17th February 2011

The Job Squad

The February webchat is now closed

We'd like to thank all those who posed questions and for our Job Squad who gave up their time today. Please come back next month.

We apologise if we didn't get to your question, we've answered as many as we could today.

See below for questions and answers

The February Job Squad

On 17th February, the Job Squad included ex-Dragon James Caan, author of Get the Job You Really Want. He was joined by The Trust’s policy director, Ginny Lunn and Liam Springer, a Prince's Trust Young Ambassador.


@PrimHilVioletaB tweets: How does my extremely talented daughter free herself from land of perpetual internships?

Ginny says: Work experience and internships can be a really useful stepping stone to the job you want. Make sure the employer helps you develop your skills and network. Always agree the timescale and objectives of the placement.

Liam adds: After I was made redundant I did a course with The Prince’s Trust – this led to volunteering and then to paid work. It’s really important to stick with it and don’t give up hope.

Tom asks:

I have almost 11 years experience in my industry, but no formal qualifications and I'd like to ask - What does an employer consider more valuable - experience or formal qualifications?

Liam says: I found experience worked for me. I’d been doing a job in architecture for two years, even though I had no qualifications in this area. I took my portfolio to another interview and they loved it.

Ginny adds: Some jobs do require specific qualifications, so your options may be limited.

@super_bhav tweets:

When you’re asked to describe your weaknesses what should you say?

Liam says: I always struggle with this one!

Ginny adds: Be honest, but also mention what you’re doing to tackle it or improve it. For example, if your presentation skills aren’t great you could explain you’d be very keen to attend a course or learn from your manager.

James adds: Always go for a weakness that you can put a positive twist on but remember to stay truthful and don’t mislead potential employers. Some of the following may apply to you:

  • I’m a perfectionist
  • I can take my work too seriously
  • It has been said that I have too much attention to detail when it comes to my work


@IMMedics2 tweets:

What makes a candidate’s CV stand out from the rest?

James says: Just like a grocer, make sure your best apples are at the front. You need to summarise your skills and achievements in the first paragraph rather than going straight in with a long list of roles and responsibilities from your previous job. An employer will always look for skills and achievements which are relevant to the role so you need to research the role really well and tailor your cv to that position. A lot of grads make the mistake of employing a ‘spray and pray’ approach - sending out lots of cvs to different employers without targeting them specifically. Always limit a CV to two pages– go for a page and a half if possible.

Lucy asks:

I’ve seen a poster for your book. But how do I get my ideal job when I don’t know what I want to do?

James says: You could go and see a recuitment consultant – they can sit you down and talk through how you can apply your skill set to a specific sector. A good consultant will be able to help you identfy some good options to explore and it won’t cost you anything.

Liam: A good place to start is with what you enjoy – if you can turn that into a career it would be perfect.

Annemarie asks:

I am 28 years old and decided to take the leap and start-up on my own fashion design business nearly 2 years ago. I have since been battling for funding from all sources available to me, I cannot seem to get funding from anywhere, I have tried everything suggested by the government gateways with the exception of the Business Angels route, my question to you is - is there light at the end of the tunnel? Should I really ask Business Angels for funding or is that not a great route to take?

James says: Business angels is certainly an area which should be taken seriously – they are a major source of funding and it is a great route to take – especially in the current economic climate when banks are not actively lending to small start ups.

So where do you find business angels? There are various networks and forums online where you can discuss your challenges with other business start ups and also find other sources of funding.

@LuxTours tweets:

I’m currently looking for work and have only managed to get temp work. All the people I meet say I've got a good CV but I can’t find work. What do I do?

Ginny says: Many people say it’s easier to find a job while you’re in work. So keep temping and searching at the same time.

Liam adds: I know a guy who wanted to do coaching like me. His CV was really good, so I helped him to send it to as many contacts as possible and ask them to pass it on. Eventually it will get into the right hands.

@Jack_finlay tweets:

What advice would you have for a soon to be graduate looking to work in a marketing agency?

James says: Make sure that you go to specialist recruitment agencies – they can be found easily by searching online.

If you are looking to get a job, you should seriously consider work experience. You should apply for a fixed-term position - not necessarily at the biggest, high profile agencies because the smaller ones will be more flexible and there will be less graduates competing for a foot in the door.

Guardian media jobs is also very good for media positions – there is a graduate search option.

Ginny adds: Many charities have small marketing teams and would welcome talented volunteers.

Mrs H asks:

My son wants to start a firm, working with cars. He fixes friends cars, but he’s still on benefits and doesn’t know how to start a business. Where can we go for help?

Ginny says: If he’s unemployed and meets The Trust’s criteria he could apply for our Enterprise Programme. This will help him to explore whether self-employment is a good option and, if it is, could provide a business loan and mentor support to get the business off the ground.

James adds: The internet today is the greatest source of information and ideas. There are a number of forums and websites with a lot of support.

But ,first, he should think about the following things:

  • What capital will you need to set up?
  • What equipment, machinery and tools do you need to invest in?
  • Who within your immediate family or network will be interested in investing in your idea?

Dan asks:

I have an interview next Tuesday for a reception job at the leisure centre. My friends say I should dress casual, but I think I should wear a suit. What do you think?

James says: Each job has an expectation of image or presentation. I would look at the company on the website – is it really modern/corporate? A website gives you a really good feel for the company. Try and present yourself so you are in harmony with the surroundings. Dressing for an interview at Google would be different to IBM for example – doing your research about such matters shows good attention to detail and should pay off.


@Bree1978 tweets:

How can I gain the skills I need to get a job, as I can't afford to do a full time course as I need to work?

Liam says: Many companies will be happy to take on volunteers to help them gain work experience.

Ginny adds: This shouldn’t affect your benefits.

Liam adds: You could even volunteer while working part time.

@kryptonitek tweets:

How do u market yourself without under-selling yourself?

James says: Always be yourself and tell the truth.

B asks: At the end of an interview people always ask for me to ask questions but I’m never sure. What’s a good question to ask?

James says: Ask for feedback on how they felt the interview went – Am I the type of person that you think would fit into your organisation?

Katie asks:

Can I ask James if you interviewed me tomorrow, what three things would impress you most?

James says:

1) Personal presentation

2) Lots of preparation shown by researching my company – background, brand, our successes etc.

3) A document/Powerpoint which reinforces your skills/talents – something creative and eye catching which adds to the CV.

Roshan asks:

Is it OK to ask for travel expenses when I’ve travelled for an interview? I’m prepared to move for the right job.

Ginny says: Many employers – particularly in the public sector – will pay travel expenses if asked. Ask the HR department before you agree the interview – you’ll probably feel uncomfortable raising it on the day and it could, potentially, put the interviewer off.

Liam adds: One employer actually offered me expenses!

Eva asks:

I really want to work, but I can’t afford to lose my benefits. I feel trapped.

Liam says: It may seem difficult at first, but once you start getting paid you should find you’re better off. You clearly want to work, so you’ll feel better too.

Ginny adds: Have you thought about doing some voluntary work? You should be able to keep your benefits and it can be a useful stepping stone to a paid job. There are lots of options at www.vinspired.com and www.doit.org.uk

Odin asks:
I’ve been unemployed for two years now. As I’m sure you are aware being in this situation is very stressful and can make you depressed. I was wanting any info or advice on how to get work when most employers require experience. I currently spend my time searching for jobs but nothing comes up, and my main hobbies are music and writing stories. Any advice would be great.

Ginny says: You’re not alone – we know that many young people find unemployment affects their emotional wellbeing. Try to focus on the future and find positive activities to do. If you are between 16 and 25 then look at our Team programme – you could meet new people, gain confidence and develop new skills. Three quarters of people who complete our programmes go on to work, education or training.

Hannah asks:

Being on benefits really makes you feel down. My friend spends all day at home and never goes out. What can I do to help her?

Liam says: When I was unemployed I played football – it was a low cost hobby that kept me busy, healthy and happy. I’m sure she’ll appreciate having you as a friend right now – maybe you could find a new hobby together.

Matt asks:

I got cautioned for shoplifting way back and have a record. If I apply for shop work, do I need to tell them?

Ginny says: It’s always best to be honest. But if the conviction is a long time ago and technically ‘spent’ then a good employer should appreciate your honesty.

Maureen asks:

My son turns 20 in June and is currently studying sports exercise science. When he leaves college in July, where can he hope to gain employment in this field? What types of places should he approach?

Ginny says: I’d suggest he spends some time researching all the options: local leisure centres, private gyms, sports clubs and football teams. Even try hotels with leisure facilities, holiday companies and cruise ships. Keep all your options open and you’ll have more chance of success.

Liam adds: I was at a football club recently and they had voluntary placements available. I used to volunteer myself and it definitely helped me get a job.

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