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 Fergus O'Connell from BioPharmachem Ireland to give some advice for people considering this job:

Fergus O'Connell

Quality Officer

BioPharmachem Ireland

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Fergus O'Connell
A broad science background is very important. An ability to recognise small inconsistencies is equally important. For example do you recognise small discrepancies between different camera shots of the same scene in films and TV series?

An ability to question everything and think laterally is important. Also the ability to say 'no' (not everyone is comfortable doing this). Working in quality is not about being popular and definitely not about being a tyrant but one needs to be approachable, consistent and have good interpersonal skills.

Not all of your decisions are going to be popular but they need to be based on a sound rationale and you need to be able to support them. One also needs to be acutely aware of the fact that your opinion won't always be right.

One must always be open to being convinced of an alternative argument.
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Creative?
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Creative people are drawn to careers and activities that enable them to take responsibility for the design, layout or sensory impact of something (visual, auditory etc). They may be drawn towards the traditional artistic pursuits such as painting, sculpture, singing, or music. Or they may show more interest in design, such as architecture, animation, or craft areas, such as pottery and ceramics.

Creative people use their personal understanding of people and the world they live in to guide their work. Creative people like to work in unstructured workplaces, enjoy taking risks and prefer a minimum of routine.
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Gifted/Exceptionally Able
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Gifted/Exceptionally Able

In general, a gifted, talented or exceptionally able child is defined as "having potential in one or more areas that would place him/her in the top 2 to 5% of children of the same age". The key indicator of a gifted child is one who learns things a little earlier, a little faster, a little better, a little differently.

A child can be both exceptionally able in one area, but also have a disability, i.e. Asperger Syndrome or Dyslexia. This is referred to as 'dual exceptionality' (Ref. GiftedKids.ie).

The range of characteristics identified for the gifted and talented child includes:

  • Keen powers of observation
  • Learnt to read very early, often before school age
  • Reads widely and rapidly
  • Well developed vocabulary - takes delight in using unusual and new words
  • Has great intellectual curiosity
  • Absorbs information rapidly - often called sponges
  • Very good memory - can recall information in different circumstances
  • Has the ability to concentrate deeply for prolonged periods
  • Very good powers of reasoning and problem solving
  • Has intense interests
  • Possesses unusual imagination
  • Has a great interest in "big" questions, e.g. the nature of the universe, the problem of suffering in the world, environmental issues
  • Very sensitive - perhaps gets upset easily
  • Very concerned about rights and wrongs, and injustices

 (Ref. Centre for Talented Youth, Ireland (CTYI) cited at GiftedKids.ie)

Many gifted students achieve academically and are engaged in learning. They may possess exceptional abilities, but most cannot excel without assistance. They need assistance both academically, and emotionally, through understanding, acceptance, support and encouragement. The unmotivated gifted student is often seen as a problem student, with behavior and learning issues.

The Education Act, (1998) makes provision for the education of all students, including those with a disability or other special educational need. ‘Special educational needs’ are defined in the Act as referring to the needs of students who have a disability and the educational needs of exceptionally able students.’ However, a more recent act, the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, (2004) in its reference to disability does not explicitly refer to exceptionally able students (Ref. CIDREE Report, March 2010).

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is the organisation responsible for advising the Minister for Education on curriculum and syllabuses for students with a disability or other
special educational needs. NCCA recognise gifted, or exceptionally able children, as a special needs category and has developed draft guidelines for teachers of exceptionally able students. Because these students learn and think differently from other students, they may require supports such as programme modifications to accommodate their advanced abilities to learn. 

Six profiles of exceptionally able students are identified by NCCA:

  • The Successfuls
  • The Challengings
  • The Undergrounds
  • The Dropouts
  • The Double Labeled
  • The Autonomous Learner

These profiles are explained in detail in the NCCA guidelines('Exceptionally Able Students - Draft Guidelines for Teachers' available here). 

Learning Tips and Support strategies

  • Provide appropriate academic challenges
  • Create opportunities to feel connected, less isolated
  • Acceleration – Students can be accelerated across the year or within subjects
  • Curriculum Differentiation – creating extra tasks to extend or stretch the student beyond wht the others are studying; richer, more challenging activities
  • Mentoring/cross age tutoring – matching younger or older students with similar interests/abilities to enhance learning of both
  • Independent Negotiated Programs – student interest and skills determine the scale and scope of the project
  • Competitions – individual, team, internal, external e.g BT Young Scientist

These and other /teaching/learning strategies are outlined in detail in CCEA report 'Gifted and talented children in (and out) of the classroom' (available here)

Achievement and Career Progression

Making career choices is challenging for all students, and it can be particularly overwhelming for the gifted/exceptionally able student, who experiences multiple interests and abilities. This in turn opens up many, potential career paths, leading to numerous choices and decisions. 

The ability and capacity "to do anything" can be confusing. It can become an obstacle to setting and achieving goals, or make the student feel that they will disappoint others, because no matter which career path is chosen, there is always a "road not taken". All these thoughts and fears add a further layer of difficulty for the gifted/exceptionally able student. 

Gifted/exceptionally able students often have had very specific goals in mind from an early age, but because they were young, and were not taken seriously, they lose faith in those ambitions.

Other students downplay their giftedness by lowering their academic achievement and their career aspirations. 

It is suggested that instead of focussing on multi interests and abilities, career planning with gifted students can benefit from exploring their values, life-goals and hobby/ leisure activities as a basis for career decision-making.

References:

Canadian Journal of Counselling 'Career Counselling and the Gifted'   

CTYI: Why should we identify gifted children



Useful Links
NCCA - National Council for Curriculum and Assessment 
Curriculum Provision for Exceptionally Able Students: CIDREE Project
SESS - Special Education Support Service - Exceptionally Able 
SESS operates under the remit of the Teacher Education Section (TES) of the Department of Education and Skills to provide a range of knowledge and skills for those working with pupils with Special Educational needs.
IGGY 
Uk Social network site started by the University of Warwick in 2008 to help gifted young people between the ages of 13-18 realise their full potential. Members have access educational resources and apps including a careers hub.
European Council for High Ability 
A communications network to promote the exchange of information among people interested in high ability – educators, researchers, psychologists, parents and the highly able themselves.
Gifted and talented children in (and out) of the classroom (SESS, 2006) 
A report from the CCEA which looks at what it means to be Gifted/Talented in and out of the classroom. Includes an appendix list of extra-curricular activities and enrichment ideas for stimulating and challenging Gifted/Talented students.
SESS - Special Education Support Service 
Brief description of Exceptionally Able from the Department of Education's Special Education Support Service.
World Council for Gifted and Talented Children 
Worldwide non-profit organization that provides advocacy and support for gifted children.
CTYI - Centre for Talented Youth Ireland 
Founded at Dublin City University in 1992, the Centre for Talented Youth, Ireland is a branch of CTY International and provides extra-curricular enrichment to students aged 6-16 as well as guidance for their parents and teachers.
GiftedKids.ie 
Information website for parents and educators of “gifted” children in Ireland.
Exceptionally Able Students - Draft Guidelines for Teachers 
NCCA publication (2007) which aims to promote a better understanding of the challenges faced by exceptionally able children and their families. Suggests concrete ways in which educators and parents can help.
Gifted and Talented Network Ireland 
National network of advocates and Gifted Advocacy Support groups for Gifted children in Ireland