Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Keith Hayes from Health Service Executive to give some advice for people considering this job:


Keith Hayes

Ambulance / Paramedic

Health Service Executive

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  Keith Hayes
At a minimum get your Leaving Cert, that’s required anyway. But don’t sell yourself short aim for a third level college qualification, something like a science degree. It may not have obvious benefits now but the career is changing direction so fast it could stand to you big time.

Take your time in applying I joined the service when I was 25 yrs old and looking back I think around that age is the right time. When you consider some of the calls we attend and things we may need to deal with, joining at 17 or 18 after the Leaving Cert with little or no life experiences may turn you off because it is very demanding physically, mentally and emotionally.

The Social person's interests focus on some aspect of those people in their environment. In all cases the social person enjoys the personal contact of other people in preference to the impersonal dealings with things, data and ideas found in other groups.

Many will seek out positions where there is direct contact with the public in some advisory role, whether a receptionist or a counsellor. Social people are motivated by an interest in different types of people, and like diversity in their work environments. Many are drawn towards careers in the caring professions and social welfare area, whilst others prefer teaching and other 'informing' roles.
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The Female Mechanic

"You would see the lads thinking I couldn’t do it" - In four years of training around Ireland, Jennifer Tobin didn’t meet another female mechanic or trainee, but she stayed in a career she loves.

It’s a familiar back story for many mechanics: a childhood spent tinkering in the garden with dad, taking apart cars, engines and toys and putting them back together again. A love of figuring out how things work typically begins long before a career. The only thing not typical about this particular story though, is that the child tinkering in the back garden is not a boy, but a girl. 

Tobin’s family recognised that her choice of career was unusual but they always encouraged her to follow her dream. She has two sisters, one who works with special needs children, following in the career path of her mother and the other is a full-time mum.

Tobin takes after her father though, who is a motor mechanic and helicopter technician and always encouraged her interest in machines. “He was always out in the garden fixing things, and I was always there beside him, asking questions and trying to help” explains Tobin. “It all went from there really. I wanted to leave school in fourth year and start an apprenticeship but he made me finish my Leaving Cert, which was obviously the right decision”.

But school wasn’t always easy for Tobin. “Everyone would laugh at me in class. It was something that they’d never really heard of, a girl wanting to become a mechanic. But I was just me”. At 18 Tobin finished school and started her apprenticeship. To start with she had a tough time finding someone to take her on. “I sent out about 20 CV’s to different garages and at first no one would even entertain it. I didn’t get a phone call until a teacher put the word out and finally I got a trial down in White and Delahunty.”

Tobin spent the next four years completing her seven phases of apprenticeship between here, Ballyfermot, Dundalk and Cork Training Centres. She was the only female mechanic in all the training centres she attended, and not once did she meet another woman training for the same job.

This didn’t really surprise Tobin: “I thought maybe there might be one other girl. But no, just me and the lads”. When asked if she was treated differently she says “You would see the lads think I couldn’t do it. They had a girly stereotype in their head for sure. I often felt they were wondering what I was doing there at all”.

At 22, Tobin had received her qualification when the recession hit. “It was awful timing. White and Delahuntys couldn’t keep me on and that was that. The motor industry was hit and I couldn’t find a job as a motor mechanic anywhere.”

Tobin left the trade she had worked so hard to get into and for a few years worked in retail. She was discouraged and says “I didn’t even know if I would get back into it at all. I kept asking myself if it was what I really wanted.” Eventually she decided it was and with the help of a Jobs Bridge programme went back to White and Delahunty, but in a different position. Now she works front of house as a service advisor, a role also normally filled by men.

She enjoys interacting with the customers, and making sure they are happy. She says “Don’t get me wrong, I still love working on cars, I still work on my own and my dad’s, but I also love the customer relations role and dealing with people. I can do both. Because of my experience I know what the technicians are talking about and I am able to explain things to customers really well.” When asked if she feels this is a more female friendly position that she has slipped into Tobin says “Not at all.

Previously I would have never seen a female service advisor, they would always be male. Customers are often really shocked when I explain that I’m a qualified technician and I know what I’m talking about.” Tobin, like many, doesn’t understand why gender roles remain so defined within the motor industry.

She says “Maybe some women feel intimidated because it’s still so male dominated but if I was to meet any woman who felt like that and wanted to become a mechanic I would tell her to just go for it.”

When asked why she chose the profession despite the obvious imbalance she says, “Why not? Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean my knowledge is any different or that I can’t fix a car.”

Full article published in The Irish Times on 19/3/15

Article by: Dominique McMullan