or lack of flexibility.

You mentioned you’ve been applying for creative positions – what level do these roles operate? Too many mature graduates quickly come to the conclusion that they must start from scratch and apply for entry levels roles. But with a little bit of creativity, you may find opportunities more readily accessible.

In addition to your more creative job hunting approach, traditional strategies, such as using specialist creative agencies, networking, interning and researching the trade press, should also be considered to ensure you maximise and capitalise on your chances.

Here are a few suggestions you may be able to apply:

– Write a concise CV that clearly outlines all your relevant experience
– If you get an interview, be confident and never apologise for your age
– Use social media to showcase your work, for example – use SlideShare
– Join online creative communities on LinkedIn and start networking
– Use contacts from previous jobs, friends, family and associations
– Convey your loyalty and confidence to manage change

Overall, Lisa, success in your chosen field doesn’t just happen. And as a mature graduate, it requires a little more hard work, dedication and focus.

But I strongly believe, that with your skills, determination and initiative, it won’t be long before you land the job of your dreams.


James Caan

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