Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

We do more than simply survive abroad, we succeed

The recession may have distorted the plans we had when we were young, but that isn’t neccessarily a bad thing – working abroad helps us to become more resilient and more mature, traits we will bring home with us eventually, writes James O’Brien.

Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 01:00

   

The recession may have distorted the plans we had when we were young, but that isn’t neccessarily a bad thing – working abroad helps us to become more resilient and more mature, traits we will bring home with us eventually, writes James O’Brien.

James O'Brien (centre back, wearing a blue shirt) with friends in London

As my generation, born circa 1987, grew up, we were constantly reminded that we were the “golden generation”, highly educated and destined for success. Life was simply about making the right moves. Every action we undertook as a result was a calculated one, another step along our set path. But the advent of the downturn distorted this path many of us had laid out for ourselves.

I struggled to face the reality of having to leave the place I loved in order to find work. In February 2012 I landed in London, glassy eyed, longing for home and irate that the country I loved had failed me. My immediate future was a bastion of uncertainty and my first steps, were in my opinion, bringing me ever closer to the category of “forgotten generation”.

These thoughts I am sure are common, sentiments based on anger. But anger can only sustain you for so long. A time comes when you have to look past this and find a new capital. For me this “new” capital was to be my Irishness.

Irish people have an innate and indecipherable ability that enables us to, no matter where we are in the world, lock eyes with a random person 50 to 100 yards away and say with full confidence “look at the head on them, they’re definitely Irish”. What follows is usually the stock stream of “howerya’s” and “Jesus ya don’t know him do ya?!” Contact is made, a connection is formed and a community is garnered.

My Irishness certainly helped me to settle into London, and has also been beneficial in my professional life. I currently work for an Irish sales company in the UK, a job that I have found demanding, where your success is very much determined by your level of self-motivation. But I have been able to use my Irishness as capital – in my opinion the Irish accent is one of the greatest business networking tools I could have.

To be “Irish” is both a wonderful and peculiar thing. It seems there are no set criteria for entry beyond having an Irish grandparent or two. I have met a huge number of people here who classify themselves as first, second and third generation Irish, all of whom are eager to help when they realise where I am from.

I am enjoying London. I was surprised at how different it is to back home, but different in a good way. The pace of life is a lot quicker and London is much more cosmopolitain. But London is not for me in the long term. Some people seem to think an upturn is on the way at some stage in 2013 so I hope to get back then.

Something that the last five years has taught us is that life is not meant to be calculated and every detail is not meant to be planned. You can do your utmost to give yourself an advantage, by obtaining a degree or trade, but it is impossible to predict what the long-term future holds. We just have to make the most of the situation we are in, and if that means working abroad for a while, then so be it.

We will develop while we are gone, and do much more than simply survive – we will succeed. And when we come to return, we will be more resilient, more mature – traits that will stand to us for the course of our lives.

Have you found your “Irishness” works to your advantage professionally or socially abroad? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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