Taking Chances: My Summer Job 2015
Eisner Amper Blog Challenge
Alexandra Trant – SS PPES
For the 2014/15 academic year, I was chosen by Trinity to study on exchange at Georgetown University in Washington DC. For three months last summer, I was a Research Assistant for Professor Irene Jillson in Georgetown’s School of Nursing and Health Studies. I did not attain this position through the conventional route of CV and cover letter application. Instead, this position materialized through pursuing opportunities off the beaten track, fostering relations and not being afraid to be a little bit bold.
My first meeting with Professor Jillson arose through a complete coincidence. For a journalism class, I reported on symphysiotomy in Ireland, a medical phenomenon that was little known in Ireland let alone America. Thus I was shocked to find that Prof. Jillson had published one of the few studies on the subject. Within a week I had interviewed her for my project. Within a month we were meeting regularly to discuss various topics. Within three months, I was her research assistant. These series of events occurred due to a willingness to commit to an academic relationship outside of my regular coursework, seeing an opportunity and not being afraid to offer my services as a Research Assistant even when I was unsure if a position was available.
This position taught me invaluable skills, especially for my final year. I conducted my research independently, meeting with my Professor once every week. I had to remain self-motivated and adhere to strict deadlines. I found this form of time management initially difficult, but it has been an instrumental skill for planning my dissertation. I have also learned many research techniques, such as analytic and editing skills, which will be vital for improving the numerous essays coming my way. This will also prove advantageous throughout my future career, as many of the jobs I’m interested in, such as policy and consulting, require strong problem-solving, analytic and editing capabilities.
The most rewarding aspect of my work was also the most challenging. Much of the research intersected health and policy, an area that I’m passionate about, and exploring this subject in depth was gratifying. However it could be overwhelming to gather realms of information on this often broad topic. I felt that I could never know enough to produce an accurate study. Nonetheless, my high of this experience was the opportunity to contribute to research on a topic I loved. A low was discovering the bureaucracy in academic research, such as overly rigid journal requirements. It did however enlighten my understanding of academic publishing.
For students looking to find a summer internship or work experience, my advice would be to pursue some less conventional routes alongside traditional applications. Don’t be afraid to email a firm with a CV expressing interest, even if there’s no specific job advertised. Similarly, if you know of a Professor who is conducting research on a topic you are intrigued by, get in touch with them. Nothing negative can come from taking a chance.
Wednesday, 2nd December 2015
Written by: Jessica Trick
This week’s “Voices from…” event, provided the opportunity for students to learn more about postgraduate study, applications and considerations. The four speakers were Trinity PhD students: Emma Norton (School of Physics), Jessica Foley (Arts within the School of Engineering), James Sheridan (School of History and Humanities) and Kyle Hughes (School of English).
The speakers gave details of their own experiences and advice to those interested in applying, including a few things they wish they had known before embarking on their studies. Don’t be put off by some of the more negative sounding stories, the speakers just wanted to make sure that people were prepared for and aware of, the realities of postgraduate study. All of the speakers spoke about how their PhD was a great and worthwhile experience.
Not just another degree
Emma stressed that she wished she had been told that a PhD wasn’t just another degree before she had begun. It’s a gateway into academia and allows non- academic career progression also. It’s very different from an undergraduate or master’s degree and, therefore, you should take time to consider if it’s the right step for you.
It can be intimidating to speak to a professor about PhD study, but you need to make sure that the person you end up communicating with regularly for four years is someone you like, respect and can communicate with well.
Sometimes supervisors will have funding for certain research projects, for PhD students. However, the speakers suggested that although some students end up picking a supervisor based on a research topic and the funding available, even if they know they don’t get on with the supervisor that well – it might be wiser to find another supervisor at another institution or wait another year for a supervisor who you get along with better for a more positive experience, if at all possible. Emma told us about how it is easier to pick a topic than it is to pick the environment and people you get on with – make sure you like the environment as it will be central to your four years.
When you are doing a PhD you will have a different relationship with your supervisor, don’t forget, you will be an asset to them! The speakers suggested that it is good to try and develop a friendship with them as you will ideally meet with them regularly. It is also important to bear in mind that you will be in charge of scheduling appointments with your supervisor.
It is a good idea to establish a relationship with someone you would like to be your supervisor early on as, depending on the subject area, they may be able to recommend some areas of research based on the funding they have available.
You could base your PhD topic on your undergraduate dissertation, as James did, when he was asked by his professor if he would like to continue his work in the area.
Although you do have to submit a title and idea this could be open to change – so it isn’t necessarily completely rigid, particularly in the arts and humanities, as Kyle found through his research.
The freedom and independence of PhD research was cited as a mixed blessing by the speakers. Obviously you are free to set your own schedule however; this means it is down to you to keep a work life balance. The speakers said that for them a PhD was a 9-5 job, often with 10 or 12 hour days. It’s important to factor in the extra demands outside of your research. Holidays and time off have to be planned well in advance to ensure that you can still meet deadlines.
You are free to pick your own topic according to your interests (and funding available) and can choose the approaches and methods that you would like to use.
You should, however, be prepared for the responsibility that your will have as a PhD student – you will become an expert in your subject and you may feel a little lonely or worried when your supervisor counters your questions with the advice that you know more about the subject than they do, and therefore won’t be able to tell you if you are right or wrong. There will also be only a few times when someone will check that you are doing your work; at the end of the first year or so you submit a chapter of your thesis to check that you are on the right path.
What does a PhD student actually do?
Although you may think that four years is a long time to spend researching and writing on one topic, the reality of a PhD includes far more diverse commitments. From writing articles, to attending conferences, and from travel for research to teaching, the day to day life of PhD student is actually far more multifaceted than you might expect.
A PhD certainly allows you to develop your communication skills as you need to be able to effectively show your findings to others – otherwise what’s the point! Emma said that she spends about 40% of her time communicating with others about the research she’s doing and about 60% actually researching. The speakers found teaching to be a great way to improve their communication and management skills, with the bonus of being paid! However, within a tight schedule this does need to be fitted in carefully.
Another skill that you will develop as a PhD student is organisation, whether planning your schedule, research trips, preparing for teaching or keeping careful and organised records of your research, you won’t be able to get by without being organised.
Research trips can be fun and enjoyable but it is important to consider whether there will be extra work required and factor in time for that. For example, James went to Oxford to use their library sources, however to do this he had to learn old English which was time consuming.
After submitting the thesis, PhD students have to defend their work in a viva – a presentation to a board of academics who will ask questions about the research. The viva is used to see how well you know your subject and whether you would be able to teach it.
James said he found finance to be a constant issue throughout the four years so it is important to research funding carefully and thoroughly, applying for as many scholarships and studentships as possible, to ensure you get the best possible support. Supervisors may be able to tell you about other funds which you may not be able to find.
The speakers recommended that when applying to the Irish Research Council for funding you give yourself enough time. The application takes some time, and the deadline for Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme 2016 was November. (note Employment Based Programme and Enterprise Partnership Scheme will open early 2016) , so make sure that you give yourself enough time and don’t have to rush. It is also a good idea to ask your supervisor to look over your application before you submit it – this also gives you an opportunity to see how your potential supervisor may be to work with.
Is it for me? Ask yourself these questions…
Are you good at organising, and sticking to your own schedule?
Do you love your subject?
Does the topic fascinate you?
Are you prepared to do study this for four years?
- Jessica’s advice was to take part in extracurricular activities whilst working as a PhD student
- Write everyday even if only to record your thoughts on how things are going as it is important to develop your own voice as it can be hard to keep a coherent writing style of the course of several years, especially when periods of time will be spent researching without much writing
- If you have a 2:1 rather than a first, try and supplement this with extra work alongside academics or write about any awards you might have won when applying
- Try and link your research proposal to an outside party. For example if it is science based contact a relevant company that you could work with, or for arts maybe something based in the community – emphasise the outreach in your application, demonstrating that your research will have wider implications than just in the field of academia
- Talk to the Careers Service to get advice on career paths after postgraduate research
- It is worth doing some courses, improving your IT skills and getting some work experience to ensure that you have the best CV that you can without, potentially, much working history
- If you are from outside of the EU and want to study in Ireland, for example, you should be aware that there may be some issues over the length of stay enabled by your student visa – easily worked out but something Kyle (from the US) wishes he had been aware of before the start of his study
- Don’t be afraid to tell your supervisor what you need from them and when – it can be easy to drift away from others and for staff to get caught up in their own work, but ask for help, you are ultimately the responsibility of your supervisor
- The skills you will develop will be useful no matter what you go on to do after
- If you love your subject then it will be worth it!
Wednesday, 18th November 2015
Written by: Jessica Trick
In this week’s “Voices from…” event, three speakers working in marketing, communications and PR shared their knowledge of job roles and the skills you might need to pursue a career in this area. Having worked in a range of jobs and sectors the speakers demonstrated the breadth of the opportunities available to those interested in marketing, communications and PR. The speakers were Sinead Doyle, Marketing and PR Manager at the National Concert Hall, Fiona Gallagher, Subscription Product Consultant at LinkedIn, and Daniel Meister, Communications Manager at the National Youth Council of Ireland.
How did the speakers get into marketing, communications and PR?
After graduating in Music, Sinead Doyle went straight into working in PR as a secretary. Having worked her way up she decided to gain more knowledge of PR and marketing by studying for the Public Relations Institute of Ireland’s diploma in PR. Whilst working she spent a couple of evenings a week studying over a course of two years. Immersed in the world of PR and marketing, she felt the combination of work and study worked well and gave her invaluable knowledge and skills in the industry. Later, having seen a job advertised that she really wanted, combining marketing, PR and music, Sinead went into the interview well prepared with potential ideas, demonstrating her enthusiasm and commitment to the role from the start – she got the job.
Fiona Gallagher has been working for LinkedIn for the last ten months. However, at the start of her career she worked at a fine art auction house. Having developed her sales and marketing skills she joined an online auction house company, which, despite not succeeding in the long term, taught Fiona much about the online world and the skills needed in the digital environment. She went on to work with various media agencies – finding it fast-paced and rewarding. Negotiation skills are important in this kind of role and Fiona recommends anyone interested in this type of role to get comfortable with asking for discounts! She currently works as a Product Consultant, and emphasised that a 360 approach to marketing, knowing every aspect of what is involved, is essential to her job.
Daniel Meister is the Communications Manager for the National Youth Council of Ireland. After graduating from university in European Studies he taught English in Italy for a couple of years, before returning to Ireland to work for Tourism Ireland in a call centre. Despite neither of these jobs being for him in the long term, he was able to gain transferable skills, which helped him succeed in gaining jobs in NGOs.
What might a role in marketing, communications and PR consist of?
Roles in marketing, communications and PR can consist of a variety of tasks, however, these are some of the tasks involved in the speakers’ day-to-day work:
- Writing press releases, sourcing quotes for them and sending them to newspapers with embargos
- Organising television, radio and newspaper coverage of an event and ensuring that they get the best shots for promotion
- Creating publications or leaflets to help promotions
- Ensure sales and promotion of event or activity
- Educating or training others in marketing and the use of digital media (companies, other members of staff, young people)
- Manage and plan investment in media for marketing purposes
- Use SEO to drive sales and grow digital media organically
What kind of skills and experience should I develop and gain?
The speakers described some skills, which they felt would be useful for anyone interested in this job area:
- Experience (writing and work). Get writing experience – whether this is for a small blog or something bigger. Get some work experience, an internship or volunteer. Experience is key in these types of positions, you can prove to potential employers that you are able to work to deadlines and achieve the tasks asked of you. Try volunteering for Arts events or festivals – be proactive!
- Get connected. Use LinkedIn and contact anyone in the industry whom you particularly admire and see if you could meet them to talk about their job role and the type of experience they might feel would be useful.
- Get some experience in digital media specifics, such as SEO and channel marketing. You can learn about them through self-study sites such as Lynda.com and Google’s Analytics Academy (links at the bottom of the page).
- Know about digital media. Write a blog and then use social media channels to try and encourage traffic for some experience.
- Data journalism is a growing area as we gain increasing amounts of data. You can use online courses to practice looking at data and pulling out the parts that would make interesting journalistic stories.
- Develop your organisational, management, communication and teamwork skills.
Some final advice from the speakers:
- Remember to look at job descriptions as job titles are changing. Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is now a growing role within companies, as is Brand Ambassador. Roles such as Community Engagement Executive would consist of working with social media, so don’t rule out jobs that don’t include the words marketing or PR!
- The charity sector’s budget has been cut of the past years. However, it has stabilized and will hopefully continue to do so as the economy improves – hopefully this will lead to more job opportunities.
- NGOs can be great to work for but you may need to do some work experience to get your foot in the door (and bear in mind that they are unlikely to be the best route to increasing financial benefits).
- Your first job is unlikely to be perfect, but you will learn something! Looking back on a job he once found trying, Daniel recognized that he gained skills and became familiar with databases and systems, which was beneficial in the future.
Useful sources and information:
Recommended sites where you can develop your skills:
Recommended sites for job advertisements and marketing news:
Sources of information about the marketing/advertising industry and digital marketing (both here in Ireland and abroad):
Link to download the ‘The Marketing Skills Handbook’ (report by LinkedIn and Hubspot) here:
Sites recommended for students interested in attending marketing conferences/events:
Wednesday, 4th November 2015
Written by: Jennifer Evans
“The Creative Arts” is such a broad term that covers a vast range of jobs. Some of us studying the Arts and Humanities with find ourselves faced with the dilemma of figuring out what we want to do in “The Creative Arts”, where there is to do in such a field, and how we can make a living in the process. In the Arts, there isn’t really one set career path, as panelists from this weeks “Voices from…” panel proved.
Jamie Tanner – Senior Producer at VStream, Photographer, Video Producer
Jamie Tanner, a photographer for the Electric Picnic http://www.electricpicnic.ie festival and Senior Producer at Vstream Media http://www.vstream.ie, a digital media company based here in Dublin, has been in many directions in different areas of the arts. After beginning his degree at Trinity in Philosophy and Classics, he joined the DU Players and quickly switched to Drama, going on to get a Master’s in Film. As is the way of the industry, film was evolving to video by the time he had learnt how reels worked, so Jamie had to adapt to fit the fast-moving environment. Seeing that there were opportunities in film overseas, he moved to New Zealand where he worked in film for two years. On his return to Ireland he turned his hand to music photography. Like so many people in artistic jobs, Jamie pursued photography for next to no income for a few years. It took a few years of commitment to get to a point where he was reaping the benefits of all the hard work.
Jamie’s work with still photography took him back to film, leading him to music videos and live festival videos. He set up his own production company at the time, and fully believes that you should focus on something that you care about. He hesitates to tell us to “do what you love” because he knows that sometimes you’ll hate it—the difficult hours, the travelling, the hours of editing, or the instability of the job—but if you really care about it, and you care about the results you’re getting, it will all be worthwhile.
Jamie’s story also shows the importance of being in the right place at the right time. Wen out at a pub, he met a man working for Vstream who checked out his music videos and offered him a job. Since then he has worked on tonnes of different projects at Vstream and his work is always adapting. It’s not just the individuals that have to adapt to the industry, but the companies too. They need to keep on top of consumer demand and culture changes, so they hire people who have the skills and desire to do that.
Jamie warns of us being told to narrow down and specify too often. He’s found that, in these jobs, the opposite is often necessary—you have to know how to change, to figure out new technology and gain new skills, and to be okay with a job you’ve never heard of or considered before. That’s where you might find the most interesting ones.
Matthew Smith, International Theatre Producer and Events Manager
Matthew Smith, an international theatre producer at ANU Productions, has similar advice. He studied Economics and Politics at Trinity but his career has not gone in that direction at all. He joined Players and a sketch group in college and began performing in Dublin and at festivals like the Edinburgh Fringe, even considering going into comedy full-time after leaving college.
He applied and was accepted into the SEEDS programme for developing artists, run by Rough Magic: http://www.roughmagic.ie/artist-development/seeds. He was able to assist on one show throughout his time and produce one show at the end, allowing him to see the bigger picture while working on his own project.
Matthew, like a lot of us, wanted a job that let him travel in his 20s, and that’s what he’s gotten through his work. He became one of the few freelance producers in Ireland, working with companies such as Dead Centre. His freelance role lets him experience and taste new jobs and events all the time. He’s left things open, going after anything that piques his interest. Going freelance can sound like a scary dream that doesn’t actually earn you money, but Matthew shows that it can be done. The key is keeping connections and going after new opportunities, allowing yourself to veer into a different path if that seems like the right one. As Justin said, the arts are always evolving, and you should be too.
Louise O’Neill, Author
Louise O’Neill, author of two critically acclaimed books, Only Ever Yours and Asking for It, has a slightly different story. After working for Elle magazine in New York for only a year straight out of Trinity, she realised the focus on image and size in the fashion industry wasn’t for her. She started to critique the industry and became more away of feminist issues, so she returned home to live with her parents and work on Only Ever Yours. Having studied English and with her mother an English teacher, the writing came naturally to Louise and she felt confident in her story of a world in which women could only ever give birth to males, not females.
After finishing her draft and contacting agents, she received an immediate positive response, hearing back in less than a week. Her first book did phenomenally well and at the time she was already writing her second, which is has been out since September and is set to do just as well.
Louise says that it didn’t come without hard work, though. She says that a lot of this is about being driven and ambitious. This is a business, after all, and you need to be strategic about selling your product and ideas through social media, etc. Her advice is to be as professional as possible and to think about things like your target market and publicity instead of leaving it up to your agent. Louise’s proactive nature helped her get off the ground, which is such a difficult thing for new writers.
For her, though, it felt pretty easy once she’d written the book. As we writers know, the actual writing can be the hardest part. Louise spent six months doing nothing but writing her first novel, a tactic that might not work for all of us but definitely worked for her. Once you find what works for you, you just need to keep writing. Louise’s advice to budding authors is not to compare your first draft to somebody else’s published work, which has been edited numerous times. As she says, working with a draft that you need to completely re-structure or edit is a lot easier than working with nothing at all.
Louise also knows that you have to push those self-doubting thoughts aside. The artistic process is difficult and challenging, and the industry is so vast and competitive that it can seem like you are nothing in the grand scheme of it. She knows how difficult that can be, but made sure she believed in herself.
Anna Murray, Composer, Musician and Concert Promoter
There are some jobs in the arts that where it is difficult to make a well-paying career, composer and musician Anna Murray knows well. She always knew she wanted to be a composer but knew that composing on its own is not a job that many can pursue full time and make a living out of. She turned to teaching as well as composing, and joined the Irish Composers Collective, http://www.irishcomposerscollective.org/anna-murray. Her work doesn’t stop there, as she co-directs music production group Fractal and writes for the Journal of Music. Anna thrives on having a number of different projects and jobs on the go at the same time.
Anne has found that she has learnt so much from her creative education, and continues to learn in her jobs, which appears to be a theme among the panelists. They are proof that jobs in the creative arts are possible and available, and if you are an adaptable person then you will thrive in that environment. Whether you’re working only on writing, or working in freelance production, the job is never dull or stagnant. Jobs in the creative arts are there if you don’t narrow yourself down, if you make contacts and are passionate about the work you’re doing. That passion is evident in all the panelists, and is clearly a key component in all of their success.
Wednesday, 21st October 2015
Written by: Jessica Trick
In this week’s “Voices from…” event, representatives from the science sector shared their knowledge and insights on the industry. The speakers were from three organisations: Pharmachemical Ire, the Irish Medical Device Association and tech start-up Energy Elephant.
All three speakers have experience across a range of jobs within the science sector, as well as academic backgrounds. However, all speakers stressed how valuable science graduates are without any further post-graduate education, as often this allows people to adapt more easily into a working environment – which is good news for those of you who don’t have the funds or passion for further education right now! Michael Gillen, Senior Executive at Pharmachemical Ire, who has a PhD, gave this advice to his daughter when she graduated, ‘work for three years and if you then want to do a PhD you will have experience from the industry.’ Gillen emphasised the importance of the skills you gain whilst completing a science degree, for the workplace. Science develops your ability to think in a certain way, this is what makes you valuable to companies.
Experience was something repeated consistently throughout the event: work experience is critical in finding a job in this sector, and indeed any sector, today. All the speakers agreed that having work experience and a lower class degree was more valuable than a first class degree with no experience – employers want to see evidence of your work ethic and ability to self-motivate! If you can’t get a part-time job try and get some work experience, or at least take part in extra-curricular activities like sports or choir that require teamwork so that you are able to demonstrate to employers that you are personable and a team player.
In terms of the more entrepreneurial side to the sector Joe Borza, CEO of Energy Elephant, had plenty of advice to give. First and foremost, learn to code! Joe explained that coding is logical, not as difficult as it is made out to be, and should come fairly easily to those with a maths background. He uses code every day and emphasised that science and engineering graduates should have this skill as more and more jobs will require these skills in the future. His advice, be ahead of the curve.
For those of you who are interested in starting a business, the advice was that now is the time to try things out. There are more opportunities for start-ups at this point in time, the personal risks are lower when you’re younger (without children, a mortgage etc.) and there is funding available from various organisations, such as Enterprise Ireland. However, Joe did point out that starting a business is HARD – be ready for that. If you are thinking about starting a company try using this four step approach that Joe was told about when he started out:
- Is there a problem?
- Will the customer pay for a solution?
- Will they buy from you?
- Can you build it?
Enda Dempsey from the Irish Medical Devices Association spoke about the importance of using social networking site LinkedIn to give yourself a better opportunity of being head hunted and improving contacts. He also suggested that students contact companies in the sector for work experience – don’t be afraid to do so! If you can’t get a job straight away after graduating then start thinking about internships or free courses such as those run by Skillnets, which will ensure you don’t have gaps in your CV. Enda did also mention that for anyone interested in polymers or polymer research, the plastics industry is lacking graduates and, therefore, jobs are often well paid.
Some key points to take away from the speakers:
- Lower your expectations when you first leave university – this is only the beginning of your education, you don’t know everything but you aren’t expected to!
- Open your mind to different jobs within the sector, you might be surprised at what you enjoy and where it could lead to
- Find a part-time job (but don’t work in your final term!) or work experience
- Learn to code – at least have an understanding of how code looks
- Find a mentor when you are working, particularly in your first job, and learn from them
- Ensure that you are friendly, enthusiastic and passionate when going for interviews
- Don’t forget to share things with people that you work with, even if you are the youngest and least experienced – there is a good chance that you will be able to teach more senior colleagues about new technologies and apps that could prove valuable to the company
- You are going to be working for a long time, but see this first step on the career ladder as an opportunity to learn every day in a field that you are passionate about
The speakers suggested some resources that they personally find helpful:
TED talk – Your body language shapes who you are
According to Michael Gillen this talk by Amy Cuddy about the ‘Power Pose’ is a must-watch before interviews.
Find it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en
Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series
Joe Borza recommended these podcasts from Stanford University, citing that he listens to one every day.
Find them here: http://etl.stanford.edu
Other links and resources:
Wednesday, 14th October 2015
Written by: Jennifer Evans
Joining the Careers Services for the next session of the Voices from… series this week were Selina Donnelly, Policy Officer for Trocaire, Mary Jelliti, Logistics Co-ordinator for GOAL Global, Chris Pain, Deputy Head of Strategy Advocacy and Learning Department, Concern, and Ronan MacNamara, Irish Aid Rapid Response Corps and current PhD student.
The terms ‘international development’ and ‘humanitarian aid’ can scare some students first entering the world of work. We often hear “volunteer” and “charity” alongside them and we’re unsure where that can fit into a career. Many students came to the panel with the same concerns about what exactly they could do, with their degree in Sociology, English, Geography, or Medicine, and the Voices from… speakers were there to make things a bit clearer.
Q: Can you think of anything you feel you did wrong, or wish you had known before going into this field?
Ronan MacNamara: I would not go to Sri Lanka when I did.
Straight after university, Ronan went to volunteer in Sri Lanka. This was right after the tsunami in 2004, so his work was difficult and many hands were needed. Just out of his degree, and with no practical or specialist skills, Ronan felt like he was more of a hindrance than help. “I was just in the way,” he said. Mary Jelliti warns of taking someone else’s place in a job you’re not really qualified for, especially if that someone lives where you’re going. Field experience is necessary and valuable, but if you’ve painted an orphanage for six months when the man next door to the orphanage could have been paid to do the same job, you’re not going to be ahead.
Selina Donnelly: I would have learnt a new language, either French or Arabic.
Chris Pain tells us of the benefits of knowing a second language, particularly those two – French and Arabic. Why those? West Africa, of course, and the Middle East. That’s where a lot of this work is. Spanish is also incredibly helpful, of course, particularly if you want to work in South America. Chris, who works for Concern, advocates for learning these languages. Your application will soar above others with it, and you will be far better equipped if you can speak the language of the people you’re working with.
Q: Volunteer opportunities: How do we know we are not just getting in the way?
That’s a great question, and one that Mary answers simply: internships. Mary believes in the power of internships. Unlike the other panelists, she doesn’t have a Masters degree, but she instead has powerful experience out in the field. She came into this job through volunteering, too. After working in Waterstones for 8 years, she looked for a change in career paths, and came across a very rare volunteer position at Save the Children. After six months of that position, Save the Children began an internship position in logistics, and Mary applied. She was sent to South Sudan – her first time in Africa and in any position like that – and it was a huge learning curve for her. She was working part-time during the volunteer position, and then given a stipend for living expenses when on the internship in South Sudan.
If you don’t have technical expertise in a specific field (accounting, medicine, engineering, etc.), then field experience is extremely helpful. For Mary, the volunteer position helped her get her foot in the door and now, as a Logistics Coordinator, she has found a job that is flexible and varied, giving her both hands-on experience and office work.
Look for volunteering and internship opportunities… and talk to people in the industry. Ask them about the opportunities and the positions available, in order to figure out what you’re suited to and what might fit your interests and skills.
Q: Aren’t most of these internship positions, and all volunteer positions, unpaid? Isn’t it difficult to take one an unpaid position when you have living expenses?
Yes, they admit, it is difficult and can be elitist. This aspect of the field does not sit well with any of the panelists, who all believe that workers should be paid for the work they are doing, at any level.
Mary Jelliti was able to work part-time while volunteering, which gave her a low but steady income, and her stipend in South Sudan was enough to live on. Many other internships also give a stipend to live on, especially when living abroad, although the amount can vary heavily depending on the living expenses in that country.
Chris tells the students that Concern stays away from unpaid internships, so there are many paid opportunities even for entry-level positions. If they ask for 1-2 years of experience, that doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same field, and that experience could be made up of different volunteering positions taken up over 3 or 4 months each year. There is an initial hump period, usually 1-3 years, where finding opportunities and funding is more difficult, but after that period opportunities are far more widely available, and almost never unpaid. As Ronan adds, interns are often paid, while volunteers are not, even if they are doing the exact same job. This can come down to the level of competitiveness when applying to the role, and the skill or education level necessary.
Don’t stay away from volunteering entirely, because it can be highly useful especially for gaining early experience, but internships may pay better. Get involved, too—prove you are willing to volunteer by being part of a group on campus (SUAS, for example, which Selina was a part of when she was a student) and dedicating your time to that work. If you can prove that you are a dedicated and serious volunteer, then when you apply to jobs after graduation you will have more ground to ask for a paying position rather than voluntary.
Q: Would you suggest any specific subject for a Master’s degree?
Mary: I would suggest you stick with what you’re interested in.
All the others agree. Master’s are expensive, as Selina notes, and getting some experience before doing your Master’s can help you narrow down your interests. A Master’s isn’t always necessary, as Mary is an example of, but they are increasingly helpful. Ronan says that he has seen all applications without a Master’s degree ignored, and had colleagues enter into positions completely different from their degree subject, so it is often just about the completion of the degree.
Q: Have you ever felt at risk in the field?
All four panelists say that they have, of course, but at different levels and for different reasons. The security levels are extremely high on these programmes, and safety measures are in place to ensure your personal wellbeing. You will always come across different cultures and potentially risky situations, but you will be pulled out of a place that puts you in too much danger. Larger companies are also more likely to provide better safety measures, especially ones that have been running for a long time, whereas you may have to use more of your own common sense when working with smaller agencies.
If you’re nervous about risks, too, there are many places to work which have high poverty rates and need humanitarian aid, but aren’t places of high crime or war zones. Workers are just as necessary in these places as those with far higher threats. You should always feel comfortable in the job, too, and ask questions. Think about things that you wouldn’t always consider a risk—traffic and traveling are often the most dangerous issues, as the rules and conventions differ so much by country. Don’t be naïve and underestimate the risk, and don’t be afraid to ask for support.
General vs. Specialist skills: which is more valuable?
Both are extremely valuable—if you have strong skills in accounting or engineering, then you’re bound to find a job that needs you. If you are studying Geography and know how to make maps, your skills are also invaluable. But many roles don’t rely on specialist skills, but more on general or “soft” skills. Networking can be very important, and interpersonal skills will get you a long way. You also need to be flexible and independent in positions out in the field, and those are things that can be proven with experience.
Adaptability is also key – you don’t know where you will be needed or what job you will be needed for. You will help the countries you’re working for and the mission of your agency far more if you are able to adapt to what they need. What the speakers seem to be saying is that there are jobs for everyone – paying jobs! – if you are willing to put the time and the work in. When you do, the benefits of travel, experience, connections, and making a difference in people’s lives will outweigh the hard work.
Some Resources mentioned:
Also see Finding Work in International Development and Humanitarian Aid delivered earlier this week
Tuesday, 6th October 2015
Written by: Jennifer Evans
The “Voices from…” panel series kicked off this Tuesday with the first installation, ‘Global Horizons, International Careers’. Four speakers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the European Commission Representation, and the European Parliament Information Office shared their advice and experiences with students interested in foreign affairs and international relations.
But why look for an international job, instead of staying in Ireland? As Jennifer Bourke from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade explained, EU membership has been fundamental to the country, and Ireland’s contribution to world affairs continues to be phenomenally valuable.
“It may seem like a cliché,” said Joan Flanagan from the European Commission Representation, “but Ireland has punched above its weight in its international contribution.” This is the best time to be Irish in world politics, and with a job in foreign affairs you don’t only represent your country worldwide, as panelist Stephen O’Dwyer explained, you also get to travel, meet people from all over the globe, and make a real difference in people’s lives. O’Dwyer is a Third Secretary at the Department of Foreign Affairs, and he feels that this job provides him with the most satisfaction that he is helping people on an individual level.
That’s all very well, you might say, but I don’t really know anything about politics, and I don’t know how my degree would fit in with this job… Well, you’re in luck! As all speakers emphasized, a job in the public sector can range from anything from journalism, sociology, to dentistry, finance, IT, administration… the list really goes on. O’Dwyer told the crowd that his original degree was in engineering, so you really can come from any background. The only thing they want from you is a passion for international affairs or representing your country abroad and often one European language besides your own, either English, French, or German.
If you love to travel, these roles would be great for you, too. Most opportunities are in Brussels, with some in other European cities, depending on specialty. You’re never short of variety either, with most members of the European Commission moving roles every few years, and since world affairs are always changing, the job is not one to stagnate.
So what opportunities are available to me?
Well, there appears to be something for everyone, and there are so many resources available for finding the right thing.
Internships and Traineeships
Internships are a great way to get access into the field, meet people, gain connections and maybe move into a full-time job. Jennifer Bourke gave some tips for applying to internships:
- Focus on 1-2 organizations specific to your interests and subject area. Find out what they want by doing your research online and talking to someone in the company or sector and getting their first-hand advice. You’ll never know what you can get from talking to people, and that might give you the added edge when applying and attending interviews.
- Figure out your timeline. When are you free, and when are the internships offered? A lot of internships are only offered to students who have already completed their degree, which means they won’t accept you if you apply in March when you expect to graduate in June. If you keep an eye on the timeline, you won’t miss the deadline and you’ll give yourself time to prepare.
- Paid or unpaid? As with most internships, some will be unpaid, while some will give a stipend for the amount of time you work. This is key to research, especially if you know you won’t be able to fund yourself without a paying internship. Unpaid internships can still be incredibly helpful for making connections and gaining experience, but you’ll want to know what you’re getting into before you apply.
- Practice! A lot of the internships available require entrance exams, psychometric testing, online applications, and an individual or group interview component. If you have a few months to prepare, spend that time wisely. The Careers Advisory Service provides practice interviews with feedback, to give you the best preparation possible.
Where can I find opportunities?
The European Commission provides paid 5 month traineeships, paying €1000 a month to graduates of any nationality. More information can be found on these traineeships at http://ec.europa.eu/stages/.
Both eu-careers.eu and eujobs.ie have listings for internships and jobs available in the EU, the latter focusing on Irish opportunities. There you can find out about applying to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the European Parliament and Commission, and get any information on working within the EU.
Gradpublicjobs.ie is another resource for finding jobs and reading bios of current workers and their experiences and backgrounds.
All 751 members of the European Parliament are always looking for assistants and interns, as Anne McEvoy-Smith from the European Parliament Information Office explained, which is an excellent opportunity for the politically inclined. These are usually unpaid positions that give you excellent connections into the European Parliament and provide you with experience and a greater understanding of the workings of the parliament.
All these opportunities are competitive, and some require applications 6-7 months in advance. If you’re not successful the first time, don’t give up! Experiences in other jobs can be invaluable to these positions, and the second time round you’ll have a different and broader perspective. The opportunities in the EU are so broad that there is something for everyone, and new opportunities are always becoming available.
Recruitment Fairs provide you with opportunities. They are full of interesting people, often wearing primary colours, who are trying to give you free stuff. Pens, writing pads, chocolate! You won’t have to buy a pen all year – truly a freebies paradise! Oh, and they want to talk to you and hopefully hire you either as a graduate or as a summer intern next year. Pretty cool!
You consider yourself to be an ambitious person, full of ideas; you’re always up for a challenge. But as you walk into the crowded room, you feel nervous and think how can I sell myself and compete with everyone here? The good news is; you can and you will succeed!
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Log on the Careers Advisory Service website, click on events to see a list of the organisations who will be attending. You can then note down the ones that you want to speak with, i.e. the ones you want to work for, and make a list.
- Research is the first step to success – check out the careers section of their website of each company you want to apply to especially the part on the role that you want, as well as their general corporate site.
- Use sites like gradireland, Prospects, and Vault to research the profession and learn what’s involved in the roles that you want.
- Make a list of questions that you want answered,
- Develop a pitch about yourself – why you want to work for them, why you are studying your course, what are your unique selling points (USPs) where you plan to be in five years. An elevator pitch that tells potential employers both who you are and what you can do for them.
- Book an appointment with your careers adviser before the fair to discuss your strategy (if there is time).
- Smile and relax, remember that the employers are here to see you – that’s why they came, they want graduates like you and the more engaging the conversation the more impressed they will be with you!
- Follow-up. Send a thank you note or a copy of your CV afterwards – whatever you promised, do it.
- Enjoy – You have a lot to offer!
Careers Adviser – Students with Disabilities
“This post, reproduced with permission, was originally written for the Naturejobs blog as part of the 2015 Boston Naturejobs Career Expo journalism competition.”
Idols are a key source of enthusiasm, says Anthea Lacchia, not people you should try to emulate.
Contributor Anthea Lacchia
When it comes to choosing a career, the options can feel infinite and yet non-existing, as though we are navigating through a dense forest, with endless paths stretching out in front of us.
As we scramble through the thick undergrowth, armed with hope and guided by experience and intuition, we ask ourselves: which path is the right one for me? How can I get to that coveted position? How did that person make it? Why can’t I be like them?
It can be tempting to emulate the career choices of our idols: after all, the decisions they made led them to where they are now. So following in their footsteps could be the way out of this forest.
So we trawl through online bios and CVs to see what it is that got them to their current role, increasingly feeling inadequate and underprepared for the careers we hope to follow.
But the funny thing about idols is this: they’re not real! An idol is a fictitious, airbrushed image of someone residing only in our minds. No career path is without bumps in the road and even though it might not appear so at first sight, our idols will have felt them too. So whilst our idols inspire us to do better, this doesn’t mean we should follow and imitate their every move.
The trailblazers in our field are, and should be, a key source of enthusiasm and information when pondering over our future, but following their career path step-by-step may only lead us deeper into the forest.
Every career path is unique since it arises from a set of circumstances unique to each individual. Try as we might, we will never be able to replicate it turn by turn. What’s more, it is often the case that our role models carved out their own particular niche determined by their particular passions, rather than following someone else’s idea of a career.
Few people arrive to the same position by following the same road, and there is no magic map we can use to lead us down a path and create a fulfilling career. The set of circumstances that facilitated a particular career in the past is likely to no longer be in place. For instance, the need for renewable energy research is more pressing today than it was 50 years ago, resulting in a greater number of jobs in the sector.
What options make you the most happy and fulfilled? What choice is best suited to your abilities and interests? What do you see yourself doing when you wake up in the morning? These are just a few of the questions we should be asking ourselves when faced with a career choice. It’s all about making informed decisions.
The truth is that when thinking about career paths, following in someone else’s footsteps may well leave you as lost as you were when you first started. Of course, whenever we are feeling demotivated or lost, the importance of idols in shaping our choices can’t be underestimated. Thinking of those people who, through their achievements or actions, we have come to admire so much, is sure to add an extra spring to our step.
Setting out on your own adventure, guided by the inspiration provided by others, is far more rewarding and fun. Don’t be afraid to wander off the beaten track and to follow your instinct as you make your way through the brambles. Just don’t forget to smell the flowers along the way.
Anthea Lacchia is a winner of the 2015 Boston Naturejobs Career Expo journalism competition and a final-year PhD candidate in Geology at Trinity College Dublin. Her research is focused on biostratigraphy and involves the collection and study of goniatite fossils, which are extinct relatives of squid and cuttlefish. An avid reader and writer, she has experience both in science writing and editing. She has covered diverse topics ranging from the DNA of lager yeast, to new cures for inflammatory diseases, to the role of science communication in academia. She loves talking to scientists about their research and is always on the look out for new stories. In her spare time, she enjoys hill walking, swimming, creative writing and looking after her rescue cat. You can follow her on Twitter @AntheaLacchia.
On February 13th 2015, I won the EU Careers Challenge, run by the European Personnel Selection Office. You may not know what this is, and neither did I at the beginning, but it has been one of the best opportunities I’ve had while attending college!
It all started in October 2014, where I saw a post on Facebook asking if I wanted to enter a policy writing competition. The post stated that a 150-word summary of the policy you would implement to improve the Digital Agenda was all that was required. Considering how little effort this took, I entered.
Being selected for the next round, I was matched with a team from across Europe, and we were asked to write a 1,500-word policy paper and make a video relating to one of our ideas, one of these items being in English and the other in French or German. My team wrote our paper in English and created our video in French. I was rather proud, as the team selected my specific idea to develop for this round.
Adjudicators chose our policy idea to be presented in Brussels, which entailed being flown to Brussels, put up in a very nice hotel for an evening, and meeting the Director of EPSO, David Bearfield, and the Director-General of Connect, Robert Madelin.
Brussels was a great opportunity and a fantastic experience. My flight arrived in Brussels the evening before the competition, which meant I had enough time to take a look around the city and prepare for the following day. It was surreal wandering around a foreign city, thinking that the European Commission had invited me there!
We entered the Charlemagne, the Centre of the European Commission, where we had a chance to mingle with the other contestants and personnel within EPSO for a while.
The competition began, where each team was brought to a separate judging room where we all presented our policy papers and answered questions relating to them. We presented our policy idea and answered questions in both English and French, which is one of the main criteria of this competition – multilingualism and possessing a good attitude towards jumping between the two languages at any point. It sounds messy, but it’s exactly how I imagine each day is conducted in the Commission, Parliament or Council now, as employees have two, if not three, languages, meaning you have to change the language you are speaking depending on who you are trying to communicate with!
David Bearfield and Robert Madelin gave talks relating to their experience with working in the EU, which was highly fascinating. Both seemed to want to work in government generally, and never imagined they would end up working for the EU.
Finding out that I had won was dreamlike – imagine writing a 150-word paragraph out of pure curiosity, then winning an EU-based competition! I hadn’t imagined that I would advance anywhere near as far as I did in the competition. Upon hearing the adjudication, I understood that not only was my idea something that they definitely want to advance, but one of the main elements of the competition is encouraging multi-national teamwork.
Our team was the dream team – we all worked hard, wanted to succeed, and were willing to put in the effort to even co-ordinate what we wore on the day. The judges felt that we showed the necessary skillset to work in the EU, which was the main aim of the competition: analysis and problem solving; communication; delivering quality and results; learning and development; prioritising and organising; resilience; working with others; and potential to lead.
The prize that I won was a one-on-one appointment with an in-house psychologist who specialises in training and assessment centres for the EU. This is a one-in-a-lifetime chance to see what is actually required within their competency tests, and for someone who specialises in personnel selection to take a look through all the different aspects of applying for a job within the EU with me.
I would definitely recommend entering this competition next year, as it would be a waste to not even try!
SS Law Student
For a summary of the 2014/2015 competition see this video. Details of the application process for 2014/2015.
Why not enhance your exposure to the EU by entering the EU Careers Competition next academic and year and apply now for 2015/2016 EU Careers Student programme