Jedi Jim captivates schoolchildren with inspiring talk...and the odd cliché

Jim gave the pupils at New Bridge a 'motivational talk'
Jim gave the pupils at New Bridge a 'motivational talk'

HE may have impressed Lord Sugar with his smooth-talking sales skills and apparent ability to manipulate the minds of the other Apprentice contestants.

But could Jedi Jim Eastwood really hold court with around 100 sixth form pupils who had to begin their A-Level year a day early for a careers talk from the TV show finalist?

Dressed in a smart navy suit, the 32-year-old recalled the time he was scolded by someone in the street for wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The person in question was bemused as to his casual outfit, saying “But you’re Jim from the Apprentice, why aren’t you wearing a suit? I thought you always wore a suit?”

The Cookstown man, who was watched and analysed by millions of viewers of the BBC One show each week, opened with the modest and somewhat cheesy line “I’m just an ordinary fella who had an extraordinary experience.”

At this point I was sitting at the back of the gym hall feeling like I was back at school and convinced I was in for an hour of clichés and meaningless psychobabble.

The cyclist and golfer was well-accustomed to giving motivational speeches and inspiring talks in his pre-Apprentice life. He travelled around schools and businesses across Northern Ireland offering advice and tips and using his now well-known sales patter.

But Jim, undoubtedley the most popular and personable contestant on the show at least in the first few weeks, had always been driven to do more, he said. Friends, relatives and colleagues urged him to apply for the show but he had never been interested in working for Lord Sugar.

It wasn’t until the new format, offering someone an opportunity to have the Amstrad tycoon invest in their business idea, was made public that Jim decided to give it a go.

I never had the opportunity, pleasure or otherwise of sitting in on one of Jim’s talks in previous years, but I can’t imagine it was as interesting or captivating. As a huge Apprentice fan I had watched the local man charm his way into Lord Sugar’s affections and use his Jedi mind powers to escape the dreaded ‘You’re Fired’ finger in some touch-and-go moments throughout the series.

And to hear what it was really like during filming - when an entire day was spent going in and out of the boardroom to get that perfect five-minute clip for the show - was insightful and entertaining.

I think it was Jim’s openness about his experience on the show, coupled with his humourous delivery, that held the attention of the teenagers before him. Backing up his life tips with examples from his time on the tv series made it a careers talk I wish I’d had at school.

With a wry smile he played on his reputation for spouting cliches by peppering his speech with some of his favourites - telling the pupils that if they didn’t get exactly the job they wanted at the time they wanted it not to fret because “there’s other ways to skin a cat”.

He admitted that throughout the show, and in life, he’s always tried to put his “best foot forward”. And, he added, his all-time favourite came on completion of a game of golf recently with some friends when he observed that “it really is a game of two halves”.

But his advice to the pupils - who will sit more exams and face decisions about their future careers in the months ahead - was solid. He told them to believe in themselves, to focus on what it is they want to do, to be positive and persistent in their attitude and, most importantly in his opinion, to be themselves.

The self-confessed sports fanatic - who spent time in the Tyrone Senior team panel before travelling to America on a soccer scholarship - recalled his own realisation that school and grades were important, even though sport was always his true passion.

Inspired by his teacher mum and serial entrepreneur dad, Jim recalled counting the takings from his dad’s fish and chip shop when he was a boy. It was then that he got his first insight into how business could work and be rewarding.

The pupils sat throughout Jim’s talk listening intently and watching as he walked back and forth “to keep their attention”. Judging by the enthusiastic and lengthy question and answer session which followed he didn’t seem to need to use that tactic.

Jim, you’re hired.