5 Career Tips
1. Education is a huge deal in Ireland. There is a lot of weight placed on what you studied, where you studied it, and what results you got. The point system, for all its negative points, does have a picture of how various disciplines and colleges are percevied. In some cases, local qualifications may be more appropriate for local companies, whereas larger and global organisations love high-fliers.
If you have a below average leaving cert (less than 2 Cs at higher level) then don't draw attention to your mediocrity by pasting it all over your CV. And there is absolutely no excuse if you want to further your career, for not going back to complete the Leaving if you didn't do it, or failed it. Unless you are over 50, there is a very poor perception about those who left school early. People will make all kinds of assumptions about you if you didn't finish the Leaving, but at the same time there is also a healthy respect for those who go back as a mature student that will cancel out that negativity.
At the same time, there are excellent courses now designed for adults to complete the Leaving. If you don't do the leaving at some point and failed to get any further study, you are more likely to hit deadends in your career, will find it particularly difficult to change career (due to a lack of certified skills) and are very high risk of long term unemployment. Also there is an increasing sense in Ireland that "God helps those who help themselves". If the Leaving is too daunting professional qualifications MAY be open to you. However you might find your options limited.
For example, see the minimum qualifications for an Accounting Technician:
Five passes in the Leaving Certificate (Ordinary Level). Passes must be obtained in English and either Maths or Accounting. For mature candidates, experience will be considered in lieu of the Leaving Certificate."
One would assume that experience would mean book-keeping or accounting experience. However, how is anybody expected to gain that experience as most employers would be very slow to employ somebody with no Leaving Cert to do their book-keeping when they can find those with basic qualifications? Most people without leaving certs will have an uphill battle of getting the required experience for such courses.
Intrestingly, universities are more likely to accept mature students without qualifications, but you'd need to enter a one year access course first. You will however, be more or less excluded from professional courses at the more elite colleges. So don't expect to walk into a course in Medicine or Pharmacy! However some courses, like Social Sciene and most Arts courses, are very open to people with non-traditional backgrounds, and recognise that life experience can compensate in many cases.
The those who have a Leaving but no vocational qualifications there are excellent opportunities especially in industry and catering, for certificates and diplomas. Most of the ITs run 12-18 month courses leading to certificates with work experience and these are great, especially if you have a year or two experience. They are excellent for jobs in factories, and also as a springboard to higher qualifications.
But beware degree and other qualifications. Some of them really are not worth the paper they are written on. (This is coming from somebody who has 1 degree and 3 diplomas in Music and Music education that unfortuantely seem only to indicate to prospective employers that I've got bubonic plague). Others are valuable in certain contexts, but may be very much a disadvantage in certain environments. Irish employers are notoriously prejudiced about qualifications - and for many years there was a particularly pernicious reverse snobbery about degrees, especially in the days when few middle managers had more than a Leaving Cert. This isn't so bad these days, but with a return to full employment a lot of degree-hostile people have climbed the ladder and can be extremely dismissive of well qualified people who they perceive to be a threat. The one place you will never find this is in environments where a degree is expected as the basic qualification.
2. Learn to drive. Mostly employers nowadays see themselves as having no responsibility whatsoever for how employees get to work, and many (expecially outside Dublin) demand unsocial hours without providing transport to ferry workers to and fro. You will be at a major disadvantage if you cannot travel to out of town industrial estates, and it is quite surprising to note that about 90% of Ireland doesn't have a bus or rail service that will get workers to a job in time for a 7am start (never mind going to work on Sunday AT ALL).
A second advantage of having a car is it opens up opportunities for "field" careers, sometimes with generous car allowances.
3. Network. Whether its an evening class, or just going to the pub, a lot of employers use their employees to source prospective new hires. Many reward their staff handsomely for bringing in cvs of friends who are subsequently hired (famously, Dell Bray at one point paid up to £5000 for succesfully hiring a manager!) They can also be a good source of tips for the interview and will give you a good idea of whether or not the place is a good place to work.
4. Don't let the grass grow under your feet. Business needs change rapidly and the hot skill you have today may be completely obsolete tomorrow. If you employer offers extra cash to do exams, there is a strong message there. Don't turn down the opportunity to upskill. It may mean survival next year or in 4 years time.
5. Lastly, always be absolutely professional. A lot of mediocre employers hide behind the facade of processes and common practices. Don't be afraid to break the mould if its making your client happier, and very often its little things that cost nothing that make the biggest difference. NEVER patronise your clients or colleagues, no matter how junior to you they may be. And don't spread office gossip. "The customer is always right" to a large extent still holds. Remember that they pay your wages and losing business is a surefire way to failure. Don't fall into the traps, especially in a negative environment thats already undercut with unprofessionalism.