Doing better than expected need not be the end of the world

Getting way more than what you expected in the Leaving Cert. needn’t be the end of the world. Just because you got top marks doesn’t mean you have to opt for an ‘air is thin up here’ course.

The key to career happiness and fulfilment lies in pursuing a career that excites, energises, drives, inspires [insert whichever power verb you fancy here].

This applies regardless of your results in the Leaving Cert. There is a tendency to assure disappointed students that the world is still their oyster – but we need to be careful about how we handle the race to the top, too.

A college registrar once made the following perceptive point to me: “I love to see students with 550 points enrolling on courses for which they only needed 450 points – I know they’re doing the course they really want to do”.

Working in career development, I meet people all the time who regret they didn’t follow their instinct or gut. They come to me in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and even 60s trying to get on the right path.

All because they made the wrong decision, often for the following reasons:

They got the points for a high-flying course, so they did it;

Their parents wanted them to be a teacher, so they taught;

Their friends were going to college in Galway and the crack would be good, so they followed;

They didn’t take the time to really think about their strengths and their passions – and how those might be best deployed in the career of their choice. And so they rambled into something, eyes wide shut.

The trick for young people now facing into senior cycle is to first find the career domain that actually suits them.

Communications? Community? Hospitality? Science? Retail? Animal? Languages & Culture? Computers & IT?

Think not of specific courses, but of domains. Once you’ve settled on the domain, the quest to find the right course becomes easier.

In my case, communications was my thing. Fortunately, I knew that all through school – and, indeed, my heart was set on journalism from as far back as I can remember. This led me to study journalism: and any career moves I have made since then have built on my communications training and experience.

If I had gone for civil engineering, for example, I would have spent an unhappy career grinning and bearing it – or many years trying to reverse out of it and into a more appropriate domain. And the country would have a lot of dodgy bridges.

So while I no longer work full-time in journalism, the overall domain – communications – that I chose was the right one for me.

In a week when all the talk is about results and courses, it is important to speak up for something more fundamental. Help your sons and daughters to find the domains that suit them: you will be doing them a great favour.

Shoe-horn them into something else, and you are storing up trouble.

At Sli Nua Careers, we have devised a unique online system that assists students and their families as they try to make informed career decisions. The free Outline Career Report generated by our system can be used for follow-up meetings with the career guidance counsellor in your school, for example. To learn more:

Sli Nua Careers ( ) have offices in Galway (Patricia Maloney, 091 528883 ), Mayo (Ballinrobe, Claremorris and Castlebar ), Limerick, Sligo, Nava, Cork and Athlone. Their services include CV preparation, interview training, job-searching strategies, public speaking and presentation skills, and career direction. For more details, visit



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