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Careers clinic: Playing for Ireland (how I got off the Live Register)

One man tells his story of losing a job after working consistently all his life – and how he did everything to get stuck back in… even with an income cut of €25,000.

PAUL O’NEILL has worked all his life, and never expected to be on the Live Register – and when he found himself there, he fought hard to get off it again. It has taken him seven months, but next week he’s back in gainful employment. Here’s his story.

I’m back to work next Tuesday after seven months on the Live Register. I lost my job in the bar and restaurant business in early August 2011. I saw it coming a mile off, so it wasn’t that hard to take – anyway, I was looking forward to spending some time with the kids before they went back to school.

First vacancy I applied for was my dream job: I got the call in late August. I felt I’d nailed the interview and I waited for the callback…and waited, and waited. I rang the agency to see how I had come across…no problems, ideal candidate, very happy, what they had expected. But, somebody better had applied and the job was going to that person.

That was a BIG wake-up call. It was then I realised this could be a tricky return to gainful employment.

The last seven months, how did I cope?

First off, I went back to the agency and quizzed them about positives and negatives, just looking for something to work on, something to fine-tune. Was my CV up to scratch? “Ah, yes, your CV. Don’t touch it. It got you the interview.” (The best €100 I’ve ever spent, that CV.)

I signed up to a number of on-line recruitment sites and checked my daily e-mails. Sending a job application before 8.30am is a great start to any day. I uploaded my CV onto LinkedIn, and followed a few groups. I was always curious to see who was looking at my profile.

I did a bit of networking and re-engaged with some old friends. I registered with FÁS.

My second job interview came in late September. No luck.

Paul O’Neill

I do the notes and results in the paper for my local club. A thankless job unless you love it. People notice how accurate you are, always up to date and funny at times. I attended meetings on behalf of the club… you get your mileage and, again, you are constantly networking.

I signed up on the JobBridge scheme – show a future employer what I’m made of, that was my motto. To cut a long story sideways, I saw an opportunity and grabbed it. I’d organise a public event that would build my profile. This project would get me through November and December and I’d be laughing.

The project didn’t materialise but the experience was invaluable…new contacts, new experiences, mistakes that only I knew about. The sympathy that I received when you had to pull the plug was a little strange because I saw all the positives and none of the negatives. In my mind, there were no negatives: I was moving in the right direction.

January arrived and the hard decisions had to be made. A job waiting tables came my way. From earning €42,000 down to €17,000 seems a big fall: €50 more than my combined weekly benefits. But I want to play for Ireland, so give me that green jersey and let’s get stuck in.

I start next Tuesday. I’m buzzing. By the way, I’ve had five employment contacts in the last 72 hours. It must be spring!

As told to Liam Horan of TheJournal’s resident careers guru, he’s always keen to hear your stories. Sli Nua Careers hold a free online CV workshop every Monday evening (6-7pm). Do this from the comfort of your own home – all you need is access to the internet. Read more here.

Read: Previous Careers Clinic columns>

Column: Stay positive, keep moving – the advice YOU gave me>

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