The great escape – a new breed of emigrants?


For the first time in over a decade, the economic climate seems to be pushing students towards emigration. Sisi Rabenstein and Natalie Voorheis examine the student attitude towards this life-changing proposition.


As the all-consuming recession refuses to subside, the prosperity and job security that the Celtic Tiger brought us seems to have disappeared. As a result, many students face the prospect of emigrating, as the employment they thought was a certainty is not forthcoming.

However, employment and economic reasons are not the sole motivation pushing students towards emigration; social aspects and an appetite for something new act to entice a new breed of Irish emigrants away from native soil.

With the news that 20,000 people are expected to emigrate in search of employment next year, the question concerning many UCD students is how this recession will affect their chances of finding a job upon graduation.

Acting Director of the UCD Career Developments Centre, David Casey emphasised that the usual recruiters for UCD graduates are confident in the face of the economic downturn. “We had over sixty companies here at our recruitment fair and a lot of them have vacancies for students.”

Employer Liaison Adviser at the Career Developments Centre, Joan Gallagher echoed this, adding “what we have found so far, with the employers who would be our regular recruiters is that a number of them, thankfully, still expect to recruit the same numbers as last year.”

Casey also commented that an increased interest in fourth- level education has come to light. He said, “We’re getting an increased number of students interested in completing a graduate study course, a masters or a grad diploma afterwards.”

Accrediting this to the increased competition between graduates for a dwindling number of jobs, Casey commented on the changing behavior of employers by saying that “they have reduced numbers so they’re looking for top quality students.”

“I think it’s a little bit too early, for graduates to say, ‘I need to go, because I can’t get a job here’, they haven’t really yet been put into that situation”

When asked how he expected the trend in emigration to take shape, Casey said that he thought the traditional ‘year out’ taken by many students to travel overseas would be prolonged and graduates would be likely to stay overseas for some time to obtain worked.

“People are still interested in taking the year out to go travelling and some people might say that they might extend that while they’re out there, so they’re not going out with the initial emigration term but they’re looking around at what opportunities are readily available out there, for them to start work.”

Traditional routes for emigration, including Australia, are destinations favored by young people of this country as so many generations of families and friends have already paved the way of this route. However, students are also studying their possible destinations and the considering areas such as Japan and the Far East.

Casey and Gallagher stressed that it is important to note that the recession is in its early days yet and it is vital not to panic about future prospects. The exact extent of the problem is, as yet, unknown but will be determined after Christmas when students begin to receive job offers.

Gallagher commented, “I think it’s a little bit too early, for graduates to say, ‘I need to go, because I can’t get a job here’, they haven’t really yet been put into that situation yet.”

When speaking on the gravity of the situation facing students in these coming years, Gallagher made sure to mention that employment opportunities comes in cycles.

“There have been good times and bad times for graduate recruitment. Graduates are very resilient and there may be a shift in the kind of work they undertake if something in their discipline is no longer readily available they might just change feet.”

This view sheds a positive light on it all, implying that no matter what difficulties are to be faced, a well grounded student, one who plans ahead and works hard, will fair relatively well compared to those who don’t have the benefits of university education.

This is a view echoed by Casey when he advised students to prepare a “very good CV and a good cover letter, avoid a one size fits all CV and focus on undergraduate results because that will be your gateway to graduate study, or to employment because employers will look at what your results are first, second and third year.”

General opinion is that to achieve success in this economic dark time, a student must know what they want, prepare a strong resume and stand out from the crowd, all of which can be achieved through focused study and active participation in what interests you.

Read more: The student perspective on emigrating for work or study.