As a teenager or young person starting your adult life, the choices you make, such as deciding whether to continue your studies to third-level and which college and course to choose, may be based on examples you see around you. For instance, you might think that you wouldn't be able to work at a desk job for 8 hours a day as you don't see examples of this in your life. As a result, you don't understand the rewarding challenges such a professional can face and the little wins that drive them to continuously learn and build new skills in their role, ultimately leading to personal growth and job satisfaction.
BA (Honours) in Human Resource Management student, Caoimhe Kinsella, is a shining example of how seeing the realities of working in a particular area or type of job can change the trajectory of your education journey and career. As you'll see from the story she shares, her expectations changed as she learned more about the opportunities open to HR professionals from those working in the field. She also liked that the course at NCI included a one-year work placement option which is offered to third-year undergraduate students studying some business and computing courses at NCI.
Why did you choose to study at NCI?
From a young age I knew that I wanted to work with people in some sense. I had convinced myself that I would be a social worker and that working in an office 9 to 5 was a death trap. How wrong I was! During my TY work placement, I had the opportunity to work with the HR department in Deloitte. My reluctance in the beginning very quickly changed to excitement and curiosity.
In the blink of an eye, I was in 6th year making my CAO choices. The choice ultimately came down to what I wanted to do and where I would get the best experience. As an 18-year-old, I battled with the decision my 16-year-old self-had made after a TY placement. I decided to bite the bullet and give HR a chance. Fortunately, we knew some individuals already working in HR in various organisations, and 95% of them expressed that if my interest was in a role within HR then NCI was the place to go. The BA in HRM in NCI was very specific to HR, unlike the other courses I was considering. The cherry on top was the opportunity to do work placement in between my second and final year. The idea that I would complete my degree in 4 years with HR office experience was a no brainer compared to nearly 5 years in social science with a specialty in HR but with no experience.
You completed your work placement with Davy Group. Firstly, can you tell us about the recruitment process and the support you received from the Careers Team?
The support I received from the Careers Team was outstanding. Due to Covid, there weren’t many organisations offering work placements as they couldn’t predict or guarantee work. I very quickly began to think the worst as the opportunity to do a placement was one of my key reasons for choosing NCI. Covid had already taken away so much of my college experience as it hit early in semester 2 of my first year. I had doubts that I had chosen the wrong course and that I wasn’t suited to a career in HR.
"The Careers Team helped build up my confidence when applying for work placement roles."
The Careers Team did everything they could for us. We had CV and LinkedIn building workshops and mock interviews with outside employers. While I started to feel discouraged, the team still made me feel hopeful and helped me build back my confidence.
It was early June when Caroline Kennedy, Head of NCI's Careers Team, told me about the opportunity in J&E Davy. I had grown up knowing Davy so was instantly intrigued. Once my CV was sent off, it wasn’t long before I was invited to my first interview over Microsoft Teams. The conversation felt like a chat with old friends. I knew straight away that I wanted to join the team. By the end of the week, I was invited to my second interview. I remember coming out of the interview, running to my nan in the kitchen and telling her ‘it was the worst interview I've ever done in my life!’. Looking back on it now, my reaction was probably a bit dramatic because not even an hour later I received a call from the Senior Recruiter offering me the position.
What did you learn during your work placement?
I truly think I could write a book on the lessons I learned during my placement. Not only did I learn more about the vast world of HR, but I learned a lot about myself as an individual.
Davy experienced a huge change in my year there. We often only heard about huge organisational changes during classes but seeing this change in action was amazing. Change is inevitable and can be difficult to navigate. The change in culture being the most difficult. Seeing firsthand how change was managed in Davy was second to none. The amount of thought, care, blood sweat and tears that was put into the process taught me many things. It taught me the importance of teamwork, reflection and limits.
"You learn some of the most important lessons about yourself while on work placement."
I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of HR in Davy. From ordering Taxsaver tickets to participating in large projects, nothing was ever too small or too much. There were times when I had to take a step back and realise that I couldn’t physically do it all. Sometimes saying yes to one project means saying no to another. Learning my own limits and knowing when to ask my team for help was one of the biggest lessons.
A lot of the things I learned on placement are typical things such as enhanced communication skills, multi-tasking skills, and organisational skills. While they are equally important, the lessons you learn on placement about yourself are the some of the most important ones to learn.
This placement gave me confirmation that my 16-year-old self-had made the right decision to study HR, and that my 20-year-old self had the right decision in joining Davy. It's not often that someone can say they feel a sense of belonging about their place of work, but I can truly say it about Davy and the people that I have been very fortunate to work with and even just know.
Can you share some insights into studying HRM at NCI?
HRM in NCI is fantastic. While we are mixed in with business for most of 1st and 2nd year, it does give a good understanding to the way organisations work. The HR specific modules are brilliant, and the lecturers are experts in their field of knowledge.
As NCI is a small college, it allows you to build relationships with your lecturers. Nothing is ever too much and the support I have received from some lecturers over the years has been exceptional.
Do you have any advice for someone who is considering their college choices at the moment?
Bite the bullet and take a chance. College isn’t for everyone and that is absolutely fine. If you want to go travelling first, do it. If you’re considering a PLC first, do it. One thing I learned while on placement was that your degree or qualification isn’t the be all and end all. You can change your mind and that is ok.
As the oldest in my family, I felt that there was an expectation to go to college to set an example. I now see that the expectation was to do what made me happy regardless of what path that was, not to just go to college.
It’s very difficult to ask an 18-year-old what they want to do with their life. At that age, we don’t all have a world of experience. The decision you make at that age isn’t it forever. You can go back to college at any age in your life and that is absolutely fine.
As long as you make the decision for you then that is all that matters.
Finally, what’s next for you and your career?
Right now, it’s to get through my final few weeks in one piece and to make the most of it with my friends! The continued support from Davy makes these last few weeks so much easier. After that I have nothing 100% set. If the pandemic taught me anything, it’s that you can’t make predictions. Sometimes we just need to live in the moment. I can see myself travelling in the next few years but for now I’m very happy with where I am.
Caoimhe is studying the BA (Honours) in Human Resource Management at NCI. This is a full-time, undergraduate degree which second-level students can apply to join through the CAO. If you have questions about any of our undergraduate degrees or student life at NCI, register for our Spring Open Day to attend sample lecturers, tour our campus, meet students and more.