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Feb 012011
A social network diagram

Image via Wikipedia

    We’ve all read the headlines about the negative impact social media can have on your career, how HR departments are trawling employee profiles on sites like Facebook and MySpace, and how some people have been disciplined or even dismissed because of things they’ve posted to their personal social media accounts.

    What we see less of in the mainstream media (although you’ll see plenty of examples online) is the many ways that having a prominent online profile across a variety of social media sites can actually help your career.

    But if you sit down and think about it for a minute, the fact that online social media can help give your career a boost should come as no surprise. Yes, they can allow employers and prospective employers to find out lots about you… but if you’re looking for a new job, or want to progress in the one you already have, then letting people find you, and letting them see what makes you tick is a good thing! Networking on a professional and personal level has always played a key role in career progression — hence the age-old adage "it’s not what you know, but who you know". That’s just as true today as it was twenty, thirty, even fifty years ago. The difference now is that we all have access to a wide range of free and powerful tools that help us to build a broader, more distributed and infinitely more productive network than was ever possible before.

    Whether it’s connecting with people on LinkedIn, staying in touch via Facebook, or keeping abreast of your network and your industry via Twitter…. online social media tools give you the ability to find, learn from and engage with all sorts of people who can help you, directly or indirectly, with your career.

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Nov 012010
Image by DaveBleasdale via Flickr

What’s the most important part of a typical job application? Is it your CV / Resume? Is it the  years of experience you’ve built up? Is it your unique blend of skills and expertise? The correct answer is none of the above! While all of those things are crucial components of the perfect job application, a really successful application is about getting you invited for interview. The For that, the single most effective weapon in your job-seekers arsenal is your covering letter. Why you need a great cover letter for your job application The term “covering letter” implies that this is perhaps a less important document than the material it accompanies. Not so! You see, when you’re applying for a job, your covering letter is much more than just a note to accompany the enclosed documentation. It is what the recruiter is going to read FIRST. It’s not so much a covering letter, it’s more of a sales letter.

Sell yourself with your covering letter

Your cover letter is the first opportunity you have to really shine… and to impress upon your employer just how perfect you are for the job. It’s worth spending a bit of time getting this right: Continue reading »

Mar 232010

Author Joe Lennon pictured with Prof. Ciaran Murphy, Bank of Ireland Professor of BIS, Patricia Lynch, BIS Director of Placement, and Sean Murphy, Core International, at the launch of his book "Beginning CouchDB" at UCC last night.
Pic Diane Cusack

A Cork technology specialist’s recently launched book is set to help software developers and businesses around the world harness the potential of the internet, and has added an exciting new dimension to an already promising career.

Joe Lennon, a Cork software developer who graduated with flying colours from UCC’s flagship Business Information Systems degree programme in 2007, was approached by New York based publisher Apress to write the book after they read a technical article he’d posted to an online portal run by IBM. The article examined a database system called CouchDB that makes it easier for developers to create web based applications.

Beginning Couch DB -- an introduction to data storage for Cloud Computing"I started writing ‘Beginning CouchDB’ in June 2009 the first draft was finished in September 2009, and the book was published in December" said Joe going on to explain how CouchDB is a new database management system that is steadily growing in popularity and is being used by many large organisations including Apple, IBM, BBC, MySpace, eBay, Meebo and Mozilla.

"As a new technology documentation on the subject is still quite scarce," said Joe. "As a result, it can be daunting for a newcomer to get to grips with CouchDB. ‘Beginning CouchDB’ aims to plug that gap by guiding the reader step by step through installing, configuring and working with CouchDB."

Having an internationally published book under your belt at the age of just 24 is quite an achievement, but Joe is no stranger to doing well. He achieved First Class Honours in each of the four years on the Business Information Systems (BIS) course at UCC, and was awarded a UCC University Scholarship in his third year for his performance in the summer examinations. During the third year Joe also spent 6 months with Fidelity Investments in Boston as part of the BIS Placement Programme, gaining his first real experience of working in IT.

"I learnt about all aspects of software projects working for Fidelity Investments and gained invaluable communication skills from the experience. I also learnt a lot about exactly what it was I wanted to do for a career. I enjoyed being an analyst, but I always felt the urge to go ahead and actually develop the software I was documenting," Joe said.

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Oct 222009
Yotsuba & The Apprentice

Image by Manic* via Flickr

Redundancy is an unpleasant fact of the modern working environment. The concept of a job-for-life is a long distant memory in today’s world of mergers, takeovers, downsizing and organisational “restructuring”.

No matter how secure you think your job is today, things could change radically tomorrow, and, like it or not, the threat of redundancy is very real.

Organisations need to stay competitive in order to survive, and often look to restructure and re-organise in an attempt to minimise costs and maximise efficiency. That process could easily mean that your job becomes surplus to requirements.

Feelings of shock, fear, anger and despair are common when you first hear you’re being made redundant. As emotions jostle for supremacy, it’s easy to lose your sense of perspective. But retaining that perspective is vital if you’re going to come through the trauma of redundancy unscathed.

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Aug 062009
Baltimore west cork

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Like it or not, we live in a world where work dominates our lives. In Ireland today many of us suffer long working hours and tortuous daily commutes that lock us into a seemingly endless cycle. We get up early, we go to work, we come home late, we go to bed. Then we repeat the saga, day in, day out. The irony is that in a desperate attempt to maintain our standard of living, a growing number of us are willing to sacrifice our quality of life.

Surely there has to be a better way.

All over Europe a small but growing number of people are realising that, for them at least, there is. Slowly but surely these enterprising souls are turning their backs on the frantic corporate culture of our cities and instead choosing a new life – a life where they can dictate the pace.

Rural Ireland, and the South West region in particular – with its rugged natural beauty,  scenic coastline and eclectic social mix – is proving an attractive proposition for many of these enterprising exiles.

“The region has always had an open attitude, very much welcoming of visitors and outside influences,” explains Michael Hanley, Chief Executive of the West Cork Enterprise board. “Historically important harbours like Baltimore and Schull meant that there was always an outside influence from the continent,” he said, “and I think people, particularly along the coast, were always welcoming of new influences and different ways of doing business.”

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Jul 272009
Soccer goal

Image by ewiemann via Flickr

Don’t forget to check out 10 Potentially Fatal Career Traits – Part 1.

Last week we took a look at some of the pitfalls to look out for as you plot your course along your chosen career path. In this second article we take a closer look at another five obstacles that could spell trouble, and ways you can navigate your way around them.

  • Not setting clear goals: if you don’t have a destination in mind before you leave, you have practically no chance of ending up where you want to be. Set yourself measurable, achievable objectives and plan your daily activities around reaching them. Manage your priorities and focus on tasks that move you towards your defined goals.
  • Fear of failure: a "can-do" attitude and a willingness to take risks is a must if you want to get ahead with your career. Sitting quietly at your desk, well within your comfort zone won’t get you noticed, and will soon bore you to tears. Challenge yourself, believe in your own ability and embrace opportunities to stretch yourself at work. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes — mistakes are an opportunity to learn, and remember that being risk-averse can be much more damaging to your career than the occasional error.

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Jul 132009
05 Start Work

Image by 2create via Flickr

In the first article in the series we looked at a few of the things you could do before starting a new job to get things off to a flying start. This week we take a look at some things you can do over your first few days, weeks and months to help you settle in and become a valued member of your new team quickly.

  • Pleased to meet you: in an ideal world the person you report to on your first day will introduce you to everyone on your new team. If not, don’t sit back and wait for people to come to you – be proactive and introduce yourself. And don’t forget to smile!
  • Question everything: don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you start a new job you’ll have a lot more questions than answers. Remember that the only stupid question is the one that remains unasked. The quicker you can fill the gaps in your knowledge, the more confident and productive you’ll become.
  • The induction is your friend: formal inductions are usually part of the HR process in larger organisations. In smaller companies this varies, but you should make sure you get some kind of induction into the company, your new job and exactly what it entails. If there’s no formal induction programme in your organisation, try asking if you can shadow someone else on the team for half a day – you’ll learn much more than you will trying to work things through on your own.

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Jul 132009

Image via Wikipedia

Written by Philip Crosbie, The Irish Institute of Chinese Studies, UCC

(Edited for Career Moves by Calvin Jones)

Why on earth would you want to learn Chinese?

A few years ago if you’d mentioned you were going to study the culture and language of the most populous country on earth that would have been a common response. Until relatively recently our only exposure to Chinese culture was a sanitised western version of its cuisine, and kung fu films! China, for many of us, still resonates as a distant frontier, somewhere only the most intrepid of travellers would venture: a mysterious cocktail of very different peoples, alien cultures and a cripplingly complex language.

But open any newspaper, magazine or current affairs website and you can’t help but notice another news story from what has become arguably the most dynamic and fastest changing society in the world. Whether it is culture, politics or economics, China continues to change apace, and its change that has impact on a global scale. Our little island on the periphery of northern Europe may seem a world away, but for the Irish economy and Irish business, change in China really matters!

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Jun 092009
Time for a Career Change

Image by Delkarm via Flickr

Less than a generation ago people tended to spend their entire careers not just in the same profession but in the same organisation. Fast forward a few decades and that position has changed radically.

These days it’s not unusual for people to switch companies two or even three times before their thirtieth birthday. We’ve taken control of our own careers like never before, and it’s opened up a whole new world of opportunity.

Adrian Carty, manager of Brightwater Recruitment‘s Cork offices, has noticed a significant shift in the pattern of career progression over the last five years. He describes the recruitment market in Cork now as “candidate driven”.

“In the dynamic economic climate of the 21st Century, the nature of career management has utterly transformed,” he said. “The onus for career development now lies with the individual and not with the company they work for.”

With some 70% of the Irish workforce reporting that they’re unhappy at work, one of the options we’re looking at more and more is the complete change of career direction. Whether the catalyst for change is redundancy; a major family event or simply a re-evaluation of priorities, values and goals; changing careers has become not just a viable option, but also an extremely desirable one for many of us.

While it’s certainly not something to enter into lightly, if you find yourself unhappy in your chosen career, and would like to explore other options, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you.

Some things to consider before leaping headlong into your new career…

  • Know what you really want from the start: before taking the plunge, analyse what you really want out of your career. Unless you know what it is you’re really looking for, how will you recognise it when you find it?
  • Look before you leap: investigate a number of  prospective fields before making your decision to switch. Remember what seems like a good fit on the surface may be less suitable when you do a bit of digging.
  • Don’t be tempted by trends: be wary of selecting your new direction based on what are currently considered “hot” careers. It’s much more important that the career you choose is something that interests you and motivates you to excel.
  • Make your own decisions: whatever you do don’t let other people choose for you. Talk things through with family, friends, colleagues, peers and advisers – but always remember that this is your career, not theirs, and make the final decision for yourself.
  • Give yourself time: a successful career change can’t be implemented overnight. It takes time. Allow six months to a year or more to make the transition successfully.

Find a career you’re passionate about, and you’ll find yourself achieving more, and enjoying yourself in the process. Studies reinforce the fact that truly successful people do the things they really love. Why not get out there and join them?

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