Tom Richmond: A lesson learned in how not to sell yourself short

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AS a new generation of graduates and school-leavers starts the onerous task of seeking gainful employment, it is disturbing to learn that some of the brightest students have completed their full-time education without learning the bleedin’ obvious – such as how to conduct themselves in a job interview.

According to LifeSkills, a project which now runs sessions at thousands of schools, colleges and youth clubs around the country, a generation of young people exist who do not understand the importance of punctuality, making confident eye contact with their prospective employer and shaking hands firmly at the beginning and end of their inquisition.

It does not end here: some youngsters think nothing of turning up with bad breath, scruffy attire, unpolished shoes and a discernible lack of interest because of a mistaken belief that they’re entitled to a job. They’re not. Opportunities have to be earned and the decline in the traditional “Saturday job” means many youngsters do not enjoy first-hand experience of a workplace until their first interview.

As body language coach and personal mentor Steve Beckles-Ebusua was recently quoted as telling one slovenly group of sixth-form boys: “All of you are salespeople. You sell yourself in the way you dress and when you shake someone’s hand it says a lot about you. It indicates that you want to communicate. You’re saying ‘I’m confident and I want to find out about you’.”

In a bid to make his lesson more relevant, he added: “Do your homework and do what you can to prepare for the big day. It’s like asking a young lady out. Have a plan. Make sure you look the part. Get a new shirt and a haircut. Make an entrance, good eye contact and smiling. Make sure you smell nice. Think carefully about how to make a good impression. Plan your journey – time management says a lot about you.”

His advice is spot on – it is common sense. Yet why are such matters not being given sufficient prominence in business studies lessons? Is it because teachers don’t have time, the syllabus is flawed – or is it because youngsters are switching off in lesson because of an exaggerated view of their own set of skills?

Regardless, it is further proof that this is one area of the curriculum where teachers should not be afraid to utilise the experience of local business people – or experts like Mr Beckles-Ebusua. A stronger relationship between schools and industry can only help young people to start their working lives on the right foot. After all, no one can do interviews for them, a lesson that appears to have forgotten by those who put together a cluttered, convoluted and counter-productive curriculum which has diluted the most important notion of all – personal responsibility.

INSTEAD of Labour allowing the impression to be created that the rebellious trade unions will determine whether Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper – both of whom served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in Gordon Brown’s ruinous government– succeed Ed Miliband as leader, why does the party not consider the issue from the perspective of Tory MPs?

Talking to a number of Conservative backbenchers, it is clear that the candidate they most fear is the hitherto unknown Liz Kendall, a junior health spokesman, who has emerged as a surprising – and plausible – contender.

Their reasoning is this: David Cameron and George Osborne are always at their most awkward when responding to questions from female politicians, Ms Kendall only entered the House of Commons in 2010 so is not hamstrung by history and she does appear to be on the side of aspiration.

Yet what Labour seems to forget is that their defeat on May 7 was so big that it is likely to take them two elections to get back into a winning position. In this regard, they would be better advised to make a clean break from the past and prepare for the long haul. The problem is that the likes of Mr Burnham do not recognise this, even though it does appears that he was planning his own leadership campaign prior to the vacancy becoming available.

AFTER Keep Britain Tidy called for £1,000 on-the-spot fines for flytippers, the road safety campaign group Brake wants speed limits on rural roads lowered to 50mph to cut the number of accidents on single-track country lanes. Both organisations are driven by the best of motives, but there is still one word which they have overlooked at a time when policing in countryside communities has been cut to the bone: enforcement. I’d happily film examples of litter being discarded from cars, but I guess I’m the person who would be in trouble for using a mobile phone while behind the wheel...

THE Shipley MP Philip Davies made an important point the other day with regard to Government plans to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 as part of David Cameron’s bid to reduce the cost of politics.

He said such a move would only be justifiable if there was a corresponding reduction in the number of Ministerial roles. He is right. As I have pointed out, the status of the Cabinet has been downgraded by a proliferation of appointments on Mr Cameron’s part.

It is virtually standing room only around the top table in British politics when once seats were reserved for genuine statesmen of the highest order.

It is also important that there are sufficient independently-minded MPs on the backbenches who are prepared to hold the Government of the day to account and highlight flaws in the new laws put before Parliament.

In this regard, Mr Cameron’s wafer-thin Commons majority could, in time, prove to be blessing – I hope the PM 
only legislates when necessary and that he is prepared to bide his time on those issues, like the repealing of the Human Rights Act, that do require a greater consensus.

New laws should only be passed if they will genuinely make a difference to the well being of the country.

In the meantime, there should be nothing to prevent MPs holding more in-depth debates on pertinent issues like 
the corporate responsibility of firms 
such as the shamed travel agent Thomas Cook in the wake of its heartless response
to the deaths of West Yorkshire youngsters Bobby and Christi Shepherd from carbon monoxide poisoning
during a family holiday to Corfu nine days ago.

Such matters are too important to be restricted to a sitting in the Westminster Hall side chamber – or a 30-minute slot in the main chamber after virtually every MP has gone home.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk

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