Postgraduate study: is it right for you?

After spending the best part of two decades in full-time education, you could be forgiven for running a mile at the prospect of postgraduate study. Alternatively, if you’re not quite ready to face the big bad world of work, it might be a natural next step. There are many reasons to pursue postgraduate education, but if you’re not quite sure which study route to take, drop in to the further study zone at the gradireland Summer Fair on 15 June (www.gradireland.com/summerfair) for help and advice.

In the meantime, a close look at your motivations could help you decide.

If your employment prospects are a strong motivating factor, have a look at job adverts in the sector(s) you’re considering, and think about the skills they ask for. Will the modules on a particular course help you develop them? Bear in mind that many jobs will still require practical experience – does the course offer a chance to do a placement? Certain institutions also have strong links with organisations relevant to the programmes they offer, which can be a useful platform in gaining experience and even employment.

If you want to spend more time investigating an area of academic study, have an idea of what you’d like to specialise in. Discuss your ideas with a tutor from your undergraduate days, or get in contact with staff on the course you’re considering to talk through your options. While research-led courses put the onus on you to direct your area of specialisation, taught programmes may also offer a degree of flexibility in the modules they offer or the topics covered in assessments.

There is a huge amount of choice when it comes to postgraduate courses, but taking the time to think about why you’re looking at them in the first place can help you determine what exactly you want from fourth-level education and help to distinguish between what’s on offer. Further study can be wonderfully enriching, but the trade-off is a significant investment of time and effort, so make sure you choose a course that will maximise your employability at the end of it.


Report from the frontline of careers in technology

digital worldA recent ‘Smart Futures’ seminar in Engineers Ireland, jointly organised with ICT Ireland, highlighted a trend referenced in this blog over the last few months – the breadth of jobs currently available in the IT sector and the career options available.

Some topline stats:

  • By 2025 there will be more than 8 billion inhabitants on planet earth. The demand for hydro-carbons and the youth bulge in developing countries will lead to a sustained demand for (and create great challenges for) technology.
  • 74,000 people are directly employed in the tech sector in Ireland (and up to 200,000 in associated and supply chain businesses).
  • Since the beginning of 2010 more than 5,000 jobs have been created in the technology sector in Ireland.
  • 75 per cent of tech companies in Ireland currently have vacancies.
  • 55 per cent of these companies have over 20 vacancies.

At present there is a skills shortage – the educational system is not producing enough graduates to cope with the demand for jobs in this sector. So, with graduate prospects bleak in other areas of the economy, how can today’s graduates gain entry to this world of plentiful jobs and stellar careers?

  • There are loads of jobs in tech companies for non-techies! Sales, marketing, product and project managers, finance, HR and customer service roles are booming.
  • Tech companies look for four key competencies – the Four Cs. These are communication; collaboration; critical thinking & problem solving; and creativity & innovation. So it’s not all about Java and C++. Demonstrate the Four Cs and you will get that job.
  • Tech companies love engineers, and not just software and electrical engineers. Mechanical, civil and construction graduates should look at their core competencies and consider how they can build on these to access jobs in tech companies. New conversion courses are rumoured to be on the horizon as part of the government’s jobs initiative; keep your eyes peeled.
  • Companies like Google and Facebook hire graduates from across all disciplines.
  • When assessing an individual’s creative potential, many of these companies look at a candidate’s activities outside their formal education.

The conclusion is that there will be an explosion of jobs in Irish tech companies in the next decade. Computer science graduates are in huge demand, but there are (and will continue to be) jobs in tech companies for all graduates. If you thought that tech jobs were just for nerds and not for you, think again – these companies need problem solvers, intelligent, flexible and creative individuals, and there are plenty of talented Irish students who can match these criteria.


Get LinkedIn and get hired

Guest blog from Paul Mullan of Measurability

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are now key tools for graduate job search. In this post I’m examining LinkedIn. I will outline some key information about how to get started and how to generate better job search results.
Create an impactful LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is pretty much like a personal website. Add all key marketing information – relevant work experience, qualifications and achievements. Make your profile stand out. This short video tells you how: “How to create an impactful LinkedIn profile”. NB: Treat your professional headline like a marketing slogan, inject personality to your summary statement to connect with readers and include achievements in your work experience.
Seek recommendations
Reading what others say about you is more powerful than reading what you say about yourself. Seek out previous employers or lecturers to recommend you on LinkedIn. Some graduates may struggle to source recommendations because of limited work experience. Create recommendation opportunities by seeking short intern assignments or voluntary work.
Connect with people you know
Brainstorm contacts and search for them on LinkedIn. This can include friends, college mates, previous employers or group/society members. Personalise your connection message, engage conversation and outline your current status. Don’t assume your contacts know what you studied or what type of work you are seeking.
Join groups
Locate relevant groups on LinkedIn. Many universities have LinkedIn groups and there are numerous industry related groups. Join and become active. Engage within these groups through information sharing and discussion. Groups provide an effective platform to enhance visibility.
Use LinkedIn applications
There are a wide range of applications to help enhance your LinkedIn profile. These applications enable you to upload additional information to your profile. You can upload a recent presentation, you thesis/coursework or even highlights recent books you read.
Communicate with your network
Use status updates and internal mail to stay in touch with your network. Once you get on the radar you must ensure you stay on it!
Q&A section
The Q&A facility on LinkedIn is underutilised. This section allows you to ask questions and access free advice. You can also answer questions and showcase your expertise.
Customise your LinkedIn profile URL
I’ve customised my LinkedIn URL to read www.LinkedIn.com/in/paulmullan. You should do the same. Then use this URL to draw traffic to your profile. Place it on your CV, cover letter and email signature – see example below. Add it to your Facebook or Twitter account. Comment on professional blogs or forums and paste this link to help people find you.
Paul Mullan
Email: paul.measurability.ie
LinkedIn Career Group: http://ow.ly/4XhOH
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/measurability
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/paulmullan74
Extract from a LinkedIn profile


Mind mapping for job interviews

I often find when I want to learn about something new that a quick and easy way of doing it is to read a children’s book on the subject. So I was pleased to come across a book called Mind Maps for Kids. It’s a great introduction to a really useful technique for brainstorming and learning.

‘Mind mapping’ works on the theory that visual, non-linear ways of organising information and ideas can reach the places that writing a list can’t. You start with a piece of paper, write your main subject in the middle, and then start drawing branches out from this for related subjects. These branches also branch out as you put down more detailed information.

The idea is that the process of organising the information visually can help you to remember it. And because you fit all your notes onto one page it’s a handy way of reviewing the information quickly before you need it.

Mind Maps for Kids recommends this technique as a way of revising for exams, but it could also be useful when you’re preparing for a job interview. You might start with ‘job interview’ in the middle and then branch out into ‘Why this company?’, ‘Why this job?’ and ‘Why me?’. Other branches might be ‘questions to ask’, ‘my skills’ or ‘my experience’.

Everyone will tell you that advance preparation is important for a job interview. They’ll explain that you should research the employer and think about how you fit them and the job. That’s fine, but what if your nerves get in the way and you can’t remember any of it once you’re actually in the hot seat?

Creating a mind map could help you to mentally access that information. And, just by doing it, you might also come up with new, creative ideas about how to approach the interview.

Have you tried this technique? Please let us know how it went.

example of mind map for a job interview


Focus on your Finals but keep an eye out for your future

It’s just not fair. You’ve got your final exams to look forward to (?) and a lengthy period of post-exam rest, recuperation and reckless indulgence to look forward to (!). And meanwhile, in a parallel universe, a group of employers competes for your attention because they have jobs starting in the autumn that they need to fill. There are two possible responses to this scenario: one is along the lines of ‘Leave me alone, I’m not in the mood to be thinking about my future’ and the other is ‘What do you mean? Are there still graduate jobs around this late in the year?’

I’m going to go all sensible at this point and say that, while it’s entirely understandable that you’ll need to unwind after the stress of Finals, it’s also not a bad idea to keep half an eye open for job opportunities. Furthermore, despite what you read in the press, there are still organisations around who either haven’t filled their jobs or have discovered vacancies that they didn’t expect to have. Not to mention universities with places on masters programmes to fill.

I know this for a fact because the gradireland Summer Fair takes place at the RDS in Dublin on 15 June and it’s not going to be held in an echoing empty hall with tumbleweed blowing around. There’ll be over 50 stands, comprising employers, postgraduate course providers and professional bodies and a ‘Jobs Wall’ with over 200 graduate jobs and internships displayed all day. In addition, there is a CV clinic run by careers advisers from the Association of Higher Education Careers Services and a number of free seminars given by industry professionals. More info at: gradireland.com/summerfair.

And if you can’t make the fair in Dublin, contact your college careers service for current jobs and course opportunities and look at gradireland.com for Ireland’s largest selection of graduate opportunities. Your head may soon feel like it belongs to someone else but reserve a little space in there somewhere for what lies ahead.


Analysis of the job trends on gradireland.com during April

The president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland was quoted this week in The Irish Times that contrary to ‘the barrage of negative stories’ about Ireland over the last two years, many companies are encountering problems finding the correct skills (and individuals) to meet their immediate recruitment needs. This is reflected in the continuing rise in graduate job opportunities on gradireland.com, particularly in the area of technology and IT.

Analysis of the jobs on gradireland in April shows that there were 20 per cent more jobs on the site compared to the same period in 2010, with an average of 178 graduate opportunities online every day. The IT and telecoms sector continues to show strong and sustained demand. 40 per cent of the jobs were in the top three sectors – IT and telecoms; engineering; and accountancy and financial management.

As the class of 2011 finish their exams and prepare to graduate, graduates in these sectors are in great demand amongst employers, both in Ireland and also abroad (20 per cent of jobs are either UK-based or further afield, an increase of 7 per cent since the turn of the year. The financial services and accounting sectors are the areas with the highest number of international opportunities).

However, graduates from all disciplines are in demand and there are jobs across all sectors on the site. Recent additions include opportunities for copy writers, chefs, marketing graduates, researchers and teaching abroad, to name a few, and new graduate programmes are also starting up. There are also plenty of opportunities for work experience on the site: 15.7 per cent of the jobs on gradireland.com are classed as graduate work placements or internships.

So the message is a positive one – there is demand amongst employers for Irish graduates, so don’t allow ‘the barrage of negative stories’ to influence your thinking. There are opportunities out there, so good luck to those of you sitting exams, celebrate when they are over, and then get applying!


Under pressure: how to cope with student stress

You don’t need us to tell you that students across the country feel particularly pressured at this time of year. Exams are round the corner, coursework deadlines have all arrived at once, and revision feels like a never-ending task; you may also be juggling your studies with part-time work. There’s barely enough time in the day for lunch, let alone graduate job applications, or any other (more exciting) extra-curricular activities, so you can be forgiven for feeling stressed.

Stress affects everyone from time to time from every walk of life. It might not be pleasant, but in small doses it can be beneficial: stress can turn even the greatest procrastinators into paragons of productivity. The trick is to recognise your own stress levels, and learn how to manage them.

Careful time management and adopting a routine are the best ways of limiting the stresses of university life. It goes without saying that it’s important to structure your time properly and put the work in – coursework, revision, applications all take time, effort and determination – but it’s equally important to give yourself proper breaks. Eat well and make sure you get enough sleep. Make time for exercise.

Don’t try and do too much. If you set yourself impossible goals, you run the risk of becoming so anxious about your perceived lack of achievement that you won’t be able to face any of it. Instead, give yourself smaller, manageable tasks, and reward yourself for every target achieved. If you work best in the mornings don’t push yourself to work late into the night, and vice versa; adopt a routine that works for you.

Another good way to minimise stress is discovering the ability to say ‘no’: if you’re invited for a job interview right before an exam, it’s likely to send your stress levels soaring, so explain the situation to the recruiter. The chances are they’ll be happy to reschedule. Similarly, if you’ve agreed to an interview date but subsequently realise that it clashes with an important deadline, contact the recruiter as soon as you can to explain and ask if you can rearrange.