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 Elaine MacDonald from St. Michael's House to give some advice for people considering this job:

Elaine MacDonald

Psychologist - Clinical

St. Michael's House

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Elaine MacDonald

Make sure you are willing to go the full distance in terms of the time needed to train as a Clinical Psychologist – it’s typically at least six years academic study, and invariably this period is interspersed with work in a relevant field.

Do be as confident as you can that you’re happy being a “listener” and “observer”, as you will spend significant amounts of time in your work life as a Clinical Psychologist being in this role, as well as being in the “do-er” role and being in the limelight.

To have a good ‘fit’ with this career you’ll need to be happy working with people – as individuals on a one to one basis, with groups (e.g. families), and as part of a team in the workplace.

You need to have a good attention to detail as the job needs good observation skills, record keeping, and organisation skills.

Be prepared for learning and self-development to be on-going for the whole of your career because, as a Clinical Psychologist, you’ll be learning and using techniques and intervention approaches that are being constantly developed, and be working in accordance with policies and laws that are also constantly evolving.

The last piece of advice I’d give to someone considering this job is to be as sure as you can that you feel comfortable and even excited at the prospect of your career revolving around people and groups with all the varied, diverse, and unpredictable rewards and challenges that this brings!


Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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Careeer Stories: From Nutritional Sciences to Purchasing

Clíona Irish talks to Smart Futures about her experiences on the Abbott Ireland Professional Development Programme (PDP).

What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?

As part of the PDP programme, which is a two-year graduate programme, I am required to change position every six months. As a result, I must be flexible and able to adapt quickly to changes in my role. Good communication skills are also important as the change in job roles mean I am continuously meeting and working with new people!

I am currently working in the purchasing department and my main tasks include working with suppliers, negotiating better prices and assisting the various departments on site with purchasing tasks. I am also working on several projects that try to improve purchasing processes and procedures. I work closely with other Abbott sites in Ireland to determine what supply chain projects and ideas they have implemented and to see if these solutions would work at our manufacturing site.

Describe a typical day?

Every day I am in contact with various suppliers, evaluating how they can add value to our company in terms of the goods and services they supply us. I also attend meetings with other departments and work on purchasing related projects.

What are the things you like best about the job?

I like that the PDP programme gives me the opportunity to try a new job role every six months. Changing roles like this helps me understand what goes on in the different departments and I can use this to help me decide what area I want to work in long term.

I find working in the purchasing department is a very sociable role. I get to work with many different people, both Abbott employees and suppliers. As there is so much interaction with other people, every day is different. I love this part of the job because it keeps me motivated and prevents my daily tasks from becoming repetitive.

What are the main challenges?

I am not always dealing with people who are working in the site like I am, so it can be difficult to get in contact with them when required. This can result in tasks being delayed which can be quite frustrating, especially when deadlines are due.

Who or what has most influenced your career direction?

As part of my degree I had to complete a six month work placement between 3rd and 4th year. This gave me a great taste of the industry and I knew that when I was finished college I wanted to get back out into the working world to pursue an exciting graduate programme.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

On the whole my job does allow me to maintain the lifestyle I want. As with all jobs, it can be easy to get wrapped up in projects, especially when deadlines are due, and I have to keep a good work life balance in mind at all times. I am willing to put in the long hours when needed, but I make sure to make the most of my evenings and weekends when the work load is not as heavy. My role also gives me the opportunity to travel both nationally and internationally, which is great! I get to see parts of the country/world that I may not get to visit otherwise.

What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?

I studied biology, chemistry, German and business studies for my Leaving Cert. Biology and chemistry in particular were the most influential subjects that guided me to follow a career in science. My guidance counsellor was also very helpful when it came to selecting Leaving Cert subjects and CAO courses.

What is your education to date?

I attended secondary school in Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig and studied Nutritional Sciences in U.C.C. This was a four year degree which I have only recently graduated from.

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

The work placement I completed as part of my degree was very beneficial as it highlighted aspects of working life that I really enjoyed, as well as those I didn’t really like. This was really helpful when I was looking into career paths for after college.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

The PDP programme is open to those who graduate with a science or engineering degree. It requires you to be flexible in terms of job role and location as you are expected to work in three different locations over the course of the two years. These locations are not limited to Ireland and six months abroad is also an option. You must be motivated and willing to work hard to gain as much experience and benefit as you can as each rotation/role only lasts six months.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

As this graduate programme involves rotating through different job roles any work experience you have will be relevant over the course of the programme. Each role typically requires the completion of a large project or a number of smaller projects and therefore any experience in project work is beneficial.

Article by: Smart Futures