Is Your Career the Right Kind of Equestrian Event?

A guide to the selection process:

The word career has a number of possible origins, one of which is the French word for horse race ‘carriere’. But if a career is a horse race, what kind of event would it be? Over the summer we have watched a range of equestrian events: cross country, show jumping, dressage, team and individual.

There are also flat races, steeplechases and point to points.

A cross-country career would involve lots of twists and turns, different gradients and a series of challenges, some more unexpected than others. A dressage career would be one where perfection would matter, a slow and precise exercise after years of training and practice. It might be a career that is one of the exercises of consummate skill. A show jumper learns simple jumps and keeps on progressing to higher and higher jumps. Horse racing is more of a career of tactic, at what point in the race do you go flat out? Where do you position the horse on the course? How well will your horse respond to the ground conditions? Breeding and training are the foundations of a good racer.

Going over the jumps in a steeplechase adds an extra challenge, and unlike show jumping, it does not matter if you knock the fences down!

Careers are not really horse races, but there are some things to be learnt by considering the parallels. And in another respect, we would do well to remember the similarity.

When it comes to applying for jobs and going through a selection process, you could do worse than think of it as an equestrian event; but more of a three-day event than a dressage or show jumping.

You need the right breeding, i.e. background of education, skills and aptitudes; and then you need the preparation and practice. Just as a jockey or rider walks the course and tests the ground, you need to familiarise yourself with the territory and plan out how you are going to win the race – because in selection there is only one winner. It is a first past the post-event.

Since it is a first past the post-event, it is not a cumulative event. In show jumping you accumulate (faults) points as you progress around the course, you can knock the first fence down and still end up with the best score and take the gold. In recruitment/selection, if you fail at the first hurdle then you fail. If your CV is not spot-on, then you are out of the race. And what you put in your CV may count for little once you get into the interview. It is your performance in that interview that carries your forward to the assessment centre.

The assessment centre is a three-day event in its own right and less of a race and more of a show jumping event. If you are successful you can progress to the Grand National equivalent of a final interview.

One of the lessons we have learned from the fantastic sporting summer is that every athlete needs their trainer or coach. If you want to excel at any sport or in any selection event, get yourself a coach. Someone who understands what it takes, who will give you great feedback, who will correct your faults and give you all the encouragement and confidence building you need.

So remember, applying for a job is a steeplechase, so get around the course, get past the post first… and do it better with a coach!