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 Brian Macken from Smart Futures to give some advice for people considering this job:

Brian Macken

Science Communicator

Smart Futures

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Brian Macken

I would strongly advise you to do the Masters in Science Communication in DCU. It really gives you a feel for the different kinds of media and ways of explaining things. And it's a good place to make contacts, which is also useful.

I would also recommend that you read science books. Not textbooks, good popular science books are just as useful for this kind of work, as it's already been broken down into simpler language for you. And only read the ones that you're interested in - it shouldn't be a chore to read them.

But I would recommend reading outside your subject area, so if you're into physics, then read some books on biology and vice versa (everyone should read Stephen J. Gould).  However, the more knowledge you have, the more questions you'll be able to answer.

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Not surprisingly, some aspect of the natural sciences will run through the Naturalists interests - from ecological awareness to nutrition and health. People with an interest in horticulture, land usage and farming (including fish) are Naturalists.

Some Naturalists focus on animals rather than plants, and may enjoy working with, training, caring for, or simply herding them. Other Naturalists will prefer working with the end result of nature's produce - the food produced from plants and animals. Naturalists like solving problems with solutions that show some sensitivity to the environmental impact of what they do. They like to see practical results, and prefer action to talking and discussing.
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Trainee - Council of the EU Media Monitoring Department

"What would I recommend to Irish graduates considering applying for an EU traineeship? Don’t be put off by the application form. Just do it." Aileen Donegan, Trainee - Council of the EU Media Monitoring department. 

I studied English and Philosophy in NUI Maynooth and, after graduating, undertook an MA in journalism at DIT.

Shortly after I began writing professionally for websites and newspapers, I realised I wanted a more proactive role in current affairs. Instead of reporting events, I wanted to be someone creating them.

A friend told me how wonderful his 5-month EU traineeship in Brussels had been so I decided to look into it. I applied for a traineeship in the Council of the EU. The application process seemed long and daunting at first, but the time I put into completing the online form was worth it.

A few months after submitting, I had a phone interview and was offered a position. Before I knew it I was packing my bags and flying over to Belgium.

Working as a Trainee 

I worked as a trainee in the Council’s Media Monitoring department for five months. It was a great experience, bringing together all my interests: current affairs, EU politics, media relations and Irish affairs.

Trainees typically work 9.00-5.30pm. Monitoring papers required me to be in a little earlier… 6.30-3.00pm. It sounds terrible, but was actually great! My team and I read various-language newspapers and compiled EU related articles for the cabinet of the President of the European Council.

Every week, as President Donald Tusk met with Heads of State and guests from other countries, I helped to prepare Media Intelligence Reports – short reviews of EU-related news the media in that specific country, which the President drew on before his meetings.

Life in Brussels

Life in Brussels is pretty exciting! Working in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual environment, with young people from all 28 member states was a great experience. The number of Irish people in the EU also surprised me - I never imagined I’d need a “cúpla focail” in Belgium, but you’ll find, along with dozens of Irish pubs, that there are hundreds of Irish people working in the institutions, including many Irish language translators. The Traineeship Office was very helpful in helping me to settle in and the work life balance just about perfect.

What would I recommend to Irish graduates considering applying for an EU traineeship? Don’t be put off by the application form. Just do it. Apply and see. Know what Institution you want to work for. And don’t let your language skill worries stop you from trying! You’re probably much better than you think you are.

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Article by: Aileen Donegan