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
I’m beginning to perspire, and it’s not because of Madrid’s thirty degree September heat. It’s my second week at school. I’m standing in front of a class of twenty two-year-olds, about to teach them alone for the first time. They sit unnervingly still, they can smell my fear.
I’ve arrived armed with Thomas the Tank Engine toys and Mr Happy from my collection of Mr Men books, both prized childhood possessions. I was sure they would impress the kids during our first few solo classes together.
“I’m in the next room if you need anything, good luck!” The tutor shuts the door behind her and I throw a nervous glance towards the silent two year olds. I wonder to myself was I right to take part in the Advanced Programme, with the daunting prospect of taking classes of up to thirty students all alone now becoming a terrifying reality.
Now that it’s just the kids and I, silence fills the air. A stand-off ensues. I wonder who will crack first… I take a deep breath and am about to break the deadlock but am beaten to it. At first I’m not quite sure what I’m hearing – a gentle, high-pitched whine which rapidly crescendos into a deep growl – a noise now as familiar as my daily 6:45am alarm clock (and one held with the same amount of fondness) – “mamaaaa, papaaaa!”
Having such limited experience working with children, let alone two year olds who don’t speak my
language (and in many cases, nor their own just yet), I let my instincts take over: I run over to the weeping child and lift him up in a naïve attempt to comfort him. Seeing as I’m an intimidating, unknown figure to this scared, baffled child who’s craving the embrace of someone familiar, my attempt at tempering his distress results in an even more hysterical wave of crying.
Then it really begins. On seeing their comrade plucked from his seat by this ginormous stranger, the other petrified infants react to the fear that the same fate awaits them by doing what petrified infants do best… “mamaaaa, papaaaa!” Before I know what’s happening, I’m standing in front of twenty wailing two-year-olds, sheepishly half-singing, half-whimpering the lyrics of ‘If You’re Happy and You know It’ while attempting the accompanying dance. Suddenly the stuffy, yet comparatively blissfully serene, office job which I left in order to “challenge myself” seems very palatable.
Pretty soon I have been introduced to what I’ve termed the ‘Holy Trinity’ of infant bodily fluid, – I’ll spare you the details – all within the first five minutes of my first solo class. As I rush towards the door to summon help to deal with the wailing, toileting toddlers, I can’t help but smile wryly at my carefully selected teaching materials. Mr Happy and Thomas the Tank Engine are of no help in dealing with the liquid all over my hands, jeans, and shoes.
Now, after surviving the first term – fifteen weeks of the sharpest learning curve I’ve ever experienced – I can look back at this horror-show-experience and chuckle. Despite that fact that this baptism of fire led to me locking myself in the bathroom, staring at my reflection and wondering what in God’s name I had just got myself into, I very quickly became accustomed to interacting with such tiny beings. And I’ve been loving it ever since. Of course, there are still difficulties. Showing scary Halloween videos to two-year-olds is an effective way to find yourself re-acquainted with the ‘Holy Trinity’ of bodily fluids, for example. But no matter how tired or how sick you are (and you will be sick: I’ve been assured that in one’s first year teaching one picks up every bug around, before building up an unbreakable immunity), nothing energises you like the beaming, bristling, and boiling daily enthusiasm of a class of infants.
For every bad day, there are countless brilliant ones. From my limited experience so far, I think the key is to keep this mantra in mind any time you have difficulties. And if that doesn’t help, just think of my early experience and remember that it could be worse.
Dennis Harvey – BA Film Studies and Spanish, TCD, 2014
Meddeas Presentation – 10th March 2015
For many students the idea of changing direction after gaining their PhD seems unusual if not downright unthinkable. In academia building and expanding on your PhD seems natural and in general what tends to happen. Changing subject direction to venture into the work place or industry comes up periodically. However one thing a PhD will do is solidify if you are in the area you should be in.
Changing from Pharmacy to IT or engineering to advisory regulation can seem like a scary move. But researching or working in an area that is unfulfilling can be extremely stressful and ultimately very challenging to continue with. So what happens if you discover that after your years of finding out “how families cope with change” or “the molecular relevancy of nano metrics” you have little if any passion for the area? Well it might be time to sit back and consider your options.
Effectively we are talking about change. Changing from one avenue to another, from one set of circumstances to a different set that is more suited to who you are and what motivates you. In the long run it can seem obvious. When we take the emotion out of statements like these and look down at our decisions years later it seems perfectly natural that we should change here. But in the moment of the situation is another story and more daunting than anything we might have experienced before.
At the Careers Advisory Service our research tells us that currently on average we will work for approximately 50 years, change careers on average 6 or 7 times and spend a good chunk of our days doing what we are paid to do. It seems logical that it should be in an area that fits and gels with who we are as a person and what we feel comfortable with.
What does changing really mean. On the surface it could be interpreted as letting my family and friends down that have stood by me all these years. I might feel I am letting my supervisor down depending on the relationship. Maybe people will think I am a failure or a fool for throwing it all away. What will I actually do. Start another course? Go and get a job? Take some time out?
It can seem daunting telling others that you have now decided to change direction after all the hard work you have put in and all the support they have shown you. But living your life to make others happy or keep them from complaining will only end in tears!
My motivation for writing this blog evolves from conversations I have had recently with some PhD students who were very distressed because they had more or less decided that their current field of study or research was now not for them. Several of them were clearer about this and had made some decisions about what to do next. However the thought of vocalising this to everyone was bringing on panic attacks and anxiety they were unfamiliar with.
There was a small number who were at a complete loss as to their next move. All of them were intending on moving into industry as opposed academia.
Personal change requires clarity and honesty. The clearer we are about what we want and the more honest we are about that the more aligned or congruent our decisions and choices tend to be. Changing involves acknowledging the fear that goes with not knowing what will happen right away or a little down the road, there is a feeling of a lack of control that goes with this. It involves making choices out of our comfort zone and then gently standing up and taking responsibility for that or sticking by our decisions.
It is by no means easy but I would say to feel happier and more fulfilled eventually; priceless. There are also lots of options. One doesn’t have to transfer into a new area at a right angle but can approach it more subtly. Maybe you don’t want to be embedded in your current area 100% but can negotiate your way through what you have achieved and all your hard work somewhere close but also stimulating enough that you can grow in this new area.
Perhaps taking time out is required and travelling to clear your head and do something like teach English as a foreign language to find some perspective and think about your next phase would help.
Maybe you would like to see if you can gain employment in a particular area and that you know with some help around things like CV’s or interviews and finding the right role or company would help make you happier. Knowing all those transferrable skills that you have developed will help build your confidence in your ability and help you sell yourself to a potential employer.
Some research indicates that employers feel PhD candidates breadth of knowledge is too narrow for industry and they don’t possess enough or significant transferrable skills and yet other findings refute these stressing that those who have undertaken PhD research demonstrate stamina, amazing analytical skills not to mention the ability to work unsupervised with advanced project management skills.
One key finding that employers stress again and again is that communication as a skill is highly sought after so developing this transferrable skill is of the utmost importance for any candidate.
Reflection is key.
Sitting back and giving yourself the time and space to acknowledge what you feel and think is vital. As Henry Ford has said “Thinking is the hardest work which is probably why so few people engage in it”.
Above all discuss your thoughts and feelings with those you trust and feel comfortable with, those you are working closely with, your career guidance advisor or a trusted confidante who can challenge you in your thinking and understanding of the realities of the pro’s and con’s. Then reflect again, research companies, research roles, what have others done with similar qualifications and skills. With careful planning and consideration this transition can be less painful and enhance your options and opportunities.
Change at this stage although challenging might be the best thing you can do for your personal and professional life in the long run.
Australian Employers’ Expectations and Perceptions of PhD Graduates in the Workplace Pitt Rachel
National Survey of Employer’s Views of Irish Higher Education Outcomes
As with any university application, there is a good deal of paperwork involved in the admissions process at the College of Europe. Normally, as soon as the piles of paperwork are out of sight they are quickly forgotten about but looking back on my brush with bureaucracy one line remains engraved in my mind.
“The College of Europe is a unique living and working experience”
This sentence featured on a medical form that my GP had to sign confirming that I was of sound mind and body and capable of participation in the study programme. Having never had to sign such a form before, I was a little taken aback by this statement and the prospects of what lay ahead.
Now, six weeks into term here at the Natolin campus of the College, just outside of Warsaw city centre – I can see exactly what they meant.
It is indeed a unique living environment, this year at Natolin there are 127 of us from 34 countries in and around Europe. Students are all housed on campus and we dine together three times a day in a communal canteen. Discussions at mealtimes range from national stereotypes to post-nationalism and everything in between. It might sound stuffy but ultimately the social side depends entirely on your “promotion” or class group, and the composition of this varies exponentially from year to year.
The academic programme here is equally unique, classes are facilitated by a “flying faculty” of experts and are normally held in block seminars. In the first week here, I completed an introductory course to EU substantive law in 2 days. Language classes are held in the mornings and evenings, and at the weekend there are a multitude of added-value workshops to participate in.
Natolin differs from the Bruges campus in that there is only one Masters programme offered here, European Interdisciplinary Studies, and it is open to students from all academic backgrounds. In Bruges, the College offers four separate degrees in Law, Economics, International Relations and Politics while the degree I am undertaking encompasses all of these aspects while allowing us to specialise in the second semester and through our thesis topic.
Because of the way the study programme is set up, attendance at the College is a lifestyle change and definitely a commitment. Class schedules are issued on a weekly basis, they can change quite frequently and it’s not uncommon for class to take place on a Saturday afternoon.
One can easily liken signing up to this degree as ceding one’s personal sovereignty for the greater good in the same way that member states do so in delegating their powers to the EU. The aspiration is that after a year of eating, sleeping, breathing, and occasionally drinking Europe students will have greater understanding of the workings of the EU, its role in a global context and what it means to live and work in a multi-cultural environment where the European Union slogan “united in diversity” could be any more true.
If this does sound appealing, the first step is unfortunately the arduous admissions process I’ve already made reference to – if you do want a career in EU affairs, eurocracy is something that you simply have to become accustomed to. The procedure begins with an online application including a motivation letter before a handful of successful candidates are invited to be interviewed by a national selection committee. The interview is your first taster of the intense expectations of the College – imagine sitting in front of four people and being asked to give the highlights of your CV in thirty seconds. My advice is to show your motivations for study at the College because the interview is not based purely on achievement rather also on aspiration and if you can prove to the panel that you really want it, there’s no reason why you too couldn’t find yourself studying at either campus of the Eurobubble too.
by Erica Lee, BA European Studies, 2014
Brought to you by the Careers Advisory Service with the support of the Students’ Union, the Graduate Students’ Union and sponsored by Deloitte, Careers Week 2014 is running during week two of Michaelmas term, from Monday 29th September to Friday 3rd October 2014.
The week will offer an impressive selection of sector-specific talks delivered by employers and TCD graduates who will be speaking about careers in areas including languages, journalism and broadcasting, creative arts, international development, marketing and scientific careers. Speakers at our sector talks this year are graduates from a wide range of TCD disciplines including English, Sociology, History, Political Science, Languages, Natural Sciences and more. These graduates hail from a range of organisations including Concern, Irish Aid, Department of Taoiseach, the European Commission, Redbull, Gerson Lehrman, Mediavest, The Irish Times, thejournal.ie, Zucca Films, ICON and many more.
Careers Week is also an ideal time to meet with employers, and there will be a series of employer-led workshops covering CVs, Application Forms, Interviews and Personal Branding on Social Media. Other employers and organisations holding events during the week include Morgan Stanley, the OECD, KPMG, Freshfields, PWC and the Trinity Business Alumni association.
For those considering further qualifications, Thursday’s programme will cover entry into medicine, accountancy and teaching professions, and postgraduate research.
Sean Gannon, Director, Careers Advisory Service, said:
“Much of the doom and gloom associated with the graduate jobs market during the last few years is beginning to lift. Careers Week is an opportunity for students to learn about different sectors and different types of jobs and to obtain top tips from skilled recruiters on making successful applications. It is followed by the Gradireland Graduate Careers Fair in the RDS on 8th October where the organisers are already talking in terms of the availability of 1000+ graduate jobs and where the organisations attending already exceeds the number of exhibitors in any of the last 5 years. As the semester progresses other companies will be visiting Dublin and the campus to present their opportunities.”
Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to get the inside track on career sectors, find out more about postgraduate study, hear about upcoming graduate programme closing dates, improve your job search skills, and meet with potential employers!!
Careers Week is targeted mainly at Sophister and postgraduate students from all disciplines but students from all years are welcome to attend. This year we aim to engage our social media users more than ever before, so keep an eye out for our tweets, posts and updates throughout the week and join the conversation at #TCDcareersweek !
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”
We all face challenges in our lives from time to time. As students and graduates, those challenges can come from many different sources and may seem overwhelming at times. When it comes to navigating the competitive graduate job market, resilience is an attribute which can be extremely beneficial to have.
What is resilience?
Resilience involves the capacity to ‘bounce back’ and even flourish when facing adverse events, obstacles or situations. Research shows that resilience can be learned so that it is available to support you when times are tough.
How can I learn to support myself?
- Nurture your relationships Think about who in your social circle could support you, e.g. friends, family, significant others and don’t be afraid to ask for help or a friendly ear when needed.
- Identify a mentor Who do you admire in your fields of interest? How could you get to know these people? Identifying and contacting alumni can be a good way to connect with people who are in a position where they may be able to encourage and support you though the job-hunting process.
- Open up your mind You may be fixed on a precise career goal, but it is always worth considering other secondary possibilities. In a difficult situation, focus on what you can change and what new possibilities that change might bring.
- Know yourself Spend time reflecting on what you want out of a career and what motivates you. Being clear on what you want will make it easier to face challenging circumstances should they arise.
- Set yourself goals Remember to set yourself SMART goals (specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based) and reward yourself after each small accomplishment.
- Keep a positive attitude Think about the way you interpret events e.g. receiving an interview rejection letter. Look for learnings, seek positive feedback from others and maintain confidence in your abilities. Remind yourself of other things in your life that have gone well recently.
- Look after yourself Take time out to do things that you enjoy such as exercise, reading or socialising, so that you are ready to deal with what may come your way.
- Learn from the past Think about how you have coped with difficult events in the past. What strategies did you employ and what did you find most helpful?
How resilient are you?
Try these short exercises to enhance your resilience:
- Reflect back on two-three difficult or negative experiences in your life. Note what you’ve learned from overcoming and/or surviving these challenges
- Identify your strengths and explore how they might be useful to you when facing a challenge. Complete a strengths exercise at www.authentichappiness.com.
- When a negative event occurs, ask yourself three questions: am I solely to blame or are there other factors to consider? Could it be a temporary situation? Does it affect all aspects of my life or just one/two? Penn Resiliency Program (Gillham & Reivich (2004)
American Psychological Association (2014). The Road to Resilience. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx
Gillham, J. & Reivich, K. (2004). Cultivating optimism in childhood and adolescence. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591(1): 146-163.
Sant, R. (2013). Developing Graduate Resilience: Core to what we do. AGCAS Phoenix Magazine; 139: 4-6.
A couple of weeks ago, the Postgradireland Further Study fair was held in the RDS. While there were certainly opportunities to get information on research programmes, the main focus of the fair was on taught postgraduate courses particularly “conversion” courses. While many of these are at Masters’ degree or Postgraduate Diploma level there were also some Higher Diploma courses on offer. Conversion course are usually twelve months long (though it can depend on the discipline) and they are designed to enable graduates to move from their original discipline into a new area where they have no previous experience or training. Examples include courses in Law, Psychology, Business and Information Technology.
Last year the Careers Advisory Service commissioned Alice Kavanagh, a graduate from the MSISS course to review student awareness of conversion courses and particularly those enabling students to gain skills to work in the information technology (IT) sector. Of the 300 final year students who responded to her survey only 45% had previously heard of such courses and only 1% had applied for one. Not knowing about these courses was obviously an important barrier to application but the final year students also identified cost as a major obstacle.
Before looking at the cost issue will there be jobs in information technology if you decide to do a conversion course? The answer, I think, is a resounding Yes! In January this year gradireland did an analysis of the 223 live jobs at their website (180 graduate jobs/programmes and 43 internships). 15% them were in IT or telecoms but only 2% of graduates had studied IT or telecoms. Even if that classification of courses underestimates somewhat the true number of IT graduates, there are still going to be opportunities in this sector. Separately, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs has estimated that there will be 44,500 potential job openings for IT professionals in the period 2013-18 arising both from expansion in the sector and replacement demand.
But what about the cost of doing an IT conversion programme? Well the good news is that for fifteen Higher Diploma courses (where the entry requirement is an honours degree), the tuition fees are waived. Further information on these courses and application deadlines is available at http://www.ictskills.ie/.
Director / Careers Adviser
Employers Really Want Applicants Who Display Genuine Interest
15 years of interviewing and recruitment experience in the financial services, insurance and information technology sectors, has taught me what employers really want. Like any individual person, employers need to feel wanted and special. They want you to genuinely want to work for them.
So how can you demonstrate your genuine interest for a company and the role they are hiring for? This sounds obvious but is often not the case, you must be genuinely interested in working in the role you have applied for and for the company you have applied to. How can you know if you are genuinely interested? Research. Carefully read through the job description. Ask yourself, is this a role you can see yourself being happy working in? Find out what you can about the company. Company information can be found on their website but you should also get information from other sources including the internet and from current or past employees or someone who works in the same industry. Then ask yourself what is it about the company makes you want to work for them? Once you have confirmed your interest it needs to be conveyed to the employer.
Conveying this interest starts with your application. Cover letters, personal statements and CVs should be tailored for each job you apply to. Note that most employers like two page CVs. However, some employers, particularly banking and financial services companies in the UK, prefer one page concise CVs. Investigate this by attending employer presentations and checking employer websites.
Your application is your first chance to convince the employer that you want to work for them and that the position they are hiring for is perfect for you. Pay attention to the words used in the job description. Can you include any of these words on your CV? Many companies shortlist applications using key word searches. While it is important to include and quantify your academic and other interests and achievements on your CV as well as any work experience you may have, it is essential to write a clear, appealing and enthusiastic cover letter or personal statement. The letter should outline why you are applying for the specific position and why you are interested in working for the company. This should be personal to you. Make sure to include if you have attended presentations given by the company or if you know someone who works for the company. This as well as highlighting what is unique about you will entice the employer to invite you to the next stage of the recruitment process, the interview. Remember, your application is your only opportunity to secure an interview so it needs to be compelling.
The interview offers you the chance to persuade the employer of your genuine interest. This can be achieved by being confident and providing evidence of your interest. Preparation is the key to being confident and providing evidence. Let the employer know that you have read and thoroughly understand the job description and that the role is exactly what you are looking for. Then tell them why they should hire you for the role. Also provide them with the information you have researched about the company as well as the wider industry and why you specifically want to work for their company. Demonstrating your genuine interest and awareness will make you memorable and more likely to secure a job offer.
Finally, it always impresses me when applicants send a thank you email following an interview. This reinforces their genuine interest in the role and is something very few applicants take the time to do.
HR Professional, Mercer
Need some Work Experience next summer?
Here are 3 things you can do between now and New Year’s Day!
1. First Things First …
Open your Mind and understand what it is you are trying to achieve.
For example, do you know for sure what area you want to get experience in? Could you broaden your search a little? If you want to train as a doctor after your initial degree but don’t have any obvious links to hospitals for work experience, could you try approaching voluntary organisations? St. John’s ambulance? Or even nursing homes? What about other service providers within the same sector? Or if you are interested in Politics as an area, would it be worthwhile targeting the Media too? Once you have a strong understanding of what and why you want to target areas, you will find you make better and quicker progress.
2. Secondly… Polish your profile
In order to get ready for step 3 you need to make sure you are presenting yourself on paper and online in the best possible way! Look on our website to get started, and make sure to highlight your enthusiasm, ambition and skills.
With LinkedIn, try and create a professional and complete profile – this way you can be seen by people in industry but also you can become a little bit more connected and aware of what is going on. For example, join a handful of LinkedIn groups in the area that you are trying to gain experience (as well as the Trinity Careers & Alumni LinkedIn group, and you will be able to join in on dialogue and identify the people who are already talking.
Also make sure your CV and Cover Letter are professional and ready to be tailored once you hear about an opportunity arising. If you need more help with your CV, Cover letter and/or LinkedIn profile you can come to a Clinic in the careers service for some fine tuning!
3. Get Talking
This is possibly the hardest but definitely the most effective thing you can do … talk to people you know and even those you don’t know.
Lots of students tell us “I don’t know anyone who works in the industry I’m interested in”, but you might be surprised – for example, if you are interested in getting some experience in Marketing and you have a friend’s parent who works in an Accounting Firm … that same Accounting Firm will probably have a Marketing Department! You need to talk to everyone in your circle and then go one step further and talk to all of their circles … People are usually quite happy to help when they can – and a quick phone call or cup of coffee can give you the opportunity to ask the individual for advice, not necessarily a job or a work experience opportunity, but some advice that might lead you in the right direction.
Remember, you only get out what you put in and the Christmas period can be a great opportunity to chat to people you don’t see every week of the year … let them know what you’re hoping to do next summer and that you’re happy to hear any advice people might have. An open and enthusiastic attitude can work wonders!
Best of Luck!!!