If you leave Ireland, be sure to come back

PassportIreland has a long history of its young people venturing overseas in search of adventure or to seek their fortune – recessions notwithstanding – so the current crop of graduates looking to work abroad are only following in the footsteps of their predecessors.

‘When the opportunity to work overseas presented itself, I took it’, the Chief Technical Officer of a global telecoms company told me recently when talking about his career highlights to date. As a young man fresh out of college he spent time working in the UK, the US and Italy before returning to Ireland where he is currently based, and has been since the mid-90s.

‘Try new things, go to new places’, he advises today’s graduates. ‘Organisations value people with a breadth of experience, both functionally and culturally. If you don’t speak another language now, learn one’.

At around the same time I also spoke to a DCU graduate of 2008 – now marketing manager for an international IT company – about the formative years of her career. She spent part of her graduate training scheme in England. ‘Coming over to the UK to do a rotation in the London office was an unmissable opportunity for me,’ she tells me. She spent six months in London as part of her graduate placement and at the end of it was offered a permanent position there. Ultimately she plans to return to Ireland, but for now she is making the most of the experience she’s gaining.

Flexibility is arguably one of the key assets of the young professional. You are less likely to be constrained by other factors (family, mortgage, a dog!) and can afford to take more risks, or at least go where the work is.

‘For graduates leaving college now, of course it’s difficult’, our CTO says. ‘When I first embarked on my career (in 1989) 70 per cent of my class had emigrated within a month.’ This is a sobering statistic perhaps, but serves to illustrate the point that seeking work abroad is nothing new. He doesn’t advocate that graduates leave Ireland for the sake of it: rather to be open to opportunities. And if that means spending a year or two overseas, then go for it. ‘In my experience, any business will recognise people with energy and goodwill. And if you do leave, do so with a view to coming back.’

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