Laura Jordan of Stylesavvy.ie advises female graduates on the best interview and workplace dress tips. Next week it’s the guys’ turn!
Interview dressing is the holy grail of outfit choosing; what you wear really does matter. Workwear in general can be tricky, but the time to hit the nail on the head is when you are trying to get the job in the first place.
Your image reflects your competency and overall professionalism, a harsh truth perhaps, but true it is. Approach this task with as much precision and thought as you would your interview answers, and you can dress for interview success.
This is not the time to stand out for the wrong reasons. If it’s a corporate job you’re going for, remember that the corporate world has a particular style that should be broadly adhered to; even if you are interviewing around the outskirts of this industry.
Be memorable for what you say, not for what you wear.
The way to show your personality through your outfit is to accessorise with style. The way to show your style through your personality is to let your colleagues get to know you…over time. A luxury not provided by interview alone.
Many people ask me why workwear is so important, since they may not be client-facing, or the prevailing culture in their office is cool and casual. My answer is the same every time. Your clients don’t give you a promotion. Your colleagues do. So dress like you mean business. With this in mind it’s time to hit the shops. The key time for workwear purchases is August, as the Autumn/Winter stock arrives – right now we are in Spring/Summer limbo; the trickiest season to address in the office.
For the Summer months consider pencil skirts or tailored trousers with silk tops, or shift dresses and cropped blazers.
Capsule workwear wardrobes are your best bet; separates are more cost-effective than dresses as they allow for more combinations of outfits.
However, for interview (which can be at short notice), choose a dress. I break my own rule here as your ‘interview dress’ is your ‘uniform’- once time and thought has gone into choosing it, it’s done. Not something to have to worry about the night before.
If you are in a second interview position, then go for separates. You will have a better idea of the vibe of the workplace and can choose this outfit armed with more information. A dress has a smaller margin of error in terms of tucking, co-ordinating fabrics and texture and considering lengths and exposure.
Below you will see some options in the shops right now. Pencil cut or shift are the way to go – with a cap sleeve, or a light blazer / tailored jacket worn over. Avoid a skater or flared style, they appear girlie, not professional and are best left to the weekends. Fabric should be on the heavy side, even in Summer (this doesn’t necessarily mean dark) and texture or print are fine, as long as, like we said earlier, they don’t distract from the pearls of wisdom you are imparting!
Shoes are very important. Firstly, heels are almost always essential; the height is in your hands. Never go for a platform, always a pointed or round toe. At this time of year you can’t go wrong with a nude pointed or round-toed court. In Winter, a block-colour in suede has the same effect. Just note that the only patent shoe you should buy for work is black or nude, colours can look cheap and tacky.
Bring a bag large enough to carry documents (an extra copy of your CV, hard copies of references etc.) but small enough to sit on your arm or shoulder and not prove too cumbersome when meeting your interview panel. Your accessories let you show some of your own personal style – statement necklaces with a high or round neck add interest and focus, whereas a bangle or cuff can look great with a three-quarter-length sleeve. Choose a dainty piece if wearing silk or another light fabric.
Laura Jordan is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and Dublin Institute of Design. She works as a fashion stylist and image consultant, specialising in corporate style and workwear wardrobes through her popular ‘StyleWorks’ seminars.
When you have your interview wardrobe selected, make sure to stop by gradireland.com for interview advice and tips!
European-wide search for aspiring-tech entrepreneurs begins
The University College Cork (UCC) launch of the EU-XCEL European Virtual Accelerator on April 15th marked the start of a European-wide recruitment campaign seeking out talented aspiring entrepreneurs in the field of information and communication technology (ICT). This hunt for tech-savvy graduates offers the opportunity to participate in an innovative virtual accelerator programme, focused on finding entrepreneurs who are ready to operate in a business ‘incubator’ environment.
“Our mission is to provide the optimum virtual and physical platforms to enable aspiring ICT tech entrepreneurs to flourish and become incubator ready after our international five month acceleration programme,” said programme Director, Dr Brian O’Flaherty.
Successful applicants from across Europe will participate as part of newly formed international start-up teams alongside some of the most promising and talented tech entrepreneurs in 5-month intensive, specially designed entrepreneurship training and mentoring programmes.
Successful applicants to the European Virtual-Accelerator programme will receive:
1: A week-long training and mentoring ‘start-up scrum’ in one of six countries – Ireland, Germany, Spain, Greece, Poland and Denmark.
2: Access to a bespoke virtual accelerator of supports to assist teams develop and refine their start-up idea
3: The opportunity to pitch to and connect with venture capitalists, angel investors and successful tech entrepreneurs in the EU-EXCEL Challenge
In addition, all successful applicants will receive:
- An opportunity to win a significant financial prize
- An opportunity to travel to one of six one-week long European start-up scrums with free flights & accommodation
- Access to peer and mentoring networking/entertainment events
- An opportunity to become part of an international EU-XCEL team and meet potential co-founders for the new venture
- Fast-track access to a European accelerator programme
EU-XCEL is a horizon 2020 funded project and part of Start Up Europe. The wider project partners outside Cork are made up of universities and incubator centres from across the European Union, including Denmark, Germany, Greece, Poland and Spain. “The internationalisation of entrepreneurship is a major component of this programme and the exchange element of the programme will enable cross-fertilisation and the pursuit of new ventures across a number of European countries,” says project director, Dr Joe Bogue of UCC.
For further information, please see http://euxcel.eu/ or contact Siobhan Bradley, EU-XCEL Project Co-ordinator, Department of Business & Information Systems, UCC on email@example.com or T: +0035321 490 3404.
For more on opportunities in the tech sector, read gradireland’s sector hub on careers in the IT and tech sector
Matthew Foyle from Griffith College Dublin was crowned National Student Challenge winner at the annual competition held by gradireland, writes Fergal Browne.
Bringing together over 50 of Ireland’s brightest students – who were the top performers in an online assessment specifically set to mirror the qualities employers are looking for – and some of Ireland’s top graduate recruiters like Lidl and PwC, the event was branded a success by both the competitors and the graduate recruiters.
“It’s been really stimulating. The most valuable part I’m going to take away from the day is a new way of thinking in stuff like supply chain management, and communicating,” said eventually winner Matthew Foyle who was the first National Student Challenge winner from Griffith College Dublin.
Matthew, who received a cheque for €1,000, highlighted that the event is also a brilliant networking opportunity. “The networking part is vital for me. I’m applying for a lot of graduate programme positions and this is an opportunity to talk to employers about what they are looking for and how to tailor my CV appropriately”, said the 2015 champion.
The event saw six employers – Lidl, the Public Appointments Service, PwC, EY, Bank of Ireland and AbbVie – challenge students in a range of tasks and competencies which were designed to be fun but demanding.
“We have been really impressed by the standard of students here. Some of them seemed to have the complete package; brains, personality and charisma. It’s great to see,” says Susan Murdock, Graduate Programme Manager at Bank of Ireland (BoI).
BoI set students the task of designing a mobile phone app in small groups. “We are looking for imagination and creativity because these are the qualities that we look for at Bank of Ireland”, says Susan. BoI is bringing on 80 students from across all disciplines for its graduate programme. “We are happy to consider anybody from any discipline. If they have creativity, there’s a place for them here”, adds Susan.
Major pharmaceutical firm AbbVie, which has manufacturing plants in Sligo and Cork, alongside offices in Dublin and internationally, set students the challenge of working in small teams to design and fly paper airplanes.
“What we were looking for is a good attitude”, says Angela Haran, AbbVie’s Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist. “We are very much a team-orientated environment, so a great attitude is a major part,” she adds.
The importance of a positive attitude was highlighted by Lidl too. “We are looking for three things; for students to enjoy themselves, contribute to the overall team effort and throw themselves into the task”, says Lidl’s Graduate Programme Manager, Russell Palfrey.
Lidl’s inventive task involved blindfolding four students while the other team members led the blindfolded students to certain parts of the room by directing them only by using whistles. “It’s directly linked to our business because we have trucks leaving our warehouses everyday to reach our stores,” adds Russell.
“The Lidl challenge was brilliant fun. It’s a great mix between doing something fun and serious team building,” says Stephen Brennan, a final year Engineering and Electronics student from TCD who took part in the event.
It’s the second time gradireland has run the GRADchances Language Fair in the RDS, which this year saw 20 employers advertising jobs for those with fluency in almost every European and world language.
One of the companies at the event, Wayfair – an online store specialising in furniture – came to the language event to source German and French speakers for customer service positions for its base in Galway.
“It’s been a great event”, says Jess Delahunt, Senior Recruiter at Wayfair. “Some of the CVs I received today, I actually wrote ‘hire’ on them, because I plan on getting these candidates interviewed next week and my recommendation to managers will be the get these people on board,” he says.
Most companies at the event were seeking to recruit immediately as many are expanding their operations in Ireland. One company, Cork-based Voxpro, currently has 700 employees with plans to expand to 1,000 by the end of this year and 1,700 by 2017. “We are looking for everything at the moment. If you have a European language, we’re interested”, says Catriona Flynn, a recruiter for the company.
Claudia Escobar came to the language fair to network with employers and see what jobs are out there. She arrived in Ireland from her native Mexico three and a half years ago and is finishing up her degree in Business Studies with a specialisation in Marketing at Independent Colleges in May.
“I’m really interested in doing either marketing or human resource management. I’ve been really surprised by how friendly all the employers are here. They are happy to answer all my questions and it’s given me a really great idea of what I can do with my Spanish and English when I finish college”, says the Mexican native.
Almost all the employers agreed one of the most difficult languages to source great talent for is German due to the large amount of positions available for those with that language.
“This really surprised me”, says Kyra Maron, originally from Nuremburg, Germany, who is studying European Studies in Trinity College. “Straight away when I told employers I speak German, they wanted to take my email address and were telling me how much they need German speakers. It’s really eye-opening to see how in demand the language is”, she says.
With studies giving contradictory conclusions on Ireland’s educational performance, questions remain about the quality of education at a time when the Irish economy needs to complement its return to growth with skilled jobs, writes Fergal Browne.
At the recent Irish Economic Policy Conference 2015 in the Institute of Banking, work by Tony Fahey (UCD) entitled “Family and Fertility in Ireland: A Human Capital Perspective” highlighted both positive and negative study results with regards Irish education.
The Pisa education study of the 35 most developed countries in the OECD, which measures amongst other things literacy and numeracy of 15 year-olds, found Ireland to be the fourth best performing nation in these measures.
Coupled with this, Ireland has the fifth highest birth rate in the OECD. Only Mexico, Turkey, Chile and Israel have higher rates.
This, according to Fahey, left Ireland in the unique position of all the countries studied in having high birth rates and strong educational performance.
While that seemingly bodes well, Fahey pointed to another more recent study, entitled PIACC, which presents Ireland’s educational performance poorly. The study, unlike Pisa, measures the numerical and literacy ability of adults not 15 year-olds in developed countries. It found Ireland is the third worst performing nation for educational aptitudes amongst developed nations and well below average overall.
“The only way we can explain this contradiction between the two studies is that they are not looking for the same factors”, says Fahey.
Taken together, these major comparative studies give unclear conclusions of Ireland’s educational performance.
Meanwhile, concerns have been highlighted that students are not being taught the necessary work skills at third-level, especially with regards the high-skilled multinational sector.
25,000 more people are employed in the multinational sector now than in 2011 meaning it comprises 10% of Ireland’s total workforce. Multinationals favour employees with strong problem-solving skills most, something Irish students are below average at compared to other developed countries, according to both of the above mentioned studies.
The American Chamber of Commerce has highlighted concerns previously about Ireland’s skill shortage. In 2011, it said US companies in Ireland were looking for 2,000 skilled workers, particularly in IT, but the jobs could not be filled due to the lack of the required skill set in the Irish economy. This was at a time when 440,000 people were on the live register.
In response the government launched the Springboard initiative where the state subsidises students who wish to study in areas where there’s a skill shortage.
The complexity of Ireland’s educational difficulties and bridging the gap between education and working skills is highlighted in a further OECD study, which showed Ireland has the highest amount of 25-34 year olds in Europe who have finished a third-level education course.
Conversely, at 21% Ireland also had the highest amount of NEETS, which are 15-29 year olds who are neither employed nor in education or training, according to the 2012 study. The average in developed countries is 15%.
Despite these difficulties, the perception amongst the American multinationals based in Ireland remains extremely positive with the belief amongst the 400 members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland is that we are getting it right both politically and economically.
“The key ingredient most acknowledged by the parent companies back in the US is the ‘can-do’ attitude of the Irish workforce”, Mark Redmond from the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland told The Irish Times.
The gradireland languages event, Wednesday, March 4th, is a great opportunity for those with two or more languages to meet some of Ireland’s best employers, writes Fergal Browne.
The GRADchances language fair, in partnership with the Higher Education Authority (HEA), is Ireland’s only dedicated language careers event, bringing together over 20 of Ireland’s top employers with bilingual and multilingual graduates and students.
In an increasingly global and connected world, and with Ireland one of the world’s most open economies, the ability to speak a foreign language is seen as a massive asset, in any sector. “Whether in business, entrepreneurship, the EU institutions or international organisations; having a second language can open up doors to all sorts of varied careers at home and abroad”, says Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection Dara Murphy who speaks four different languages; English, Irish, French and German.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Gerry O’Suillivan, Head of International Programmes at the Higher Education Authority, HEA, as well. “The ability to communicate effectively is essential to forging successful relationships. To be able to do that brings a competitive advantage and is extremely useful in building trust and confidence with our overseas partners”.
The Irish business and employers association, Ibec, actively promotes the use of foreign languages amongst workers and hopes the gradireland event will raise awareness amongst students and graduates about how important language learning is for the Irish economy and their future careers.
“Ireland is one of the most open, globalised economies in the developed world, so competitiveness is key. Our companies need to be proficient in the language of their customer”, says Tony Donohoe, Ibec’s Head of Education, Social and Innovation Policy.
“Six years ago the European Council challenged us to move away from an ‘official but lame bilingualism’ of English and Irish to a society where the ability to learn and use two and more languages is taken for granted”, he adds.
Last year’s gradireland languages event attracted over 700 bilingual and multilingual graduates with fluency in 76 languages with some meeting their future employers at the event.
“I introduced myself to the HEA, had a brief chat with them and just left my CV with them not expecting much”, says Mariana Reis from Brazil who graduated from International Business and Spanish in DIT in 2014. Two weeks later she received a phone call which led to part-time work while she finished her degree. She was made full-time at the HEA as an Executive Officer last June. She uses four languages in her role; her native Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian.
Recruiters will be looking for graduates across a range of sectors particularly engineering, marketing, sales, legal, management and IT while the major European languages, Mardarin and Russian were the most sought after languages, although employers emphasise any foreign language is a major asset.
For more information on the event, see the language fair website.
Finding fourth-level university funding can be difficult, to put it mildly, writes Fergal Browne. There’s been a reduction in the amount of funding both universities and state institutions offer to students. Nevertheless, funding is still out there. Here’s a rundown of some of the funding options, at various levels, which are available.
University funding: One result of Ireland’s economic difficulties in recent years was the increase in postgraduate study as people attempted to upskill and gain an edge in an economy with less jobs and a more competitive market. Therefore, in order to attract Ireland’s best performing students to its postgraduate programmes, certain universities offer funding to top-performing students. NUI Galway, for example, offers €1,500 to any graduate seeking to study a master, who earns a First in an undergraduate degree. Each university varies in terms of what it offers so check the website of the relevant third-level institution to see what’s available.
Scholarships abroad: Many graduates in niche third-level institutions provide scholarships for students who wish to study there. Le Cordon Bleu, a top-class culinary school based in cities across the world, including London and Paris, runs cooking heats in the UK and Ireland with the winners receiving a fully-paid scholarship with the school in London for nine-months all expenses paid. Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, which offers courses to those who want to move into the art business, offers scholarships for certain MA courses and provides funding based on the income of its students. For the United States, Irish students receive funding to study, research or teach in the U.S under the Fulbright Awards, while a range of grants are in place to study English courses in universities across continental Europe including a grant by the German Academic Exchange Service which gives students who study in German a monthly allowance of €750 and a lump sum for travel costs.
Loan options: Most lending institutions will provide loans to those wishing to do postgrads. Bank of Ireland, for example, offers its account holders a loan up to €7,500 at a variable rate of 5.5% with the first 12 months deferred in terms of repayment. Credit unions will also offer students a loan option although this may vary from different local branches. Generally, the loan rate is around 6%.
Springboard courses: Keep in mind there’s a certain number of courses which have no fees. They are subsidised by the state due to shortfalls in employment in these areas. This is something especially prevalent in the IT sector at the moment. For a full list of these courses, check out the springboard website.
Full-time employment, part-time postgrad: In many cases where the advantages of doing a postgrad benefit your employer, they will agree to fund your degree in part. This is particularly true in big graduate employers. Also, the state offers tax relief to those who do postgraduate degrees in a course with tuition fees up to a maximum of €7,000. For more details, see the revenue’s website.
The Irish Research Council: An agency of the Department of Education and Skills, this is the body to go to in terms of getting funding for fourth-level education from the state. Among the schemes the Council runs are the Employment Based Postgraduate Programme, which provides funding for companies to provide high-calibre researchers to work onsite and the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship, which provides funding to suitably qualified research masters and doctoral candidates. Click here for further info.