Think of your career as a mountain: here's how to plan your first steps

The following are four guidelines for students who want to have a successful and meaningful working life: 1) Find a career that is a good fit for your personality and interests; 2) Don't be afraid to change careers if you're not happy with your current one; 3) Seek out mentors and role models; and

Think of your career as a mountain: here's how to plan your first steps

You don't have to plan for holidays, meals, or your job. If you aren't concerned about where you go, what food you eat, and what job you do then you don't need to plan. Even if you don't know exactly what you want, it's likely that you have an idea of your career goals. It's okay to have an idea of the career range you want to climb, even though you may not be able to place a flag on a particular peak.

It's easy to plan your first steps to get to base camp. You only need to consider how to identify the mountain and work out the routes. If you don't have a plan, you are likely to climb somewhere you don’t like or in an area with no meaning.

This should be the first thing you consider when deciding where to focus your career: What activities will give your life meaning and purpose? There is no right or wrong answer and it doesn't matter what your family thinks. Your purpose might be to entertain, restore habitat, translate literature, heal the sick or discover cures for disease.

It's not possible to do the same thing for 40 years. A career is a long-term endeavor. Don't worry about whether defining your purpose will make you stuck in one job or position forever. Just consider what is best for you right now, considering what you know, what skills you have, and what is happening in the world. Technology and the environment will change in 10 to 15 years. New opportunities will arise. Just look at what has changed over the past 10-15 years.

Although robots and artificial Intelligence are increasingly taking over more tasks, humans still need to be creative and ingenious to persuade and care for others. People hire people. Even if a robot is used in some stages of the job application process, the final decision will be made by the applicant.

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Think about how an employer will choose who they hire. Employers will pay you according to what you do for them, the responsibilities you take on and the results you achieve. People also want to be a part of the team. So, these are the three questions recruiters want to know: Can you show that you can take responsibility, accomplish things, and be a pleasure to work with?

These three points are likely to be obvious. The exact topic or activity is irrelevant. You might be the secretary at a school, student club, an active member of a drama or sports group, or volunteer for a charity.


You will need to have a "ticket" to play for most jobs. This can be a good-quality, recognized qualification such as an apprenticeship or college degree, and/or a professional exam.

What do you do after you've decided on a mountain to climb?

You can find out what jobs are available that will get you to base camp. What are the requirements to get each job? Talk to people and read job ads to find out the qualifications, skills, and interests that they are looking for. Consider how much risk are you willing to take. Do you prefer taking the highest possible risks, or do you prefer to be safe?

Ask for help from teachers and parents when preparing your applications

Information interviews are a powerful tool. They allow you to get to know the industry and practice talking about your interests. Asking your parents, friends, and LinkedIn can help you find people to interview. Ask people you meet for recommendations on additional contacts to speak with. This will help you to build your network and make new connections.

Preparation and consideration of your audience are key to success in any interview or job application. All you tell them or write must answer their questions. Make a list of all possible questions and plan what you will answer.

When preparing your applications, don't be afraid of asking for help from teachers and parents. Despite the fact that the world of work has changed significantly since your era, teachers and parents still know you well enough to help with applications, review plans and challenge assumptions.

It's your career and your flag at top of the mountain. However, your supporters may be able to offer advice that can help you find easier routes or avoid dangers.

Director of the University of Oxford's Careers Service, the writer has a fortnightly column in The Telegraph answering readers' questions about their career.