Can I get a career with that please?


With the news that university graduates were among dozens of professionals applying for positions at a fast-food restaurants in the west of Ireland, Andy Howell looks at the careers facing students.

A recent news story paints a grim picture of the jobs market confronting this year’s college graduates: architects, accountants and bankers were among hundreds who applied for a job at a soon-to-be-opened McDonald’s restaurant in Ennis, Co. Clare. This is a particularly bad sign for students in these fields, although with cutbacks in seemingly every sector in Ireland, is there anything to look forward to in life after university?


mcdonaldsWhat seems to be a particular problem at the moment is a lack of foresight; in the construction sector especially it is impossible to move forward without knowing whether the banks will provide funding to good businesses. Dean of Architecture, Jim Murphy explains that architects are being left in a state of limbo.

“The work has gone down, a lot of people have been let go and people are not able to project into the future – a lot of jobs have been held up and people don’t know whether to proceed or not so there’s a particular difficulty about that.”

However, Murphy is quick to calm any panic among students about a jobless future.

“I suppose the thing to remember about Architecture is that it’s always gone in cycles; our employment has always been cyclical and very often when there is a downturn it’s an opportunity to travel, to get experience outside the country, to do other things like to go into further education or to diversify a bit first to get the experience and then, following on from that when things pick up again, going into mainstream architecture.”

The key point is that there are many options which students overlook when planning their future – trying to find your ideal job directly after your degree in your home country is limiting and much easier said than done.

One option is to find a job which is completely outside of your degree area, as is being considered by people applying for a job in the McDonald’s in Ennis.

This can lead to surprising outcomes – some people find their new job actually suits them and choose to pursue this alternative career path. Tan Qing Jian, store manager at the McDonald’s on the Kylemore road, is one of the success stories, having found McDonald’s to be the right place for him after going through McDonald’s’ training programs. He is keen to point out how many people stay:

“A lot of people here [found it suits them]. I started my career in McDonalds under the training manager – we have 3 and 6 month training programs to suit different individuals”.

According to Eanan Strain of the UCD Career Development Centre, finding a job outside of your degree area can sometimes be a worthy option. “It’s not something that you would automatically think of. I would notice even myself; people come in, you tell them ‘you don’t particularly have to stick to the area that you did your degree in’. Employers are recruiting from all degree areas; it’s your actual academic scores they’re looking for”.

“It’s all about transferable skills at the end of the day. Employers want the skills – they look at your degree, your score, but not so much at your actual discipline.”

Emigration is also an option; while it appears that we are in a global downturn, the downturn is not uniform and jobs are to be found elsewhere. Canada has been suggested as possible haven of jobs, and although construction in Dubai has slowed significantly, it appears that the economy there is merely normalising itself after years of unrestrained development.

The situation in Ireland though is not as bad as it appears on the surface; Strain points out that the lack of jobs advertisements can be misleading, and in reality there are more jobs out there:

“The obvious [difficulty] is just that there are not that many jobs being advertised, so therefore it’s very competitive for anything that is. But, again, they’re just the ones being advertised, and that’s only a percentage of the job market out there. If I was to give people a message [it would be] that that’s just the advertised jobs, there are more jobs going but you have to source them yourself”.

With only a percentage of jobs being advertised, students will be competing for jobs against a lot of people with, in many cases, more experience. A transferable and diverse skills set, a masters in your subject and experience abroad will all make students more employable, but most importantly, it is clear that persistence and drive will be key to the success of this year’s graduates.