This Is How To Score The World’s Best Jobs This Year, According To The Guys Who Landed Them
People who are happy at work consistently outperform their unhappy peers, according to research from the University of Warwick, England. And a study in the journal Psychological Science suggests that a strong sense of purpose, professional or otherwise, can help keep you from dying early.
No one is simply looking for a job. “All of us are searching for our life’s mission,” says career coach Joe Sweeney, author of Networking Is a Contact Sport. Is your vocation falling short? Here are the jobs you could be doing and how to get them.
Ditch The Negative Thinking
1. The Obstacle Course Builder
Name: Pieter Du Plessis
Location: Stellenbosch Western Cape
Job Title: IMPI Challenge mastermind
Missing those boyhood days of building tree forts, plunging into dams and stomping through muddy creeks? Well, Pieter du Plessis does those things for a living as the course designer for the gruelling Impi Challenge.
If you’ve ever hauled yourself up a slip wall or barrelled through a crawl tube, chances are you know his work. Building obstacle courses has been this man’s life’s work. Starting in the army, he recalls cold mornings conquering the military’s gauntlets during training. Where most soldiers were thinking about lunch, Du Plessis was laying down blueprints for a career of devilishly challenging designs. From 1997, he was building obstacles for the Camel Trophy and G4 Challenge.
“I then started building high-ropes courses, even a few jungle gyms at schools. Add trail running into mix and then you have magic.” The Impi Challenge brings together all those passions by working with the terrain, merging the natural challenges of forests and water hazards with the the raw physical test of handmade obstacles (see the aforementioned slip wall).
“I love being the explorer, always finding new places,” he says. It’s not always a breeze, but when everything comes together it feels like the greatest job in the world.
Ditch the negative thinking: Du Plessis is where he is today because he keeps his obstacles on the course. Doubt, worry, fear – that’s how you trip up attempts to land that dream job, says top local networking coach Karl Smith. “If you’re negative, your subconscious mind will come up with excuses not to put the needed time and effort into your job search.”
Related: How To Build A Positive Mindset
Pursue What Drives You
2. The Sports Car Tester
Name: Chris Goodwin
Location: The driver’s seat
Job Title: McLaren race engineer
Instead of slouching into an office chair, Chris Goodwin slides in under a carbon fibre steering wheel. Instead of staring at a computer screen, he looks down a long stretch of pavement.
As a test driver for the British car company McLaren, Goodwin, 48, spends his days redlining it on tracks from Spain to Bahrain to Death Valley. One day he’s in a 570S, a car that goes from zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds, and the next, a P1 GTR, a R45 million, 986hp track bomber. Then he reports back to the engineers and does it all over again. “A lot of our customers dream of having my life,” says Goodwin.
“So I’m always introduced as Chris, the guy with the best job in the world.” Think you could handle a white-knuckle job like that? Goodwin thinks so. “Spend hour after hour at that speed” – often over 320km/h – “and you become very comfortable,” he says. Goodwin always had an interest in cars, but he never imagined as a kid that one day he’d be living out his own Hot Wheels fantasy.
But he worked on engines with his father, and later he left engineering school to pursue an opportunity to race professionally. In 2000, he jumped from the McLaren race team to the test-drive seat, and now he has the track to himself. It’s a gig so sweet the company CEO jokingly asks why they even pay him.
Pursue what drives you: Goodwin wasn’t one of those guys who set his sights on the plum job – the engineer behind the wheel – from the very start of his career. He simply followed his passion for speed and auto mechanics. That’s always a good strategy: to create a truly rewarding career, spend as much time as you can in your “zone of genius” says Sweeney. This is the area in which you excel and can accomplish great things without great effort in a relatively short period of time.
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3.The Big Cat Biologist
Name: Alex Braczowski
Location: Staring down a tiger
Job Title: Assistant photographer
From dense Sri-Lankan jungles to the lush valleys of the Himalayas, Alex Braczkowski’s work as a biologist and photography assistant has seen him venture off to some of the world’s most exotic and remote locations.
It’s hard to imagine that just over a year ago the adventurer was wrapping up his Master’s degree, stressing about his next step. Whereas he had spent the past 15 months doggedly writing his dissertation at the University of Oxford, he now felt lost and overwhelmed by prospect of his upcoming job hunt.
Unexpectedly, his lifeline arrived in the form of an email from Steve Winter. The pair had met in 2012 when the photographer, who specialises in snapping shots of the world’s big cats for National Geographic, visited SA’s Phinda Game Reserve.
Two weeks of chasing cheetahs and leopards in the park had clearly left an impression on the shooter, says Braczkowski, and now he wanted the biologist to help him track SA’s big cats again. He jumped at the opportunity. Starting by shadowing and assisting the award-winning photographer, he picked up specialised techniques on how to snap perfect shots of the world’s wildlife. For the biologist, whose work had been focused more on conservation and research, it was an invaluable experience.
“There’s not a photography course in the world that could offer me this,” he says. The time spent under Winter’s mentorship nurtured a passion for photography, and as unexpectedly as the appearance of that first email notification, Braczkowski had found his calling. A few weeks in South Africa turned into months travelling the world.
Working alongside Winter, the biologist tracked and photographed big cats in India and Sri Lanka. “We tracked tigers on foot and fro elephant back in Jim Corbett National Park, he says. “We got images of a leopard on the beach in Yala National Park. I got to see the Himalayas – at one point we were 100km south of Tibet – climbed granite inselberg in a Sri-Lankan jungle and filmed a leopard temple in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.”
But it wasn’t just the cats, for the assistant, meeting people of different cultures, religions and backgrounds made the work even more enjoyable. Waking up every morning, Braczkowski feels inspired, his office is the outdoors and there is always something new to discover, whether it is over that hill, down in that valley, or in a nearby village.
Landing this job was a mix of passion, determination and a bit of luck, he says. Meeting Winter in 2012 was all about being in the right place at the right time. But it was his passion for researching big cats that meant he had been working in the park when the photographer decided to visit and shoot its wildlife.
Looking back, he says that in the stress following the completion of his thesis there was something he had overlooked, something that he now considers the most important part of wildlife conservation. “It’s making the science and research reach the public, and hopefully inspire them. Steve showed me how to do that and taught me the photographic skills that will help me show the big cats that I cherish so much to the people in SA and beyond.”
Keep networking: People who share your interests, whether they’re the guys you go biking with on weekends or the couple you make small talk with at the park, often end up becoming your professional allies, says Sweeney. “Every person you meet is asking three questions about you: Do you care about me? Can you help me? And can I trust you?” he says. If you earn passing grades from the people you meet, you’ll make lasting connections that can dramatically increase your potential for success.
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Find The Right Ingredients
4. The Craft Brewer
Name: Josef Schmid
Job Title: Beer genius
Up at the crack of dawn and off to the brewery - every day is happy hour for Josef Schmid. One half of the duo behind Ubuntu Kraal, the Joburg brewery in Orlando West which serves up Soweto Gold Superior Lager, the hospitality expert-turnedcraft brewer says it never feels like a job. “It’s more of an all-consuming hobby,” he adds. “Work” is a healthy mix of prepping ingredients, fine-tuning the process and, most importantly, tasting the beer. The secret to landing this sweet gig? “Love beer, love the craft, work with your hands, and never stop learning,” says Schmid.
Find the right ingredients: Landing that coveted job may sound daunting, but if you break the hunt down into manageable chunks you will increase your chances of success, says Smith. Investigate two or three potential paths, looking into what new skills or experience you will need and start working on improving yourself. You won’t be able to brew up the perfect lager without setting foot in the brewery.
Related: How To Pour A Beer Properly
It’s Not About The Degree
5. The Sports Caster
Name: Matthew Pearce
Location: The booth
Job Title: Commentator
Everyone’s an expert until there’s a million viewers listening in. Yup, there’s a lot more to in-game commentary than shouting “Un-bah-lievable!” every two minutes. It helps if you’re a natural. Matthew Pearce calls the plays on some of world rugby’s biggest clashes, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s never the same from one week to the next,” he says, “and the fact that my work has such an important role to play in how people enjoy their sporting experience on TV is a privilege.”
It’s not about the degree: Pearce studied Industrial Psychology and Economics before moving onto Marketing. It was his passion for sport and journalism that led him to the booth. Want a voice? Be prepared to start from the bottom and take advice from the pros, not the pundits, says Pearce. That’s something no degree can teach you.
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Know What You Love
6. The Wave Chaser
Name: Sacha Specker
Location: Off the coast
Job Title: Photographer
He’s spent weeks watching the weather and finally the tide and swell line up. With a splash he’s battling the frothing waves, and then, a single golden moment, a window opens to capture what he calls the “unimaginable beauty” of the ocean with the click of his camera. Since he was a child, Sacha Specker has never wanted to be anywhere else but in the sea.
He spent his boyhood chasing and riding waves, swimming until his fingers pruned and ocean left his hair stiff with salt. But where kids can spend days frolicking in the surf, a man needs to make a living, and it was through his passion for photography that Specker has managed to stay in the water. The photographer’s aquatic landscapes have been featured in the pages of magazines and have earned him a strong following on Instagram.
While his day job keeps him in the studio, it’s his passion that draws him to the coast. Specker began taking pictures when he was just 15, building his own waterproof casings to house his cameras. Initially, he photographed bodyboarders and surfers, but over the years his focus shifted to waterscapes and ocean textures.
“Doing this with bigger and better cameras helped me capture images that are unique and mesmerising,” he says. Success for the photographer is not about raking in cash, though he makes enough to pay the bills. “I feel the success is the part when I realise I am doing something I love and that it can be a career.”
Know what you love: The basis for choosing a rewarding career direction is recognising the topics, activities or environments that are most interesting to you, says networking coach Karl Smith. When you’ve identified these categories you’ll be able to trim down your job hunt to positions that offer opportunities you’ve been relishing.
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Lay The Groundwork
7. The International Spy
Job Title: Classified
Jack Devine told everyone he was a US embassy official. In truth the former high school teacher was a CIA operative uncovering secrets on foreign soil.
The gig often played out like this: He and his wife would arrive in a foreign city and invite local government officials over for a get-together. Devine used the gatherings to identify potential double agents, and once he lined someone up, he’d employ Bond-level espionage, feeding his intel back to the agency.
One stealth technique was to install wireless transmitters in his informants’ cars so they could contact him on the road confidentially. Sure beats the conference room, right?
Lay the groundwork: The majority of Devine’s time was spent laying groundwork – in his case, that meant building trustworthy sources. Apply the same attitude to your career, Sweeney says. “You have to be willing to do the little things every day,” he says.
Take On The Turbulence
8. The Military Aviator
Name: Omphile “OG” Mutloane
Location: SA Airspace
Job Title: Silver Falcons pilot
The Alouette III chopper hovered over the schoolyard, its spinning blades kicking up dust as children jumped and waved below. For most of those kids, it was an exciting story for the dinner table, but for Omphile Mutloane it was the moment he knew there would be no compromise: he was going to be a pilot.
“I had no back-up plan,” he says. “There was no second choice. This was what I wanted.” Not looking back, he started training the first chance he had. Flight school took him from him a small village in the North West and placed him in the cockpit of a highspeed aircraft. Now, his average day at work – flying for the Silver Falcons display team – sees him take to the skies, cutting through clouds as part of the aerobic team, showcasing what the SA Air Force’s top military aviators are capable of.
“I get to fly a multimillion-rand, highperformance aircraft in close formation with other multimillion-rand aircraft. That’s pretty much my job, and I can’t get that experience anywhere else.” Mutloane joined the squad after taking part in a series of fly-offs last year. Out of the eight instructors who did battle in the air (no missiles involved), he came out on top.
Related: Shredded Australian Military Commander Shares Tips For Tearing Up Your Core
He now flies in position number three, the left wing of Falcons’ tight formation, piloting one of the team’s iconic Pilatus PC-7 MkIIs. It was every man for himself during the fly-offs, but once part of the fold, Mutloane says, you need to be a team player to survive. Half of the time he can’t believe he’s paid to do this. “There are bad days, just like any job, but loving what you do, and for me that’s flying, that’s what will get you through it.”
Take on the turbulence: Smith says setbacks are an inevitable part of life, and many can feel like they are getting in the way of landing your dream job. “The thing is, your happiness is largely dependent upon how you respond to those bumps in the road.” Those curveballs shouldn’t derail your plans – rather learn and grow from setbacks and change your worldview.