My Way: Peter Belcher gives his advice on how to succeed at work

'Have a five-year career path in mind'
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The Independent Online

P eter Belcher is the managing director of Schwarzkopf Professional, one of the world's largest haircare companies, and is on the planning committee and judging panel of the British Hairdressing Awards

What did you want to be as a child?

Something glamorous like a rock star or a footballer.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

I was a grocer's son and after school I'd pitch in behind the counter, but I didn't want to be a grocer because it was mundane. I left school at 16 thinking I'd learn a vocational skill.

How did you become a hairdresser?

One day, I met a friend who was at hairdressing school. When I saw all these glamorous young people with wonderful hairdos I knew what I wanted to do. My parents said I should go to college and see if I could do it, and the strangest thing was, I could.

W hat was your first job?

I got an apprenticeship at Lewis's department store in Birmingham and did my City & Guilds. I was selected for the management-training programme and transferred to Selfridges on Oxford Street. But then I became more interested in what was being used on hair. I thought, hang on, there's a product here and there's money to be made selling products. I wrote to all the top manufacturers asking if they had any opportunities and Clynol offered me a job as a trainee salesman.

How did you work your way up?

I have a can-do attitude. Whatever position I got, I wanted the next job ahead. I became area manager, then wholesale manager, and after Clynol was bought by Schwarzkopf, managing director. If you want to be a senior manager, think about what you know now and what the person in that job knows, and how to narrow the gap.

Do you consider yourself successful?

It would be very vain to say I'm successful, but I love what I do and the industry I'm in.

What are your interview tips?

Research the company you're going to, and talk to its customers or users. You should have a five-year career path in mind and be able to tell the interviewer what that is.

And your CV tips?

It should be precise, concise, chronological and up-to-date, with no gaps. Don't overstate your jobs and responsibilities.

What motivates you?

The British Hairdressing Awards are a good motivator. They are the Oscars of the industry and mean I can promote the best of British hairdressing. That attracts people from all over the world.

Who are your heroes?

Vidal Sassoon, because he linked fashion and hair for the first time to create the total look. Before that, hairdressers were where your gran went. And Nelson Mandela. What he did for the rainbow nation is amazing and I've been to the black townships and seen it.

What's the next rung on the ladder for you?

I'm 61, so I have to be realistic. I've done what I wanted but I love new challenges.

Any plans for retirement?

I don't believe in it. I believe in new horizons.