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Ask James Caan – Issue 70

Written by Kimberley Startup | November 2, 2011 | 0 Comments

James Caan Online RecruitmentDear Member,

Over 50s discrimination proved to be a big topic last week, with many of you debating the value of extensive experience and skills.

Unfortunately, ageism is still rife and employers have a long way to go when it comes to changing attitudes, but it’s what you do to distance yourself from the competition that will help you to clinch a new job.

Back to the column, and this week I’m answering a letter from Angela, an executive working in the finance industry:

‘I’ve been in marketing for many years now, with my eye on becoming a director. From day one I have made sure that I kept ahead of the game – working late, delivering results and always showing how I add value.

‘The company I work for is growing steadily, and there’s much room for development, but I am concerned about the lack of women in senior roles. How can I increase my chances of competing with the boys and get myself promoted to board level?’

Angela, your letter highlights a hot topic at present, especially in light of recent statistics revealing companies are still failing to appoint women to their boards (

There is a definite lack of women on the boards of, not only the UK’s biggest companies, but in business in general.

In my experience, female workers offer a new dimension to business and regularly provide fantastic ideas, so it is sad to hear that despite the number of initiatives set up to look at the representation of women, we still have a long way to go.

Angela, on the face of it you are doing everything right. You’re delivering the results and adding value, and you’re ambitious – qualities every boss is looking for.

On the face of it, your employer’s track record of appointing females may not be as bad as you think. Whilst it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you because of gender, there may be other reasons why females aren’t represented in your workplace.

Issues surrounding gender discrimination are serious and need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. If you require further information, please visit the Direct Gov website:

This aside, it’s important to differentiate from the competition and not let gender play a part.

This promotion could change your life. So before putting the hard work in, ask yourself why you’re going for it? Is it career satisfaction, money, or the chance to have a say in the business? Once you’ve identified what drives you, you can put together well-thought answers.

Think about the questions you may be asked. Why isn’t your current role stretching you? Why do you want more responsibility? Just because you have been working there for some time, you can’t afford to relax.

I often tell people conducting the right research is a crucial part of the interview. It’s the passport to bigger and better things. And yet something that is so obvious is often overlooked – especially in a job promotion setting.

Your competition will do the research. They’ll have already put the extra hours in and be raising their profile. So why not conduct some analysis on your competition? The aim here isn’t to dismiss their strengths, it’s to identify their weaknesses and where you can offer a better alternative.

Building on from this, why not make yourself an expert? Get a feel for trends, research areas the company is moving into and think ahead. Many companies now ask candidates to draw up a SWOT analysis on the company, so do your homework and find a way to be a sought-after specialist.

Above all else, you need to show that you’re constantly striving to improve your skills and add value to the company. After all, those who rest on their laurels don’t reap the rewards.



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