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 Donal Og Cusack from Sustainable Energy Authority to give some advice for people considering this job:

Donal Og Cusack

Automation/Energy Engineer

Sustainable Energy Authority

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Donal Og Cusack
Some of the best people I know still aren’t sure what they want to do, my advice would be to give it a go. If you don’t like it you can always try something else. Whatever is in your heart follow it, don’t be something just because someone in your family is. Whether you’re looking to be a leader, a designer or come up with new ideas and a better way of doing things, make sure it’s something that fills you with passion.
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Enterprising people like situations that involve using resources for personal or corporate economic gain. Such people may have an opportunistic frame of mind, and like commerce, trade and making deals. Some are drawn to sales and marketing occupations. Many will eventually end up owning their own business, or managing a section in larger organisations. They tend to be very goal-oriented, and work best when focused on a target. Some have an entrepreneurial inclination.
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Seconded National Expert - European Commission

"The great thing about working in innovation is that the field is wide open and seeking out new things is very much encouraged." Ciara Phelan, Seconded National Expert - European Commission. 

I studied maths and economics in University. After graduating in 2007, I joined the civil service and took up a position in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. My work there involved engaging with the EU institutions and I always thought that Brussels would be a fascinating place to work.



When the opportunity to participate in the National Expert in Professional Training (NEPT) Programme arose in 2013, I applied for a five month placement in the Cabinet of the then Irish Commissioner Maire Geogehan Quinn.

I had a great experience there and really enjoyed both living in Brussels and working in the Commission on research and innovation. Towards the end of that programme, a longer-term secondment opportunity became available as a policy officer in the Commission’s Directorate for Research and Innovation (DG RTD).

My NEPT experience, along with my policy work in Ireland helped me secure that role. The support of my managers in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, who released me to apply for the secondment, was crucially important here too.

A Typical Day 

There’s no typical day in Brussels – that’s the beauty of working here. Day to day, my role often involves preparing briefing or speaking points for our Commissioner and Director-General. This could include conducting background research on innovation in, for example, the country the Commissioner is visiting.

I’m also involved in longer-term policy development, consulting with stakeholders to develop new research policy and concepts and teasing them out to see if they are useful and workable.

The great thing about working in innovation is that the field is wide open and seeking out new things is very much encouraged. Since we're so aligned to research there is a culture of respecting the scientific method and using rigour in our thinking and work. As a recovering nerd I find that very satisfying!

If you’re considering applying for an EU post, my advice would be to go for it! Don’t be put off by the language requirements or think that you need to have a degree in European Studies to apply.

Those already in the public service could consider applying for an NEPT placement, as I did, or making their Departments aware that they’re interested in longer term secondments. For recent graduates, the obvious starting point is to do a traineeship or ‘stage’. Many stagiaires go on to secure employment in the institutions directly after their stage.

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Article by: Ciara Phelan