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If you are going to take career advice from anyone, James Caan’s not a bad call.

Having set up and sold businesses since 1985, Caan has become one of the UK’s most successful and dynamic entrepreneurs. Not least due to numerous investments he has made on clever start-ups in his role on TV’s Dragon’s Den.

Caan announced this month that he is quitting the BBC programme. It comes after five years of financially backing hopefuls and their bright ideas, which promises to keep the cogs turning on the financial empire he has amassed since the age of 16.

Remembering his humble beginnings, Caan is now focussing on philanthropy with his James Caan Foundation.

His is a rags-to-riches tale. He skipped school at the age of 16 and started his first business in a Pall Mall broom cupboard.

“Refusing to take my O-Levels, I upset the family by moving out to live in a tiny flat in Kensington paying the rent with my earnings from a Saturday job,” says Caan. “My father groomed me to take over his business, but I found this a huge pressure. I didn’t want to sell leather jackets for a living and hoped to set up something else of my own one day. This didn’t go well with my father.”

Armed with little more than charm and his father’s advice, Caan went on to make his fortune in the recruitment industry.

It is this experience which he has drawn on for his timely book, Get The Job You Really Want, right. With hundreds of thousands of people expected to lose their jobs in public sector funding cuts and record highs of youth unemployment, Caan believes he has the expertise to help people find work.

Here he shares his tips with TNT Magazine.


Getting a competitive edge

Preparation, preparation, preparation.

Research will give you raw material for good discussion points in an interview and enourmous confidence.
Always be prepared to answer the question: ‘What do you know about our company?’ There’s no excuse for drying up, floundering, waffling.

Things to remember

Have a checklist of how you come across, from clothes, hair fingernails to your briefcase or bag. How you shake hands, how you sit. It’s all in the detail.

Work hard to connect with your interviewer on a personal level straight away.

Find an ice-breaking remark or question about a photo on their desk, or an award on their wall in reception.

It’s always useful to have a short presentation, a document, or something that demonstrates the quality of your work, in advance.

What makes the best employer?

Getting a job is like finding a partner – you have to be suitably matched.

There has to be opportunity for an employer to get the best from an employee and vice versa.

Look for companies that compliment your personality and those that are progressive and forward-thinking. They retain good people.

Small-to-medium enterprises should be attractive to candidates this year. They are more nimble and dynamic than corporates and have more scope for fast growth.

How to change careers

The most important thing about your career is learning and there is no better way to learn than getting stuck in.

I appreciate business more now because of the mistakes I made at the beginning of my career and I think those mistakes are important to learn from in order to be better at what you do.


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