Diversity in the workplace – where are the opportunities for graduates?

Diversity in the workplace – where are the opportunities for graduates?

The Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) hosted an interesting and wide-ranging Diversity conference in Dublin on 12 December. Many topics were covered, including issues around mental health problems in the workplace , difficulties faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in the application process or their workplace; and problems confronted by students with disabilities in key issues such as access to jobs, applications, disclosure and employee support networks.

The conference was notable in that it brought together employers and careers professionals alongside NGOs such as Headstrong and GLEN to meet and discuss issues around creating a diverse working environment that is truly inclusive. Ann Heelan from AHEAD told us that there are over 7,000 students with disabilities within Irish higher education institutions; Davin Roche from GLEN observed that approximately 8 per cent of the Irish workforce is LGBT. Employers who do not seek to create a diverse workforce are needlessly cutting themselves off from a talent pool of potentially brilliant candidates. A key theme of the discussions was set by Dr Tony Bates from Headstrong when he commented ‘it’s not about what’s wrong in people, but what’s strong in people’.

Several employers who take part in AHEAD’s Willing, Able and Mentoring (WAM) programme discussed their work in actively seeking to create a diverse and inclusive working environment, and their recruitment strategies in this area. Nearly all of the companies raised as an issue the difficulty faced by students and graduates in identifying companies that actively seek to recruit talented individuals who may, for example, have a disability of have suffered mental illness. Equally, they found that it was difficult as a recruiter to effectively promote themselves as an employer with opportunities for disabled students.

These employers, listed below, are all actively seeking to recruit a diverse workforce, and have systems and processes in place to support both this activity and their employees.

Dell Ireland employs approximately 2,500 staff in Ireland (totalling 65 nationalities), roughly 15 per cent of whom are disabled or directly impacted by disability (eg of a close family member). The company has partnered with the WAM programme to ensure that graduates with disabilities hear that Dell is an open, inclusive and welcoming place to start their careers.  You can find out more about their diversity policy on their careers website.

Abbott Ireland is the current holders of the gradireland Diversity Recruitment Award and has set up successful employee networks to ensure that ability is recognised throughout their organisation. These networks remind people with disabilities, specific learning difficulties and mental health conditions that they are listened to, feel valued and feel successful.  Again, there is more information on their own website.

Citi has between 75 and 100 vacancies open at any one time and actively seeks to give opportunities to students and graduates from all backgrounds. The company positions itself as an organisation that offers opportunities to candidates with disabilities; it recognises diversity as a source of strength and is developing (with WAM) inclusive recruitment practices for students with disabilities.

Electric Ireland is championing an emerging trend: the creation of internal disability networks with forums for employees to share knowledge.

Most of these employers commented that they struggle to drive applications from graduates with disabilities. Maybe this blog will help encourage some of you to identify and approach companies who have supports in place to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, and build great careers in companies where ability is the only issue.

Advice from gradireland.com on equal opportunities.


Beware the buzzwords: how not to make your profile stand out

Beware the buzzwords: how not to make your profile stand out

If you’re a student or graduate researching how to write a CV, you’ll have probably have come across a list of ‘useful phrases’ that careers professionals recommend you use. These will be a selection of words that are intended to make you sound positive and dynamic. It’s possible, though, that they will make you sound like everyone else.

But that’s not something that only affects graduate-level jobseekers. As it’s December, LinkedIn have just released their annual list of ‘overused profile buzzwords’, with some warnings about updating your profile to get rid of them.

Apparently, the most commonly used words on LinkedIn this year, throughout the world, are ‘creative’ (oh, really?) and ‘motivated’.

LinkedIn have broken down the list by country: the French claim to be ‘responsible’, the Swiss favour ‘analytical’ and the Spanish go for ‘specialized’.

Sadly, they don’t give the top buzzword for Ireland this year.We do know, though, that in 2011, the number 1 buzzword for Ireland was ‘motivated’. And this year the rest of the world is catching up. In 2012, ‘motivated’ is number 1 for Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, as well as being the number two buzzword globally.

That’s a bit of a strange one, though. Surely being motivated, when it comes to doing a good job or taking your job hunt seriously, should be a given? As a recruiter, I would certainly consider that to be a pretty basic starting point. Yet presumably all those people using it in their profile consider it to be something special.

And that proves the point about not using a word just because everyone else is. Whether it’s a CV, an application form or your LinkedIn profile, forget about buzzwords and think about the words that actually describe you as an individual – not words you’ve heard other people use or words you think people want to hear. That way, you’ll be more than just a number – and you might just stand out from the crowd.


How to build a career in international business

A Career In International Business

A career in international business can look extremely attractive to many Irish students and graduates. With Europe’s most mobile student population and our willingness to adapt to new cultures, Irish people have always had a strong presence in international businesses around the world, punching well above our weight.

Developing inward investment (via the IDA) and export-led growth (via Enterprise Ireland) are key planks in the government’s economic recovery plan, and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs has recently published research for Forfás that looks into the key skills for enterprise to trade internationally. Central to this are the skills that graduates will need to develop successful careers in this area.

Five key business functions were identified alongside relevant skills and competencies.

1. International business management

Organisational skills for this business function

  • Strategic thinking
  • Building alliances
  • Networking
  • Relationship building
  • Negotiation skills.

Soft skills for this business function

  • Entrepreneurial skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Analytic skills
  • Customer focus
  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork
  • Creative problem-solving.

2. International marketing and sales

Organisational skills for this business function

  • Negotiation skills
  • Networking
  • Relationship building.

Soft skills for this business function

  • Customer focus
  • Entrepreneurial skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Initiative
  • Teamwork
  • Communications.

3. Fulfilment – logistical and distribution

Organisational skills for this business function

  • Relationship building
  • Customer and client focussed
  • Networking
  • Negotiation skills.

Soft skills for this business function

  • Commercial awareness
  • Teamwork
  • Presentation skills
  • Communication
  • Analytical and numerical skills.

4. Customer service/support

Organisational skills for this business function

  • Relationship building
  • Customer and client focussed.

Soft skills for this business function

  • Communication skills (oral and written) – person-to-person and online.

5. Product/service development & design

Organisational skills for this business function

  • Relationship building
  • Customer and client focussed.

Soft skills for this business function

  • Creative problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Presentation skills
  • Communication skills.

Many of the necessary skills cross over into different categories, but the order listed shows the different emphases that the Forfás research gives to these skills, depending on the business function. Foreign language skills and cultural awareness cross all of the above functions and are critical to a successful career in international business regardless of the job role.

If you are serious in developing your career in international business you should read the full report, titled Key Skills for Enterprise to Trade Internationally.