'It's great to be on the first step'


MY EDUCATION WEEK:Gráinne Quinn, UCD arts graduate, now working in PR in London


It’s important to pick the right seat on the Tube. If you get trapped behind too many people you could arrive to work in a very hot and dishevelled state. I love to people-watch on the Tube in London. You see all walks of life, but I tend to receive more dirty looks than smiles from friendly faces. It’s a big city and people tend to look through you, rather than at you.

I’ve been in London for a few weeks now. I started my graduate programme with a healthcare PR company in July.

When I arrived, the Olympics were in full swing. Everyone in London was in great form and the traffic was light because so many went off on holidays to avoid the crowds. It gave me a false impression of commuting – it’s not usually so fast and friendly – but with the Tube running straight from my flat in Clapham to my job in Covent Garden, I’m not complaining.

I’m glad to be working. Before I got this job my day involved preparing and sending 40 CVs a day to companies in Ireland and the UK. Months and months of it.

At the same time I was working an internship in PR and freelancing for a marketing company. That was round-the-clock career-building – a full-time job while looking for an actual job. It’s great to be finally on the first step of the real thing.


Walking from the Tube station to work is like a walking tour each morning. I pass Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery and the musical district every day. Work is just as lively. I worked in PR before, in previous internships, but never in healthcare. I never pass a new medical term without looking it up. It’s a steep learning curve.

I studied geography and politics in UCD. I never had any plan to go into the area I’m in now; public relations for the healthcare sector.

I took politics because I’m quite opinionated and I like to interact with people but I soon realised that working in politics meant academia or government and I didn’t really feel suited to either. So, when I graduated, I made hundreds of applications for marketing and communications jobs. After about six months, I got this job in London. There are so many other Irish graduates here, in my company and around London. Many of the people I studied with are either here or in Australia.

I might go out tonight. That’s one of the great things about London – there is always something on and somebody out to do it with, any night of the week.

I’m trying to meet as many new people as I can, and not just Irish people, so I go out with colleagues whenever there’s something on and I’ve joined a lacrosse club in Clapham to see if I can meet more girls. I’m currently living with two guys; one English, one American.


Our boss came to work in a shark suit this morning. At lunch I’ll be togging out for the company-wide table-tennis tournament. It’s fair to say that there’s a good buzz around our office. I’m very happy with the job I have landed. However, it wasn’t an easy choice to leave Ireland. I tried my best to get work there, but even the internships that came up would not have paid my way. It’s crazy, people with masters degrees are being expected to work for free in Ireland now.

What hope is there for other graduates? Plus, we’re competing with all the unemployed graduates who came out of college the year before us, and the year before that. Coming to London was my only option, really.

I made hundreds of applications for jobs in Dublin and Waterford, where I’m from, and nothing worthwhile came out of it.

Luckily I did a number of internships during the summers in college.

It was pretty obvious at that stage that the jobs environment was going to be very competitive when I graduated. So I sacrificed the interrailing and the J1 and worked every summer for free. When the crash came, that’s what really put me in gear. It really stood to me because I knew what I was good at by the time I graduated.

The guidance we got at school was pretty dire, to be honest. There wasn’t much on the menu beyond the usual cartoon jobs – doctor, teacher, fireman, nurse. No mention of public relations.


Skyped with my brother in Australia today. Both of my brothers and sister live outside Ireland now, much to my parents’ dismay. It is enraging at times to think of all this talent draining out of Ireland.

So many of my friends are in jobs around the world, waiting out Ireland’s bad period. I really hope it doesn’t last too long for them, especially those who are very far away. At least I’m only a short flight away.

Each day that I come into work I get more of a sense of how dynamic this area is. Healthcare has not been affected by the recession as much as other sectors and I’m dealing with people all over the globe.

I went out to eat in the only Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in Europe this evening. London is heaven for a foodie like me. Not that I can afford to be eating out all the time and certainly not in Michelin-starred restaurants! There are so many costs here that I wasn’t expecting, such as council tax and water rates. We haven’t anything like that at home. Yet.


By the weekend I’m pretty tired from such a full-on week at work. I suppose I should have got an inkling of the level I’d be operating at from the interview process. First there was a full day of interviews and testing. When I got through that I was asked to come back for another round of aptitude tests, interviews with HR and press-release writing exercises. After such a long, exhausting, and dispiriting job search at home it was great to be offered a job in a company with such rigorous standards and an inspiring work culture. I was offered a sales and marketing job on slightly higher pay but this job reflects what I’m interested in now and I wanted to kick off my career in the area where I see myself long term. Working for higher money in the wrong job just seemed to be putting my real career off for even longer.

I’ve had a summer of great London festivals such as Latitude and Bloc, and I’ve some great gigs lined up too, like Bon Iver in November.

Being in London has turned out to be a great opportunity for me. I am sometimes still angry at the thought of all of us leaving Ireland, but I’m happy to say that with my job and this city, I have landed on my feet.

This week I was:

Listeningto M83 and Of Monsters and Men

WatchingDownton Abbey. Thank God it’s back!

ReadingShantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Visitingwebsites, social networking, Reddit

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