"Most people don't put much thought into chosing a career."

Matthew Jennings, author of The Career Bible, explains why this is ridiculous.

Finding your dream career is a lot of bother. 84 per cent of people are dissatisfied with their choice of career (CBS News 2012). That figure is ridiculous. It was ridiculous when it was 80 per cent in 2010 (Deloitte) and ridiculous when it was 41 per cent in 2005 (Wall Street Journal). Do you know that most people spend 50,000 hours of their lives at work? That is a lot of hours. I find that most people don’t put an enormous amount of thought or effort into choosing their careers.

“Why are you a quantity surveyor?”

“I had a summer job when I was 16 - with a friend of my dad’s - and sort of fell into it from there.”

I took more trouble choosing a breadmaker… To really be happy at work, your career choice needs to match your values. If you are driven by "spirituality, creativity, wisdom, generosity and compassion" you are unlikely to be happy in banking. If your deep drivers are "ambition, wealth, success, respect and leadership’" you probably shouldn’t be a social worker. Simplistic, I know, but true.

The other thing that astounds me is that when people do know what they want to do, when they know exactly what their passion is, they don’t know how to achieve it. They can’t write a decent C.V, or find a job that isn’t being advertised. They don’t know how to prepare for and perform at interview.

I have seen the "perfect" candidate fail to get their dream job so many times, because at some point during the recruitment process they cocked up.

It is easy to fix job hunting skills and tools. If someone is prepared to put the hours in, it’s quite simple to move through the recruitment steps successfully. The hard bit is identifying your passion and being honest with yourself about what you want – and what you are prepared to give up to get it . If you really want to be head of a global company you will be unlikely to be at your child’s sports day or the nativity play or anything outside of work (at least until you are at the top). If you want to be a musician you will be lucky to also live in a big, fancy house.

I spent some time looking at what makes top sportspeople different to us. It boils down to the ability to focus and a driving ambition to succeed. They put the extra hours in, sacrifice loads of things and will push on when everything looks to have gone wrong. The reason they do this is that they have found their passion and know that nothing else will do. They don’t see it as work. They love it.

In order to succeed in finding our dream careers we need to put the same effort in as professional sports people. We need to find our passion and then get a job/ career in that industry. For 50,000 hours spent at work, I think it’s worth it, This isn’t a new way of thinking.

“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Confucius (551 – 479 BC)

The Career Bible is written by Matthew Jennings and Shaun Van Wyk and combines in depth career coaching skills, recruitment know how, top level sports psychology and experience in climbing the corporate ladder. The Career Bible is available at all good bookstores. More details at www.thecareerbible.com

Photograph: Getty Images

Matthew Jennings is the author of The Career Bible

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The wildfire victims of forestry neglect - and the trees that saved them

Events in Portugal show how present mismanagement of the natural world reaches far beyond climate change, while also leaving communities more vulnerable to its effects.

When guesthouse owner Liedewij Schieving first heard about the wildfire in nearby Pedrogado Grande, she wasn’t overly concerned. “We always have fires here,” she explains at her home deep in the central Portugese forest.

It was only later that night, eating outside with her 11 guests, that the fear set in: “The wind was starting to smell and the sunset looked weird and dark.” By early the next morning the vast wall of flames had breached their remote valley. “I’ve never been in a war,” Liedewij says, still shaken, “but it was how I imagine war to sound.”

Soaring to temperatures of over 800 centigrade - high enough to melt windscreens and sink tyres into tarmac - the inferno eventually burned over 30,000 hectares of forest. By the time it was quelled, 64 adults and children had lost their lives, some dying trapped in their cars as they tried to escape down an unsafe road. “The biggest tragedy of human life we have known in years,” is how the country’s Prime Minister responded to the news on 18 June.

Two months later, the Pedrogado fire has proved the precusor to another summer of extreme weather events. Across southern and central Europe recent weeks have seen high winds and low humidity whip up wildfires everywhere from Spain to Serbia. At time of writing, 2,000 people in Portugal are trapped in the town of Mação as flames and smoke block their exit. In France, fires recently forced over 20,000 people from their homes and campervans.

Climate change is an unmistakable culprit. A Carbon Brief analysis of 140 studies from around the world found that 63 per cent of extreme weather events are linked to human-caused warming - making them either more likely or more severe.

Yet as countries assess the damage, evidence of humanity’s wider mismanagement of nature is also becoming harder to ignore. In Portugal, the excessive planting of eucalytpus trees is taking some of the blame for recent events. The species is the timber of choice for the country’s powerful paper industry, covering both industry-owned plantations and hundreds of tiny private smallholdings who sell it on. But it also happens to be highly flammable: think Grenfell cladding but spread over nearly a million hectares of land.

Liedewij’s story is evidence of this. Where dense eucalyptus forest once hid her home in dappled shade, the hillside is now charred and bare. “It was terrible,” she says of the moment she opened the gates for the farm animals before fleeing the valley, “we thought we were leaving them behind to grill”. Except that, as in all good disaster films, Liedewij’s goats didn’t burn - and nor did her picturesque house. Instead, fire-retardant willow trees by a nearby stream held the flames naturally at bay. On returning the next morning, she even found the hens laying eggs.

Liedewij Schieving outside her B&B at Quinta da Fonte - the bare hills behind the house show just how close the fire came.

Seen from above, her remote farmstead is now a tiny island of green amid a sea of black. She still panics at the smell from the woodfired heating, but support has poured in from friends both in Portugal and her native Holland, and she soon plans to fully re-open Quinta da Fonte B&B. Many guesthouses in nearby villages have already got back up and running.

Others among her neighbours, however, are not so lucky. Over 10,000 separate fires have destroyed 141,000 hectares of land in Portugal this year alone, with the annual cost of wildfire losses estimated to reach around €200m. A situation that risks further perpetuating the cycle of poverty and neglect that also played their part in the tragedy.

According to Domingos Patacho from the environmental NGO Quercus, the forest has become more hazardous as many of central Portugal's thousands of smallscale landholders leave their land untended to seek better wages elsewhere. Meanwhile, those who remain are often financially dependent on the income from the eucalyptus. They could choose to plant less flammable and water-hungry species, such as native corks or oaks, Patacho explains, but these can take twice as long to mature and provide a return.

The result is rising tension between the Portugese paper industry and the central government. After the June fire, the parliament pledged to push ahead with plans to limit the monoculture plantations. But the country’s Association of the Paper industry has previously warned that any ban on new plantations could hurt exports and jobs.

The reality is that both sides of the eucalyptus spread - both industry-owned and private - need improved regulation. But in a country only recently released from EU imposed austerity measures, debates over how enforcement could be financed are particularly tense. Not least since many areas do not even have an up to date land register, Patacho expplains.

At ESAC, an agrarian research base in central Portugal, professor Antonio Ferreira believes the time is now ripe for discussion between politicians, citizens and researchers about the future of forest land-use as a whole. The country needs to encourage people “to re-introduce native species, which will diversify the landscape and economic activity in those areas,” he says.

And the impulse is far from limited to Portugal. “We need to look at all the social aspects to get the full picture as well as the scientific side of forest management,” says WWF’s Jabier Ruiz of Europe’s wider wildfire problems. One route out of the woods may be greater EU policy support for those living in marginalised, rural areas, he adds.

What is clear is that as the continent warms, the need to improve the balance between social, environmental and commercial interests becomes ever more crucial. And while politicians debate, work at Liedewij’s home is already underway. Over the next few weeks, a group of her eco-minded friends, builders and topographers will help her re-build and re-landscape her farm. From digging terraces to stop landslides, to preventing the eucalyptus from re-emerging too close to the roads, their aim is to regrow a forest that works for all: a slow-burn project perhaps, but a bright one.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.