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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Establishing a Career Is A Lot like Preventing Fires

You can invest a lot of time and money in college education and still be ill-prepared for your career at graduation. The reality is that education alone is not enough. Establishing a career takes so much more. It takes knowledge, forethought, and a whole lot of planning. For most people, the extent to which they succeed in their careers is commensurate with the amount of planning they put into it.

When you stop and think about it, establishing a career is a lot like preventing fires. Indeed, the similarities between career development and fire safety are well worth exploring. So let’s get to it.


No Perfect Career


The starting point is to come to grips with the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect career. No matter how long you go to school and how much hard work you put into your job after graduation, there are always going to be things that don’t go your way. You are going to have unmet goals and unrealized dreams. The point of planning is to minimise those negatives so as to maximise the positives.

With that in mind, young people still in college would do well to think long and hard about the possible pitfalls that lie ahead. Student debt is a great example. One of the potential pitfalls of going to university or college is winding up with a tonne of student debt supported only by a degree for which there is no practical application. Even if you cannot get a job in your field, you still have to repay your loans. That means getting a job in another field.

There is a similar strategy for fire prevention. In the UK, business and property owners are required to carry out fire risk assessments on a regular basis. At the core of those assessments is the strategy of identifying as many risks as possible. You go through a property and look at everything from potential fire hazards to escape routes. Anyone who wants to know how to carry out a fire risk assessment can get information from government websites.


Developing Backup Plans


UK fire safety laws recognise that it is not possible to prevent every single fire. As such, they require property and business owners to come up with a safety plan that can be implemented in the event a fire breaks out. A good safety plan addresses things like means of egress and accounting for everyone who might have been inside a burning building.

Likewise, establishing a career plan should include developing backup plans. This does not necessarily mean coming up with an alternative career if your first choice fails. Backup plans are put in place to account for situations and circumstances that threaten to derail your career – so as to keep it on track.

For example, let’s say you are planning a career as a software developer. You get your degree and start looking for jobs in your local area. Suddenly find out that your degree isn’t enough. You also need certifications in certain development platforms. You are going to need to support yourself while you’re earning those certifications, but how will you do it?

Think of the need for certifications as a small fire. Do you have a backup plan that will allow you to put out the fire and continue moving forward? Maybe you will have to take a couple of part-time jobs temporarily. Perhaps you’ll have to remain living at home for a while instead of getting your own place.


Ready to Ask for Help


Another similarity between establishing a career and fire prevention is being willing to ask for help. In the UK, business and property owners struggling with the fire risk assessment and safety planning often reach out to those more qualified. A UK business might contact the local fire brigade, for example. And of course, business and property owners routinely look to fire equipment providers for things like fire extinguishers and commercial suppression systems.

Young people working on establishing their careers should always be willing to ask for help as well. Help comes in many forms including mentoring programmes, life coaching, continuing education, and professional networking. Some young people are fortunate enough to go to work for companies willing to offer material support in the form of student debt repayment and other benefits packages.


Keeping an Eye on the Prize


Finally, there is one last similarity to speak of: keeping an eye on the prize. In terms of career development, the prize is having a firmly established career that is fulfilling, productive, and pays well. The prize in fire prevention is to create an environment in which all risks have been minimized. Thus, the likelihood of a devastating fire is kept as low as possible.

As a student, you have your whole life ahead of you after graduation. Learn some lessons from fire prevention. As you seek to establish a career, look to identify potential pitfalls along the way. Establish good backup plans, ask for plenty of help, and keep your eye on the prize.

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