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Ask James Caan – Issue 74

Written by Kimberley Startup | December 7, 2011 | 4 Comments

James Caan Online RecruitmentDear Member,

Thank you to everyone who commented on last week’s column. The Chancellor’s statement was inevitably going to introduce some new debates; however I’m glad the general consensus was on supporting small businesses and how to reinvigorate employment activity.

Interestingly, many of the columns I’ve written lately have focused on how we – employers and candidates – need to start thinking outside the box and identify ways to differentiate ourselves.

In the case of job seekers it has never been as important to anticipate employer needs to get ahead, and a letter from Jackie demonstrates this.

‘Do employers recognise Open University as an accredited organisation for accountancy qualifications?

‘I have been a credit controller for over 5 years and I feel that it’s time to enhance the accounting skills acquired through my undergraduate degree and ICM qualifications.

‘The introduction to bookkeeping and accounting at the Open University seems to embody what I am looking for as the next step; especially as there are so many accountancy qualifications and just as many accredited organisations.

‘My greatest concern is that I may go ahead get the qualification and not get an opportunity to put it into action; simply because employers want people with experience.

‘How can I bridge the gap between attaining the qualification and experience? Current collection jobs are also requiring experience 50/50 experience in accounting and in credit control’.

Jackie, your letter highlights the importance of understanding that career prospects don’t just happen. Career prospects are what you create: it’s all down to you.

Your situation shows the importance of knowing and delivering what employers want, and the benefits of thinking long-term.

Many employers value those who undertake Open University courses because of the self discipline and sheer determination required to pass one. Whilst they offer a fantastic range of courses, you are right to question the need for experience – especially in today’s climate.

Bookkeeping, accounting and credit control are all highly valued and core skill sets required by any business, and finding out what is required before you commit is a good start.

The current candidate-rich, job-short market condition has, in many cases, made employers stricter with their choice of job seeker.

Economic uncertainty has seen employers venture down the ‘safe’ route and as such, those with transferrable skills or experience slightly off the mark tend to miss out at the last post.

Before signing up, you need to identify what it is that you want from a course and what businesses need.

Have you considered pursuing something similar, like the AAT route? This is a fantastic way to get hands-on experience whilst complementing it with theory, and many of my portfolio businesses are using it to fast-track staff.

Employers can apply for funding and, in some cases, candidates are also offered financial support – relieving any pressure or financial burden you may face.

I’m told it is very hard work, but your existing qualifications should put you in good stead. I’d suggest contacting them and talking to an advisor to investigate all your options (

If you’re set on the Open University route, why not see if you can talk to current students or those who have recently obtained the qualification to see how easily it translates to everyday working. These opinions should give you a frank and honest opinion and will help to inform your decision.

Overall, you must ask yourself: are you going to be part of the crowd or are you the somebody who stands out from the crowd? And your letter, Jackie, shows the determination, passion and work needed to demonstrate the latter.



Want to take part in the discussion? Visit webrecruit’s LinkedIn group to share your views.

4 thoughts on “Ask James Caan – Issue 74

  1. StuartW on Reply

    Glad to be of help, Natalie – great to hear the course and training provider you’ve chosen are treating you well. Best of luck with your studies.

  2. Natalie on Reply

    Hi Stuart,

    I am currently studying toward my AAT.

    Thank you for your tip about the forums, i have never used them before but now i certainly will if i need any help or advice!

    I am currently working toward my AAT with Accountancy Plus (Training) in Exeter and they so far have been really supportive and i am really enjoying studying there.



  3. James on Reply

    Thanks for the insight – would be great if members or candidates looking to pursue this route take up the offer, I’m certain they’d benefit greatly!

  4. StuartW on Reply

    Thanks for mentioning AAT, James. We’re finding a lot of people who may otherwise have considered university are now choosing more vocational routes, of which AAT is but one.

    You’re right, it is hard work – but it provides skills and experience that are of genuine value in the workplace and besides, nothing worth having ever came easy, right?

    If I may, I’d just like to mention that we’re fortunate to have lots of knowledgeable and helpful students who are only too willing to help people who are thinking of studying AAT. Google “AAT Facebook” or “AAT forums” and there are lots of existing conversations to look at, as well as the opportunity for people to ask their own questions.

    Stuart Waterman
    AAT Community Manager

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