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Ask James Caan – Issue 68

Written by Kimberley Startup | October 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

James Caan Online RecruitmentDear Member,

Tomorrow (20th October) I will be a guest on BBC Three’s ‘Up For Hire’ – a live show focused on youth employment.

With youth unemployment at the highest it has ever been, I’ll be tackling the issue head on by advising young people on how to enter the world of work and sharing tips on how to start a business. You can view the details here:

This brings me onto a letter I received from Jenny. Jenny has joined the increasing number of unemployed young people and is seeking her first job. After being told by a family friend to sign up to LinkedIn, she contacted me to ask the following:

‘I finished school in the summer with fairly good GCSEs – a few As, Bs and a C. I chose not to carry on with my A-levels as I don’t know what I want to do. I know I don’t want to go to university and end up with a big debt.

‘I enjoyed English and Computer Studies, and did some work experience in a local tennis centre, but I find it hard to get a job in an office as I don’t have previous experience.’

Jenny, you are obviously very intelligent and driven: you’ve achieved some great GCSE results and the fact you’re utilising LinkedIn to seek advice demonstrates great initiative and that you really mean business!

To put it into context, the sad reality is youth unemployment is set to rise even further. Latest figures released have confirmed that almost one million 16-24 year olds are now looking for work, which means making it to interview stage seems much more difficult.

Before deciding what kind of job you wish to look for, ask yourself: what are the key qualities and skills employers are looking for?

As a result of the recession, many managers will have embraced the mood of cost-cutting. Once a business gets used to working with a leaner workforce and more efficient ways of working, they’ll stay there. This means as a potential candidate you need to show how you can add value.

As someone with no commercial experience, entering the world of work can be tricky, but if you identify your strengths, securing an interview may seem easier than you think.

One way you could do this is to use the skills you are already confident with. As you are looking to enter an office environment, let’s start with your computing skills.

A good grasp of IT literacy is very important. Most – if not all – businesses rely on the internet, word processing, spreadsheets and now, social media, to ensure the efficient running of their companies, so already knowing your way around a PC will put you in good stead.

When it comes to employing young people, some hiring managers find the level of basic skills amongst school leavers poor. And Jenny, if you are looking to enter an office environment, I’d suggest brushing up on your letter writing skills and give yourself a refresher course on basic word processing.

Whilst this is a good start, it may not be enough to stand out against others going for a potential job. So think about what other skills or experience you have acquired – and then match that to what your future boss may be looking for.

For example, the work experience placement you went on should have exposed you to a new set of working practice, and shown you what you enjoy and are perhaps keen to pursue.

Answering the phone; booking courts; inputting membership details; working 9:00 – 5:00: all these duties should give you some great material when it comes to writing your CV.

Overall, Jenny, remember you’ve collated many relevant skills already, it’s just a case of knowing how to package them. And, if you’re really passionate about something, your enthusiasm will shine and give you that extra level of confidence.

Best of luck,


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