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Looking for the next step in your career? Here are four tips to make it happen

It is a candidate’s market now, not an employer’s market, writes Jackie Slattery.

UNLESS YOU’VE BEEN living under a rock for the past decade, you’ll know the recession hit Ireland pretty hard. Who can forget those mornings – they seemed never-ending – when the news headlines were just one long blur of bank bailouts, redundancies, and reluctant emigrants?

At the time, thousands of people had no choice but to take jobs for which they were over-qualified. Thousands more left – seeking work in countries where their skills and experience would be appreciated.

It was a pretty bad period to be an ambitious young professional in Ireland.

We’re not out of the woods yet, and the impact of the recession will definitely be felt by many for quite some time to come. But the good news is that, in certain sectors, the tide has most definitely turned.

This week, the global analytics firm SAS announced it would create 150 jobs in Dublin over the next three years. A few weeks earlier, leading biotech company Amgen announced an investment of €300 million in Dún Laoghaire. Go back a bit further, and there were announcements from financial services leader Pramerica (330 jobs for its Letterkenny base), online fashion platform Zalando (200 jobs for its new Fashion Insights Centre in Dublin) and taxi app giant Uber (300 jobs for Limerick).

Thanks to companies like these – and more – highly-skilled professionals are now very much in demand. In fact, in recent times, the tables have somewhat turned: instead of candidates feeling they must accept the first job they’re offered, if they have the right skills-set, they can pick and choose the most attractive roles.

In the tech, biopharma and financial services sectors, gone are the days when thousands of candidates competed for a few coveted roles. Instead, it is the employers who are now competing – in the current “war for talent”.

Balance of Power 

This shift has resulted in some interesting changes for those of us with an interest in the jobs market. It is a candidate’s market now, not an employer’s market: candidates with the right skills have the balance of power, and employers have to pull out all the stops to attract and retain them.

Unsurprisingly, this has made highly-skilled professionals somewhat choosier about where they work. It is no longer enough for companies to just offer a decent salary and a nice office. They must also provide meaningful opportunities for progression; exciting work; and a company culture that resonates with employees, and matches their values and outlook on life.

Another interesting trend is that Ireland is becoming a magnet for international talent. Because so many tech giants have established their European headquarters here, our workforce is becoming more and more globalised. Not only are Irish emigrants returning home to pursue new opportunities, we’re also seeing professionals from all over Europe, Asia and America moving here to work.

So what does this mean if you’re in the market for a new job or looking to progress your career? If you’re after a role in tech, biopharma or financial services, the following pointers may be of use:

1. Have a global outlook. Employers are increasingly seeking candidates with experience of living and working abroad, foreign language skills, and the capacity to operate successfully in multicultural environments.

2. Build good networks. Your professional network can be your most valuable asset, leading to job opportunities, business referrals and rapid career progression. And it has never been easier to network, whether that’s through grassroots meet-ups, formal business events, or the clever use of social media. 

3. Keep abreast of new developments. Technological developments, in particular, are impacting on every economic sector. Banking, for example, has been revolutionised, with traditional financial institutions now placing a heavy emphasis on areas such as digital innovation and data analytics. 

On a related note, recognise that digital skills are now highly sought after across multiple sectors. It’s not just the tech sector that employs people with these skills: pharmaceutical companies, engineering firms, retail giants and banks all need techies too!

4. Be selective about where you work. If you do have skills in technology, science, engineering and related fields, now is a really exciting time. Don’t rush into accepting a job because you’re offered a flashy package. Think carefully about what you want from your workplace, and which company can offer you that. Remember, these days, the power is in your hands!

I’m not naive enough to think every recession-related problem has been solved, or every person in Ireland has the opportunity to find a job they love. But I do believe it’s a good time now for skilled professionals. Some of the most exciting employers in the world are operating in Ireland – and some of our indigenous companies are doing hugely ambitious things.

If you have the right skills-set and you’re motivated and enthusiastic, it’s a good time to think about what’s next for your career.

Jackie Slattery is Director of Career Zoo, Ireland’s leading professional recruitment and networking event. The tenth Career Zoo takes place tomorrow, Saturday, 12th September, in The Convention Centre Dublin. For the full schedule, and to register, go to

Read: In the wrong job? Here are 6 tips on how to successfully change career>

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