CAO time is the time of the year that many teenagers wonder about their destiny in the working world. For anyone who wonders if third-level is an extension of second level – some kind of ordered progression – it isn’t. It is much more than that. For all the hype about the Leaving Certificate, employers don’t look at those results in the way that they look at what the next four to six years will bring. The Leaving Cert is about following a programmed, tightly managed process with lots of supports. You’ve done the grind, now it is time to flourish.
Third level is actually your first job. You are moving away from a managed environment to one where you make decisions that affect you every day. To be successful, you need to treat is as a full-time job, or at least as a busy part-time job. In a few short years, prospective employers will look at your third level results as part of an interview, but they will also be interested in the how and why of you achieving them. Good results will do much towards securing and interview with a prestigious employer, but once the interview starts, they will want to see how you matured, grew and developed in your third-level years. Did you set goals and targets? Did you work equally well alone as you did in group assignments? Did you manage your time well and enjoy college, or was it just an unfulfilling extension of the second level grind?
Employers are interested in how you grew because, unlike those adverts on the radio, past actions can be a guide to future performance. They are keen to spot the potential in people, people who met challenges and solved problems cleverly; people who are ambitious and driven, but mature and measured as well.
College is your first unpaid job, your internship. Make the most of it, build your profile, quantify your achievements. Learn what you are good at and why. Learn about what you enjoy. Take every offer of responsibility that comes your way. Make it an experience that will mark you out as someone special, someone that employers will notice and want to meet when you have your qualifications.
Author: Conor Harty, August, 2017