‘Stepping into the working world was a notable jump’
My Career Path: Liam O’Connell is a Jameson brand ambassador based in Australia
Liam O’Connell: The most valuable thing I have learned in recent years is the importance of continuous self-development.
What did you study and when did you graduate?
I studied BSc Food Marketing & Entrepreneurship in University College Cork, graduating in 2018.
I thoroughly enjoyed this course and would recommend it to any prospective UCC student. It sparked a real interest for me in food and drink innovation, entrepreneurship and marketing which ultimately led me to the Jameson Graduate Programme.
What attracted you to your current role?
I remember attending the UCC Careers Fair where I visited the Jameson Graduate Programme stand and had a great chat with a graduate on the programme, Kevin O’Neill, who is current brand ambassador for Sweden and now a good friend. He spoke with great knowledge and passion about the brand and the opportunities the programme provided.
A few weeks later, I was invited to attend the annual Jameson Insights Day in Irish Distillers Head Office, Dublin. I spent the day with fellow students meeting the graduate team and brand ambassadors on the programme. The day gave a great insight into the company culture at Irish Distillers and the opportunities the Jameson International Graduate Programme offers to kickstart your career in marketing.
That day was a very enjoyable experience and cemented in my mind that I wanted to work for Irish Distillers and the Jameson brand. I started my application on the train back to Cork that very day!
What challenges were presented by the transition to the working world?
Personally, the main challenge I faced during the transition from college to the corporate world was getting used to the fast-paced nature of the working world and the fundamentals of my role as a brand ambassador.
While my final year in college was a very busy one balancing both study and sporting commitments, stepping into the working world was a notable jump. A big part of this was the level of autonomy I was given in my role as the Jameson brand ambassador. In my first year on the programme my role was predominantly field-based working with the trade across Cork, Limerick, Galway and later Dublin.
Initially I found it challenging understanding how to best manage my time and how to balance different projects and work priorities. Thankfully, there was the right level of support provided from my team in Irish Distillers when I needed it.
While challenging at first, this experience was valuable. The graduate programme empowers us to learn on the job through its “Distill Your Own Success” development programme which I am very grateful for. There are a range of hard and soft skills I cultivated during my first year on the programme when based in Ireland and that I continue to build upon now in my second placement where I’m based in Australia.
Do you have any mentors? If so, what is their value to you?
My parents most definitely. I am very lucky to have two caring and supportive parents who are always there for me. My father is someone I look up to for many reasons but particularly his work ethic. He has always given me great guidance in both career and general life when called upon. My mother is an amazing person and a constant support who will usually tell me I’ve done great even if that’s not the case! The support and encouragement is always welcome.
In addition, I have had the opportunity to play rugby surrounded by some great coaches and team-mates in recent years. Together they have helped instil values such as discipline, honesty and teamwork which I carry with me in both my personal and professional life.
What is the most valuable thing you have learned since you joined the workforce?
The most valuable thing I have learned in recent years is the importance of continuous self-development. As a student starting off in college or a young professional joining the working world, it can be easy to think that your career path or potential are fixed, which is certainly not the case.
Personally, coming to the realisation that there is constant room for improvement has been massively exciting. The Jameson International Graduate Programme places an emphasis on continuous self-development. I truly believe if you can develop a mindset to approach each day as an opportunity to grow and learn something new, the possibilities are endless.
What is one piece of advice you would offer new graduates?
As a new graduate you will not be short of advice coming from friends, family, lecturers and prospective employers. The best piece of advice I have been given that has stuck with me is to take the time in your role (and beyond) to actively listen and learn. Get comfortable with asking questions and never lose your inquisitive nature.
Through constant listening and learning this will greatly aid your ability to perform well. Once you begin to perform this will naturally gain the trust of your team-mates and you can begin to influence decisions. At this point you are earning real credibility and can continue to grow within your team.
How has Covid-19 affected your working life?
From a work perspective, the global pandemic has had a drastic influence on my role. As a brand ambassador I am used to living life “on the go”, spending time in trade, building new relationships and seeking various opportunities for the brand.
I am currently based in Sydney, Australia, and during the period of lockdown with bars and restaurants shut, I had to think outside the box when it came to trade engagement. Luckily, I work as part of an incredibly supportive and high-performing Jameson brand team who are responsible for the Pacific region.
There was no shortage of exciting projects to put my hand up for and in all honesty this period has been very beneficial for me. I have had the opportunity to learn new skills, work cross-functionally, network within the wider business and improve my experience relevant to the next step I want to take in my career.
From a personal standpoint, while I have not underestimated the severity of the situation, I have enjoyed taking the time to sit back, slow down and reflect over the Covid period. Having the opportunity to read a few more books, cook something new and set some goals for the “new normal” has been refreshing.