Following ‘Spirit of ’83′, an earlier post on this site, Peter Davies who inspired the setting up of the West Midlands Producers’ website, writes:

Peter DaviesWhen I re-read my original ‘Back to Business Basics’ I couldn’t help feeling a bit like Victor Meldrew. Most of us are good at pointing out things that are wrong but few take time to try to put it right. So I thought I would pick on one area of my article and put a positive twist on it.  I’ve settled on a subject where I can perhaps use my experience to help youngsters just venturing into the world of work. The first problem is that few, if any, are likely to see this and if they do will probably dismiss the suggestions as uncool and the ranting of an old bloke. We all know that teenagers know everything and don’t take suggestions easily [I certainly didn’t].

So here you are GCSEs or A levels or maybe a degree in hand. Where do you go from here?

Firstly for many people the big question is “what do I really want to do for the next 50 years or so? We’ve discounted being a Premiership footballer or the next Beyoncé and have to seek something in the ‘real’ world. There seems to be a mind-set amongst some school leavers that work is an extension of school in the sense that, if it’s too hard you leave it, if it’s snowing first option is to stay at home. Work is not like that and you have to accept that you are no longer ‘top dog’ as you were at senior school or college.

My first piece of advice on looking for a job would be to consider what sort of businesses are crying out for bright eyed and bushy tailed youngsters. You may think ‘I’d like to be a TV presenter or a fashion photographer or a round the world yachtsman but the actual vacancies for these sort of jobs are few and far between.

The main sectors which are likely to offer a larger number of vacancies are Retail, Leisure [Hotels Restaurants etc.] Engineering/Manufacturing and Finance/Accountancy. Each will have their particular requirement but I would hazard a guess that all of these sectors have difficulty in recruiting and keeping keen youngsters. Some sectors like hospitality and retail involve unsocial hours and there is a perception that ‘only foreigners will do those jobs’, but if you are good with people you can carve out a very good career in these businesses. 

I mentioned in my first piece the difficulty we have had in finding apprentices. Talking to our accountant a couple of weeks ago he was saying that they had the same problem. So anyone applying for one of the many apprenticeships being offered now needs to show their prospective employer that they are keen, smart, reliable and ambitious. This has to be by the standards of business not by the standards of school. Remember all businesses exist to make a profit for their owners or shareholders who have invested time and money in that business.

If you have a practical approach to the world of work you will learn by experience many aspects of business in a smaller company where your contribution is very visible and you will be allowed to expand your horizons to do many more interesting things than make tea!

I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity in the stainless steel industry many years ago and was encouraged to learn about everything to do with running a business from sales to purchasing to carrying out capital acquisitions, to works management. The experience, whilst not the product of formal education or training gave me a rounded experience [and waistline] which was invaluable to me in setting up and developing my own business.

If you go in to a company with a positive mind-set you will succeed in all you try to achieve and whilst you will never be a millionaire you can have a very rewarding and interesting work / life balance and maybe prepare yourself for that venture into your own business in years to come.

So in summary : looking for a position:

  • Cast your net wide.
  • Don’t limit your possibilities.
  • Create a CV which is eye-catching but not contrived.
  • Present yourself at interview smartly with a keen and interested approach.
  • Make sure you haven’t posted anything malicious on Twitter or Facebook. [Some companies routinely check this for prospective employees.]

Remember you will get replies to only about 10% of applications. When you are offered an interview; research the company on line.

Attending an interview

  • Be 10 minutes early. [Research how to get there the day before] and switch your phone off!
  • Dress smartly, avoid ‘trendy’ clothes like t-shirts with logos, torn jeans, baseball caps, trainers etc. Piercings and tattoos are still not in favour with most bosses.
  • Know the name of the person you are seeing; address them by name [Mr, Ms, etc.] not their first name unless invited.
  • Introduce yourself and offer a handshake. Smile.
  • Listen carefully to what is said and answer questions clearly and politely but don’t be ‘cocky’.
  • Ask questions about any point that you are not sure about or on which you would like clarification.

I don’t say that following the golden rules will get you that fantastic job but if you were coming to me for an interview then anyone following these rules would impress me.


Following her remarks on this week’s Any Questions programme, Revel Guest, Chair of the Hay Festival, would welcome Peter Davies’ input.

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