‘It’s all about the team.’ Hear from a leader both on and off the field.

Working in audit with Deloitte, and captaining the Cork Ladies Football Team, Ciara O’Sullivan talks about balancing your work with your passion.

6 September 2014; Ciara O'Sullivan, Cork. TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Semi-Final, Armagh v Cork. Pearse Park, Longford. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

6 September 2014; Ciara O’Sullivan, Cork. TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Semi-Final, Armagh v Cork. Pearse Park, Longford. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE


When did you start playing football and how did you end up on the Cork team?

I started playing football with my club Mourneabbey when I was under 8 and when I was 11 I went for Cork under 14 trials. I was lucky enough to make that U14 panel and have been playing with various Cork teams since then. I have been a member of the Cork senior team for the last 9 years and this is my second year as captain of the team.

How does your intensive training schedule for Cork compare to your training to become a Chartered Accountant?

I must admit I enjoy training with Cork a little bit more than I enjoyed studying for the exams! I think both take discipline and organisation and I actually think they complement each other. During study leave for my CAP 2s and FAEs I really looked forward to going training after studying for the day and although sometimes I was tired before training, I always felt better after it. It’s great to give you a focus other than the exams and work. It’s also always something to talk to clients about when you’re on site as a lot of clients in Ireland have some interest in GAA!

Does your work as captain on the field help your work in Deloitte off the field?

It’s not something I’ve ever actually thought about but I suppose it does. I’ve been very lucky to be part of this Cork team who have so many leaders, so in some ways being captain is just a title. I’m just the one who goes up for the toss or gets to collect the cup if we win. Everyone helps each other and it’s all about the team. It’s the same in Deloitte, particularly as I work in audit where in general there are a number of people on the audit team. Again everyone helps each other and it makes the job much more enjoyable and efficient. I’ve made great friends on both the Cork team and in work and having these friends who are in the same boat as you helps a lot.

What has been the best moment of your career as the captain of the Cork Ladies football team?

It would have to be winning the 2015 All-Ireland final. It was against Dublin again and like in previous years we just about won. The closer the game is the more you appreciate the win when it’s over. Lifting the cup was unreal… the speech that followed definitely wasn’t unreal!

What’s your advice for other trainees who juggle the heavy commitment of both their career and passion?

I would say that it’s totally achievable to do both, if you want to do it enough. Obviously I know I’m lucky that work accommodate me where they can so that I never miss training. I think that once you are organised and like doing something enough you will make it happen.

For more advice on getting started in your career and balancing your life, read gradireland’s advice section. 


Guest blog: What design can help your graduate recruitment display stand out from the crowd?

Cathy O’Donohoe of Pluto, official partners of gradireland, has compiled some tips on why your need to make you display truly stand out and represent something that can align with the values of the graduates you are seeking to attract. 



Every exhibitor recruiting at a graduate recruitment fair has a ‘cut-through’ challenge. How does your corporate brand resonate in a room full of graduates, with dozens of other brands competing for the exact same talent? Exhibitors need to excite to attract. Large corporations need to examine what attracts a graduate to an exhibiting employer, when so many other doors are potentially open to explore in the very same room. Given the number of years that an employee can invest with an employer, graduates need to feel that a potential employer has brand values that align to their own. Those values need to be aspirational, current and relevant. At the very least, the basic design of the stand needs to be current and ‘on –trend’, given the multitude of brands that graduates and students are exposed to through various mediums and platforms on a daily basis. Time and time again, corporate employers invest in taking space at graduate recruitment fairs but don’t invest in updating their stand – often taking out something that was used previously and merely dusting it down. If the stand isn’t exciting, the perception will be that the opportunity for employment with that company isn’t very exciting either. Graduates should leave your stand incredibly excited about the opportunities that the journey ahead may bring them, should they choose to invest their future with you. To invest in a space, without investing in the stand design, can be potentially lethal for an employer brand.

The strong trend for design in 2017 will be led by the following key influences: Scandinavian touch, steel and wood, theatrical elements, geometric imagery and mesh and Lighting. So what do these mean?

  1. Scandinavian touch: Continues to influence design. This trend includes light pastel hues, strong  colour accents, clean and light wood, mix & match furnishings and a general sense of playfulness.
  2. Steel and wood: A box section & feature wood cladding dominates this trend.
  3. Theatrical fun: Creates a tangible zone for customer interaction, such as installing a single feature piece.
  4. Geometric: Creates immediate modernity with seamless patterns creating depth.
  5. Mesh and lights: Stands out with opaque lighting features, abundance of mesh types and the use of mesh partitions.

For more information about what Pluto do, click here.

What makes a good personal statement?

Oxford University

Oxford University

The Personal Statement is a vital part of the application process if you’re interested in studying in a UK University. Students should not underestimate the importance of getting it right before the earlier closing date of the 15th of January 2017. Careers advisor and expert Roisin Traynor has some timely advice. 

As University applications open, many students will be looking ahead or may have even already decided on their CAO choices prior the closing date of the 1st of February 2017. But those hoping to study in the UK will also be looking at the UCAS application system. One of the main differences with UCAS is the requirement for a personal statement (PS) as part of the application.

I am currently working in a registered Cambridge international school in China. The majority of students are applying to UK universities through UCAS. I’ve looked at around 140 Grade 12 personal statements and have seen some really good and some really bad!

So what makes a good personal statement?

From my experience, someone who shows genuine interest, has some work experience and can discuss and show proof of research such as a reading outside of school makes for a strong PS. A good structure to your PS is important and of course it needs to be well written. This can really help when trying to convince the reader you’re right for the course, which is the ultimate goal.

Let’s break it down into different sections.

The beginning

Your PS needs to have a strong introduction. Ask yourself: Why do you want to study the course? What interests you about the subject area? What aspirations do you have? Your introduction is an important part. You need to grab the reader’s attention, be clear about what you’re interested in studying and why. That’s the number one rule. Try not to start with “Ever since I was 8 years old I wanted to be a doctor,” or a weak quote. This strategy is overused. It might be difficult to give your background in the subject without mentioning your age. If you feel you need to, just don’t be clichéd about it.

The middle

Here is where you show proof of your knowledge, skills, academic ability and experience; i.e the evidence! Divide it into two parts, academic and work experience/volunteer work.

In the academic section

Discuss academic achievements/subjects studied. Ask yourself: What academic skills and knowledge do you have that will prepare you to succeed in your chosen subject? What subjects are you doing now? Any skills transferable to what you want to study? Any particular school projects that come to mind? Any achievements/ awards? And of course, make sure you show proof of readings. This should be the longest section of your PS. Depending on where you are applying for it can vary. 60% to 80% of your PS should be academic. Within this section, while it is okay to show off in-depth knowledge but avoid extended, in-depth discussions of an idea. Keep it brief enough and more of a prompt to start a discussion, perhaps at an interview.

Work experience/employment/volunteering

Write about any skills that you have gained from work experience, employment and/or volunteering opportunities and how these experiences prepare you for university study. If you don’t have anything that relates to the subject you are applying for and you have time… go get some! It’s impressive when a student is applying for accounting and interned at an accounting firm for a few weeks. Remember students with work experience in the related area are who you’re up against. Not only does it help you with the competition, the fact that you have gained real life experience in the area and are still interested in the subject is going to show the reader that you really are interested in this subject. Which, remember is the overall goal. If your work experience or volunteer work does not relate to the particular course you are applying for, make the skills as transferable to the course as much as possible.

Mention any other achievements, extra-curricular activities or hobbies that demonstrate you have the relevant skills for the course you are applying to. This can say a lot about you even though you might not think so – it shows the reader something about you and could even make you stand out. What do you have to offer the university outside of the classroom? For internationals, including Irish students if you’re applying to the UK, they like to see why you want to study in the UK and if you actually have a good reason.  The final paragraph should convince the reader again you are suitable for the course. Finish with a brief summary. Like the introduction, this is extremely important. This is your last chance. Why should you be offered a place?

 What to avoid:

  • Don’t be negative! There’s simply no time. Avoid saying things like ‘I’m not good at this, I really struggle with that etc.’ How will this convince the reader of your suitability? Exactly, it won’t.
  • Story telling: The personal statement is not intended to be an event-by-event summary of your life. Rather, focus only on those aspects of your experience that are directly relevant to the position you’re seeking.
  • Overly complex language – Keep it simple and easy to read.
  • Focusing on other people.
  • Clichés.
  • Avoid discussions of money – Many students focus on their goal of making money for the reason why they chose the course. This is not a strong reason, it doesn’t show your interest in the topic directly.
  • Spelling or grammatical errors –and remove the slang!
  • Humour (the readers sense of humour might not be the same as yours).


  • Start your PS early.
  • Get it proof read – a few times.
  • Remember you’re applying for a university course – not a job. It’s useful to mention aspirations and goals if you have them but just remember it’s the course you are applying for, not a job.
  • I also suggest using Grammarly.com – this online app is free and will help with essay structure, spelling and grammar.
  • Be careful of your word count!
  • Look at examples – Cambridge has a database of examples based on subject:  However DO NOT COPY!

At the end of the day the most important thing to stress is your interest in the subject, your knowledge and what makes you suitable. Make this as clear as possible. For more information simply follow the UCAS structure, it’s easily explained and sums up what a personal statement needs to be.

Roisin Traynor is a Guidance Counsellor, teacher and a careers writer and blogger. She is currently teaching at an international school in China, having previously worked in the Middle East and Ireland. Follow her on Twitter @Roisin_Traynor . For further advice on postgraduate applications and advice, visit gradireland’s dedicated further study section.



Teaching abroad: Broaden your horizons and use travel to inspire your career

Caimin Browne writes about the benefits of thinking outside the box when it comes to your teaching career, and why teaching overseas on a Meddeas teaching programme can be such a rewarding and enriching experience.


Why did you take the step of coming to Spain with Meddeas?

I was finishing my degree (Saint Patrick’s College-DCU) in Ireland and I had limited options here. I wanted to do teaching in Ireland, but I couldn’t get onto the the course I wanted to do. A friend reminded me of an email I received to teach English in Spain, related to TEFL. Although I didn’t speak Spanish I thought it would be worth applying for. I’m very glad I did.

If you had to choose one specific memory of your Spanish experience, which one would it be and why?

THE HEAT. I have never experienced such heat and it being considered normal. I was wearing shorts up to December and playing a rugby match on the first weekend of March, and it was 25, 26 degrees Celsius. Coming from Ireland, where the weather is always in the public domain, I couldn’t believe how normal temperatures in the mid-20’s were in October, and people wearing jumpers and jackets. Madness!

What relationships and/or friendships do you keep from your stay in Spain?

I still stay in touch with staff from the school and the rugby team I played with, on an ongoing basis by Facebook or WhatsApp.

In what sense has your worldview changed after your experience teaching in Spain?

The role I have to play in life. I left Ireland to teach English in Spain. I was no longer a student, I was seen as a grown up, an adult with responsibility, whose main objective was to teach as a language assistant in a school and instruct, kids are going to use what you teach them to broaden their own horizons and develop their own lives. Spain for me was the first time that I was doing something I always wanted to do.


Did you improve your level of Spanish? Has this skill helped you in your professional career? Do you use Spanish in your everyday life now?

It most certainly has. Before I left to teach English in Spain, I had a very basic level of Spanish, but I looked on this as an opportunity, where any progress was a bonus. The Spanish in Andalucia is distinctly different to Spanish spoken elsewhere in the country, so in some ways not having a firm footing in the language and being able to learn from scratch was a bonus. At the moment, I’m studying to be an Irish and French Language teacher, but also having Spanish is a huge bonus both professionally and personally.

How has this experience improved your CV and professional life?

It’s made a huge difference. I learned a new language, gained exposure to a new culture and got invaluable teaching experience. Furthermore, having work experience abroad has shown that I am able to adapt to work outside of Ireland. I am currently studying a Masters to be a school teacher here in Ireland and am hoping to work teaching French and Irish at second level.

What advice would you give to someone joining Meddeas in order to make the most of this experience?

I would advise anyone to do this. Spain offers so much; beautiful food, compassionate and kind people, fantastic weather and so much culture and travel. The year I completed will go down as one of the best of my life and there is not much I would have changed about it. It’s great to get exposed to a totally different way of life and culture. I would say to anyone, don’t just dream about travel, live it and use it to enhance and inspire your career and other life choices.

Five steps to make your LinkedIn profile shine

Having your CV and LinkedIn profile matching up, and displaying your skills and experience in the best possible fashion, is one sure way of standing out to recruiters. HR teams use the social media platform on a daily basis, so make sure your profile  is an all-star, helping you stand out from the crowd. These five steps can help you on your way.


1: What employers do you want to see your profile?

If you’re looking for a job in engineering, for example, you’ll need to research other profiles in the engineering field. Have a look at some successful people working in the area that you want to get into, see how they’ve highlighted their skills, knowledge and experience. You may not have the experience they have yet obviously, but you can work in key phrases, keywords and terms that the industry use, which will help your profile show up on search results. It is vital that you tailor your LinkedIn profile for the industry in which you want to work, the same way you need to tailor your CV for a particular job you’re applying for.

2: Write accurately and professionally

The same way a poorly written CV or cover letter ends up in the discard pile; a recruiter is not going to dwell on a poorly written LinkedIn page. They will be checking to see that your profile makes sense, that it uses proper grammar and punctuation (no emoticons or text speak!!).Make sure there are no unexplainable gaps in your work history or education. Again, research what others have in their profiles; make sure you include some keywords or phrases similar to those used in the job description you are applying for. Also, get a pair of fresh eyes to review it. It’s very hard to spot your own mistakes all the time, so get a trusted friend or family member (with a good eye for grammar) to check it over for you. In addition to grammar, focus on detail in terms of what you can offer. Again, taking engineering as an example, focus on technical capabilities, software knowledge, courses, certifications or other industry-relevant experience.

3: Get recommendations

Recruiters place value in well written recommendations below your profile as opposed to easily-clickable endorsements. If you don’t have enough employment experience for a reference or recommendation, perhaps your manager or senior colleague from an internship of work placement can help. If it can be from someone in your industry of choice even better! Also, be visual, if you have video clips or pdfs of projects that you’ve worked on; share them on your profile.

4: Connect and be professionally social

While the CEO of a major international firm is unlikely to connect with you straight away, other professionals in your chosen sector likely will, as will college alumni and department heads relevant to the sector in which you want to work. It’s best not to solicit connections randomly or anonymously, you’ll likely meet potential connections at careers fairs or other events so its better you introduce yourself before you try to connect. Also, there is an etiquette here, don’t try and connect with someone who you may be going for an interview with or who you have just had an interview with, it’s too over-familiar and could affect your application.

5: Use a professional photo

Sounds simple doesn’t it? But you would be surprised. You know that photo of you balancing the three beer cans on your head on the beach in Thailand? Don’t use that one! You don’t have to be in a business suit, but a full three quarter length photo in smart clothes shows you’re work-ready and aware of appearing professional.


For more information from gradireland on getting work ready, visit our careers advice section.

Meet an Assistant Trader Intern with SIG

Caitríona Lonergan is a third year Actuarial and Financial Studies student in UCD who spent her summer participating in the 10-week Assistant Trader Internship with Susquehanna International Group (SIG). We caught up with Caitríona to find out what working in SIG is really like.

How did you find out about SIG?

SIG sponsors the Actuarial Society in UCD, which I am a member of, so I knew the name but I initially didn’t know much about SIG’s business. I then attended a SIG careers talk on campus that explained the company a bit more and outlined the different career options available to me.

What makes SIG different than other organisations?

I think the main difference between SIG and other companies is the focus placed on education. We spent a lot of time in the classroom at the beginning of our internship, learning about trading from the ground up. There was no assumed level of knowledge about trading, which was good as we didn’t exactly study it in college! I also love how much emphasis is placed on applying poker strategies to trading; when I first started, I hadn’t played poker very much but now I can play quite well, and have learned a whole new way of thinking!


Caitriona Lonergan

What do you like best about working in SIG?

I really enjoy the atmosphere and the sense of community in SIG. We are always working together and sharing ideas; it really helps to have such a varied mix of intelligent colleagues around you to bounce ideas off of. I like that there is always something to do. I’m never bored and I enjoy the work, which makes the day seem shorter. I also love the variety of people who are working at SIG; people travel from all over Europe to work here, so it’s clear that SIG is highly regarded across a number of countries.

There is a lot of talk about teamwork and collaboration at SIG. Where do you see this demonstrated in your current role?

Our projects have been carried out in pairs, so I have been working closely with another one of the interns for the whole summer. I have also met with traders and the head of the index arbitrage desk, all of whom have helped with any questions I have had. The atmosphere is very supportive; whenever anyone has a problem, there can be up to four people willing to help out!


Caitriona enjoying the SIG Summer PArty with some of her fellow interns

What inspired you to choose this career path?

Trading is a more exciting, dynamic career path than some of the alternatives in the financial area. The work I am doing is challenging, but I enjoy the sense of risk and reward. We also get to see the impact of our work in real-time. Even when things don’t go exactly to plan, we learn so much from the outcomes, and this helps us to further hone our strategies.

If you were speaking with someone who was considering the Assistant Trader Internship with SIG, what would you tell them?

Definitely do it! SIG is a unique, dynamic place to work where you will never be bored. The education programme not only sets you up to work in trading but everyone in SIG also supports you in developing your skills.

What is your favourite thing about living in the Dublin area?

There is always something to do in Dublin, whether it is a concert, a festival, or a new restaurant/bar to try.

Finally, if you could have any super power, what would it be and why?

I would love to be able to time travel. It is almost like having lots of superpowers at once when you consider how much you could alter and change.

Both SIG’s Assistant Trader Internship and Assistant Trader Graduate Programme are currently open for applications via the SIG website. SIG also caters for work placements ranging from 3-12 months in duration.

Guest blog: My career in finance with Crowe Horwath

Trainee chartered accountant Jamie Ashworth gives us insight into his choice to pursue a career in finance with Crowe Horwath


Trainee chartered accountant Jamie Ashworth

Could you provide us with a summary of how you became interested in a career in the financial sector?

The financial sector represents the heartbeat of business and commerce worldwide. I have always had an aptitude for numbers and accountancy in particular so the financial sector has been a natural area of interest for me. Finance in Dublin in particular is thriving at the moment and makes it even more appealing to me.

Accountancy services are required by business of all sizes, from sole traders to listed multinational companies, and this diversity was a key factor in my choosing to pursue a career in accountancy.

How did your degree contribute to you getting a place on the Crowe Horwath programme?

I feel my degree contributed hugely to me getting a place on the Crowe Horwath graduate programme. Although I did not study accounting directly, a background in economics provided me with problem solving skills applicable across the financial sector. In my opinion this was particularly important for the Crowe Horwath graduate programme as it involves working on different projects all the time, with no two days being the same

What’s been one of the biggest challenges of coming through the Crowe Horwath graduate programme and what did it teach you about yourself?

One of the biggest challenges for me was adapting to the professional environment. After an initial training week, I started in the office and I was immediately immersed into projects and assigned projects. Of course attached to these projects were deadlines. While I found this daunting at first, I soon learned that asking questions and gaining experience is what was expected of me and this enabled me to work faster and more efficiently on subsequent jobs and tasks. Each job has a learning curve and I have been given the opportunity to work on many different assignments in the last year which has increased my knowledge immensely. Next year I hope to gain more experience and take a more senior role on assignments.

How difficult was it striking the balance between work and CAI studies?

For me, the switch from college life to working full time and studying with Chartered Accountants Ireland was challenging at first. A day in work from nine to half five followed by a lecture in the evening does require commitment but once you get in to a routine it is not as daunting as it first seems and it is worth the sacrifice. I found going to lectures and taking the information in first hand from the lecturers benefitted me when it came to studying for the exams. All materials for lectures are available through the online portal in advance of the lectures and this does allow for a degree of flexibility in studying.

What advice would you have for students and graduates seeking to pursue a similar career path?

  • To give your full commitment to both work and studying from the beginning and to try and find a routine that suits you while doing that.
  • To enjoy the free time that you do have and to make the most of well earned down time.
  • Not to be afraid to ask questions and to make the most of the experience that senior colleagues share with you.

How do you hope to see your career developing over the next few years?

I am one year into my training contract and I have passed my CAP1 exams. I hope to pass the CAP 2 and FAE exams over the next two years, while gaining more experience and finish my training contract in April 2019. After that I might travel and work abroad for a year or two. Being a chartered accountant is a qualification that is recognised globally and offers people the opportunity to apply their skills worldwide.

Crowe Horwath is one of the leading accountancy firms in Ireland, and is the representative firm in Ireland of Crowe Horwath International, one of the top ten global networks of independent accounting and advisory services firms, a worldwide group of independent accountancy firms with 726 offices in 125 countries with some 31,000 staff worldwide. They offer graduates the opportunity to train to become a Chartered Accountant.

Check out their recruitment brochure (pdf) for more details.

Applications for 2017 are now open. To apply, please fill in their application form and return to hr@crowehorwath.ie. The closing date for applications is 31 October 2016.