‘Don’t be afraid to ask questions – ask all of them’
My Career Path: Mary Caffrey, Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment
Mary Caffrey: “It is far worse to sit in ignorance than to appear not to have all the information/answers – because nobody has.”
What/where did you study, and when did you graduate?
I received my undergraduate degree from NUI Galway as an International Bachelor of Arts in French and Sociological & Political Studies, graduating from that in October 2013. I then went on to do an MSc in Sustainable Resource Management: Policy and Practice, which was a joint masters between NUIG and University of Limerick.
What attracted you to your current role/ company/ path?
I’ve always been keenly interested in the environment and its protection. When my primary school announced it would be creating a student-led Green Committee, I jumped at the chance – and I’ve been involved in environmental/climate action in one form or another since then. What attracted me to the Civil Service was that I could pursue my environmental/climate ambitions in a meaningful way whilst providing the security of employment that other such career paths could not offer.
What did you find most challenging about the working world, or the transition from education to the working world?
I suppose one of the biggest transitions when moving from education to the working world is getting used to the accountability. You’re now responsible for more than just your own grade or performance, for example, and the decisions you make have an effect on your team and they can have ripple effects too.
Do you have any mentors? If so, what is their value to you?
I was assigned a mentor almost immediately when I joined the service. It has been great to know that there is always someone there for a coffee and a chat. I’ve found it really useful to know that my mentor is there if ever I have a question, or if I’m trying to work through something, because she has a wealth of knowledge about how things – and people – can operate in the Civil Service.
What is the most valuable thing you have learned since you joined the workforce?
I’ve learned to value my time – which can still be a challenge! – because tasks often take longer than you might expect and if you don’t factor this in to a project at the beginning you will inevitably find yourself stuck. I’ve learned that taking your time to do good work will save you having to fix mistakes down the line. I’m also continuously learning how to strike that perfect work-life balance – if I manage that I’ll let you know!
One piece of advice for new graduates?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – ask all of them. It is far worse to sit in ignorance than to appear not to have all the information/answers – because nobody has. I would recommend getting into the habit of asking questions, when you have them, early on so that it becomes second nature – being curious about your work can only be a good thing!