Many of us did it over the years, and many are still doing it: leaving our west of Ireland homes to travel elsewhere on this island or overseas for study and work.
COVID-19, however, has changed the landscape. Opportunity knocks. The potential to stay local either for study or work, or both, has never been greater – an unexpected benefit of the pandemic thus far and one that is set to expand in the years ahead.
Of course, this should be a personal decision – not an obligation. I spent my college time in Dublin, and I have never regretted it – it was the only place at the time where my chosen course was available.
If that course had been available fully online, would I have preferred to stay in my Mayo base? Not at all. There were many benefits to attending the course in a physical location – getting to know my fellow students, building contacts in my chosen field and a chance to strike out into the adult world.
However, if the course had been available partly online and partly in person, might I have availed of that? There's a strong possibility I would have.
Were there others in my college class who would have opted for a fully online course if it had been available? I imagine there were. Different strokes for different folks.
There are other complicating factors now as well, not least the diminishing availability and rising cost of accommodation in cities. What remote work and study has shown is that there are more ways of achieving your goals than through the old traditional methods.
Apart from wearing my Slí Nua Careers hat, I work with the Western Development Commission, who run the westernjobs.ie website. This site is dedicated to promoting jobs in the Atlantic Economic Corridor stretching from Donegal to Kerry. The pandemic has revealed the large numbers of people who wish to work in the west – some because they're from here, and others because they want to escape from a different setting, generally large cities.
“COVID-19 has broken the link between a job and where it's based. It has also made employers aware that many, many roles can be done remotely. This will allow people to improve their quality of life and base themselves in the west, in a current or new role and build a career. ” said Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO of the Western Development Commission.
I am sure you have read people make the point that in years to come we will wonder how we ever travelled so far, at great inconvenience to ourselves, just to pursue our careers. You've heard about the great resignation. COVID-19 has also occasioned a great reset, as outlined above.
“COVID-19 has accelerated a trend that was already emerging. There is now a growing number of companies who advertise jobs on a remote-first basis, which is a fundamental shift,” adds Tomás.
“Retaining talent will be – indeed, already is – a major challenge for many companies. To retain talent, organisations will have to make a conscious decision to embrace a remote or a hybrid model and work at it. Many companies around the world are learning how to approach and manage a hybrid model and those that succeed will find it easier to attract and retain talent with a flexible approach.”
Not every job in the world will go this way, but a significant amount will – today's Leaving Cert. students will have the greatest array of choice on this front of any generation we have ever seen.
Perhaps some of today’s 18-year-olds will tell the following story when they're 40: “I had a blended college life, where I went to the college once a week, or for a full semester at a time, and I got a job that allowed me to live anywhere. As it happens, I chose initially to live near the company so that I could get to know my colleagues and because I wanted to be in a city setting.
“However, when I settled down, I moved back home. I was keen to rear my children in a rural environment and my partner is from the same area. I brought the job with me, and all the contacts I had built up previously were still available to me. Thanks to technology, I was able to do a predominantly online Masters in my mid 30s. I feel like I've had the best of both worlds.”
Does amount to a clear exhortation to you, today's Leaving Cert? Not really. Everybody's path will be different. All I would say is to remain alert to the opportunities. Oh, how I'd love to be 18 again – the world truly is your oyster.
Slí Nua Careers (www.SliNuaCareers.com ) offer a full online service. Their services include CV preparation, interview training, public speaking and presentation skills, and career direction. For more details, visit www.slinuacareers.com/galway-office Email your questions to [email protected].