Equine career planning in 4 simple steps
I think it is fair to say, “career planning” isn’t a term bandied about in the equestrian industry. In our considerable experience, equine carer planning isn’t an approach many equine workers seem to take, and most live to pay the price somewhere down the line – we see it and hear it every day!
Most young people entering the equine industry as a career pathway dream of grooming at the Olympia Horse Show or exercise riding international sport horses or something similar, but due to lack of any real structured planning and implementation of said plan, many give up on their dreams or leave on the reality sooner or later.
Looking to the future may seem unnecessary, or even an inconvenience when you’re already busy working with horses everyday but equine career planning is the key to achieving dreams, stretching yourself or just to keep fresh, motivated and forward thinking – trust us! What gets written down, reviewed and even measured, gets done! To assist, here’s how it couldn’t be simpler in just 4 steps…
Equine Career Planning
Step 1 – Dream big and assess where you are now!
What are your ultimate equine career goals? Is it grooming at the Olympics? Managing a Thoroughbred Stud? Becoming a Show Jumping trainer or a Professional Rider? Taking on sole charge of a private yard or just to be the best Groom/Rider you can be? No matter how big or small your ambition, no matter how far up the equine career ladder you are now, and how far away your goals may seem, what you do now will determine whether you get there or not, and how quickly you might get there. In order to effectively build your career you need to look hard at where you are now. If you want to reality check your ambitions, it helps to chat them through with people who are impartial and understand the big picture, in addition to friends, family, and your current boss.
Step 2 – Identify your current experience level
Be realistic about your current experience and capabilities. Very realistic. The broad scale of skills and experiences required across the many, many disciplines and sectors within the equine industry are vast. Where do you fit within that scale? Do you actually know the detail of what you are aiming at?
There is an expression about a person being “a big fish in a small pond”, which in career terms means that what an individual considers to be experienced and knowledgeable in their current work environment may not be so in the reality of a larger, or more specialist work environment.
An example of this would be a job seeker who has held a Head Groom position at a local livery yard aspiring to be a Head Groom at an international Eventing yard. Both may be Head Groom roles, but both require different skills and experiences in order for the Head Groom to be successful in the role. This doesn’t mean that the Head Groom at the local livery yard can’t be a Head Groom at an international Eventing yard, but they must be realistic about the steps they must take in order to get there, secure and successful at that job which will likely be at another level.
Step 3 – Identify holes in your skills-set and plan to fill them
This can be within your current job, in a new job, or through family and friends.
First of all, identify the skills you lack for your dream equine job or to becoming the standard that you wish to achieve…
- Look at job adverts for the type of job role you’d like to aspire to and note the job description and requirements. You can literally tick off those you already possess and those you need to acquire.
- If you can, speak to other Grooms who have already worked in the environment you’re aiming for.
- Contact us for a chat about your equine career aspirations, the skills and attributes you require, and how best to gain them.
Once you know what you need, you can make a plan on how to achieve them:
- Where possible and appropriate, speak to friends and family about learning and practising skills with them. For example, a lot of good show turnout techniques are borne of plenty of practice!
- Speak to your employer about career development within your current yard and how they might help you ‘plug’ some of the gaps.
- Consider an Apprenticeship course, or gaining BHS qualifications.
- If possible, look for volunteering opportunities that will help you learn new skills.
- Look for a trainee/junior job that gives you the opportunity to learn these skills.
N.B. Anyone can be a “junior groom”, the term doesn’t refer to young Grooms! Don’t be frightened to go backwards to move forwards, you are someone to be admired for your focus and determination!
Key point: Don’t confuse skills with experience! You can learn new skills through any of the suggestions above, but gaining experience takes time! For example, taking the opportunity to groom at a show will be beneficial to you but will not make you an experienced competition groom! More on this below…
Step 4 – Scale the Equine Career Ladder
No matter what level you’re already at, taking a step up the equine career ladder needs to be a calculated move. This is where so many Grooms make critical mistakes. Effective equine career planning and progression isn’t all about getting broad experience, it’s about CV building too. Getting it wrong can really set you back!
There is no shortcut to knowledge and experience and, as tempting as it is, job hopping from yard to yard in the misguided belief you are gaining “experience” in a wide variety of disciplines is not career progression. All too often it has the opposite effect on your career progression, as it damages your employability. An employer is unlikely to be impressed by a Groom who, rather than has meaningful experience behind them, has simply “sampled” numerous work environments. Believe it or not, 18 months spent working for a local dressage rider can be more valuable to your equine career than working for riders like Carl Hester then leaving after 2 months! It goes without saying, working for Carl Hester and leaving after a good period of time with a good employment reference, well, what can we say? 😉 Winning at equine career planning!
One of the most desired CV attributes employers look for is job longevity. This means you need to stay in a job for a minimum of 12-18 months in order for your job to count towards genuine career progression. Therefore it’s imperative that your next career move is sustainable, and not something that risks you looking to move on no time. Okay, so I’m not suggesting you polish your crystal ball! 😉 There are sensible steps you can take to avoid unnecessary job changes:
- Don’t compromise on big matters unless you have REALLY thought them through!
- Think carefully about shared accommodation if this is a big downer for you.
- Think twice about accepting a salary package that leaves you struggling to meet your financial responsibilities.
- Think carefully about moving miles away from close family and friends that you are likely to miss terribly.
- Think carefully about the reality of leaving your pets with family and being without them for 12 months plus in order to accept a job opportunity.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Don’t big up your skills and experience in order to bag a career move. This is a gamble not worth taking. Pride comes before a fall and, as we all know, this can be quite literal in the equine industry!
- Be honest with recruitment agencies and prospective employers about your strengths and weaknesses. Every employer knows that Grooms need the opportunity to progress, and 100% of them will appreciate knowing that they’ll need to teach or support you when you settle into a role on their yard, rather than finding out through unfortunate surprises along the way. Many of those registered with us will tell you we will walk over hot coals for job seekers who are genuine and honest with us!
- “Try before you buy”
- Make the most of your job interview and don’t rush it or, worse still, skip one altogether! If you can, arrange to go for a few hours, up to a day. This gives you a chance to showcase your skills, and also a little time to assess whether the yard and the team are likely to be a good fit for you too.
- Discuss attending a job trial. This can be a couple of days to an month or so. This really does give you the opportunity to test your fit within a new yard by getting to know your prospective employer, team mates and the horses you’ll be working with. You are free to decline the job at the end of the trial and therefore avoid jumping straight into accepting and starting a new job, only to leave just weeks or months later.
As you can see, equine career planning is actually very simple when you know how. In short, all you need to do is:
- Focus on your career goal
- Identify where you are now
- Identify what you need to reach your career goal
- Choose your pathway to your career goal carefully, and stick to it!
If you would like to discuss making a career development plan, would like help writing your CV, or need assistance in identify a good career move towards your goals please get in touch with us. With over 25 years experience specifically in equine recruitment, The Grooms List Team is most qualified to guide you throughout a successful equine career.
Don’t leave your equine career to luck by drifting from job to job through social media and recruitment agencies with limited experience in equestrian recruitment. Realise your career goals with advice and support from people with the long term, practical experience required to help you make the right career choices at the right time. Contact us today!