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6 things you didn't know about... my job as a career counsellor

Breda Hegarty on how she helps people find employment (and win promotions).

Image: Shutterstock/Seksun Guntanid

‘AGRONOMY’ AND ‘pharmacovigilance’ are two areas of work that career counsellor Breda Hegarty’s clients have been interested in finding jobs in lately.

(We’ve searched Wikipedia so you don’t have to: agronomy is the science and technology of producing and using plants for food, fuel, fibre, and land reclamation, while pharmacovigilance relates to the collection, detection, assessment, monitoring, and prevention of adverse effects with pharmaceutical products.)

Given the wide-ranging experience and diverse skills her clients have, it might be surprising to learn that Breda works exclusively with people dealing with challenges such as addiction problems and homelessness, and people from marginalised communities.

“There is an assumption that the people I work with are very low-skilled, but my clients have levels of education ranging from primary school to PhD,” says Breda, who runs Business in the Community’s EPIC (Employment for People from Immigrant Communities) and Ready for Work programmes. To date, approximately 70 per cent of her clients have found work or returned to education.

We asked Breda to tell us a little bit more about her job.

I really enjoy working with people; the excitement of meeting new clients and hearing their stories for the first time. I work with people with fascinating histories that have shown tremendous resilience in the face of adversity. It can be a really good reality check at times too. At the risk of sounding clichéd, I learn a lot from my clients. Of course, it is really rewarding when people gain employment or education that they are looking for, but even being able to support people to believe in themselves to take whatever is the next step for them is very satisfying.

The one thing I do every day is treat everyone who sits in front of me in a respectful way. I really listen to their story and reassure them that I’m in their corner – for some people we may be the only real support that they have. I support people to achieve their goals and believe in themselves. I also try to make sure to take a break as the role can be quite demanding.

There just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done. There are always people needing support with applications and interviews and it can be difficult to fit all of that in.

Breda Hegarty Source: Provision

In my first few sessions I think I just lectured the clients, but I realised very quickly that that approach was not going to work. My job now is much more focused on the counselling elements – sitting with the person, letting their story unfold and supporting them to find their own solutions rather than telling them what they should do.

People assume my job is about getting people jobs. I do that to some extent, however it’s more about providing people with the skills and tools to be able to secure their own employment – and I have been very successful in that with approximately 70 per cent of clients going on to find employment or further education. People assume that the job must be very tough – there are days that can be challenging but it’s a wonderful privilege to work with the people that I do.

I tell my clients that, in the case of a promotion, insider knowledge is key. Know how the organisation works, discuss new projects you could start or ideas you would like to implement. it’s not just about what you hope to gain but why you would be a good investment. Speaking about your passion for the company and the role and why you see your future in that company is vital.

Applying for a promotion can be difficult but the chance of reward is always better than the risk of regret.

If you are interested in participating in free employment programmes, please contact Business in the Community Ireland on 01-8743840 / 01-8747232. For more information check out www.bitc.ie

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