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!

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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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Niamh Shaw - Science Communicator and Performer

Niamh Shaw is a freelance science communicator and performer. She combines her science expertise with improvisation and story-telling skills.

Niamh Shaw What do you do for a living?
I’m a communicator and a performer. I’m passionate about bringing all that is interesting in science, engineering and technology and telling these stories in new ways.

What’s a typical day like?
There is no typical day! I could be meeting with a science organisation to figure out how to focus on a new area for them, I could be joining a panel discussion or brainstorming on an upcoming event.

Did you always want to be a scientist?
I wanted to be everything when I was very young and I still do! I was always taking things apart and trying to figure out how they worked. There was a scientist and an engineer in there. I’m ridiculously enthusiastic about all sorts of research.

What’s your training and education?
I have a degree in bioengineering from University College Dublin (UCD). It provided me with a solid problem-solving skill-set and gave me a good foundation in lots of different kinds of engineering.

Then I did a research masters in engineering. After this I applied to the UCD food science department and was awarded a PhD position on edible films – biodegradable packaging. Following this I took a postdoctoral research position in the food science and technology department in University College Cork for almost three years.

It was then that I began to explore my artistic side. I took a sabbatical and pursued training in performance.

What’s the coolest thing about your job?
I get to meet fascinating people from all walks of life. It takes me everywhere from seeing cutting-edge industry research facilities to Blackrock Castle Observatory Cork, where I can look at the stars for a few hours. I’ll meet with theatre directors who ask me to research particular areas of science for their work. I’m also learning all the time.

What is the most challenging thing?
It’s freelance so a lot of the time you work on your own. Sometimes it’s extremely busy and at others work is very quiet. It’s not a fixed career path with a monthly wage, which can be challenging.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a career like yours?
If you’re someone like me with two very strong interests where one never dominated the other, they both have to exist; the scientific, technical brain and the artistic, creative brain. That will never go away so pursue both if you can.

Article by: Smart Futures