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Shane Sargeant, Department of Foreign Affairs
History, Culture & Languages

Shane Sargeant, Department of Foreign Affairs

Shane is originally from Dublin but is now working in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the European Union in Brussels. Shane studied languages at university as part of his undergraduate degree and uses French and Spanish to communicate on day to day basis in work.

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first question!

What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

I did French and Spanish for the Leaving Certificate and went on the do European Studies in Trinity College Dublin where again I studied French and Spanish as part of that degree. I then went to Japan after graduating on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme where I put a lot of effort into developing Japanese language skills.

My background in languages served me well when applying for other opportunities, notably a traineeship with the EU Delegation in Japan, a Masters at the College of Europe and ultimately the position of Third Secretary at the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

My exposure to languages at secondary school and the language teachers I had sparked my interest in an international career where I could use foreign languages. It was during my time at the EU Delegation in Japan working with Irish colleagues that I became aware of the range of opportunities that existed, including with the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade. I had always been interested in international affairs and so a career in diplomacy made sense.

How did you go about getting your current job?

The Public Appointments Service run competitions periodically for the position of Third Secretary. There are various stages involved from submitting an application to sitting psychometric tests and attending an assessment centre before the interview stages begin. I would be recommend anyone interested to sign up job alerts on www.publicjobs.ie.

Describe a typical day?

No two days are the same. See below for the range of tasks and activities involved!

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

My work is very varied and involves a range of public policy work, including preparation of analysis and research papers, preparing briefing material for Ministers and senior officials, organising and participating in meetings, representing Ireland abroad at meetings and events, and liaising with other Government Departments and organisations.

What are the main challenges?

The most challenging aspect for me is probably having to balance a busy portfolio, good judgment and an ability to prioritise are important to meet the challenge.

What's cool?

The job is exceptionally rewarding. The Irish citizen lies at the heart of all we do and that makes the work important. The opportunity to travel to and live in so many different cities around the world is also one of the most appealing aspects of the job for me!

What's not so cool?

I really can't think of anything off the top of my head!

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

A high degree of resourcefulness, organisational ability, flexibility and alertness to opportunities to advance and protect Ireland's interests abroad is important, as is a high degree of adaptability, resilience and a commitment to work in foreign languages.

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

I am very glad I studied French and Spanish at Leaving Certificate level. I think it is very important to develop language skills as early as possible.

What is your education to date?

I went to The High School in Dublin, then to Trinity College where I did European Studies. I also did a Masters in European Interdisciplinary Studies at the College of Europe and have language certifications in French, Spanish and Japanese.

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

Languages have been very important. But in addition to formal courses/modules, I think extracurricular activities (sports teams, clubs, societies etc.) have been hugely important in developing various skills required of a diplomat - organisational, interpersonal, communication etc.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

Representing Ireland and assisting Irish citizens is always very rewarding. As part of my current role I support Irish citizens looking to pursue a career in the institutions of the European Union and it is very satisfying to be able to provide assistance.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

I have found flexibility and adaptability to be two important qualities as a Third Secretary. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are necessary, as is resilience.

What is your dream job?

Third Secretary is the entry point for Ireland's diplomatic service, and most entrants will strive to progress through the ranks, gradually taking on positions of greater responsibility. The most senior diplomats in the Department consist of Ireland's ambassadors serving at embassies around the world as well as senior officials directing policy from Headquarters.

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

Yes, absolutely. As a Third Secretary I can expect to spend large parts of my career working at Irish embassies abroad which is a prospect I find very exciting. At the same time I will spend time based at Headquarters in Ireland which means I will always retain that strong connection with home. I am currently based at Ireland's Permanent Representation to the EU which is Ireland's largest diplomatic mission abroad.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

The Department looks to hire people from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. It is however important to be civic-minded, and to have a keen interest in domestic and international politics and current affairs. I would advise anyone interested in a career as a diplomat to keep on top of current affairs and to get involved in relevant fields; volunteering, university societies and newspapers etc. Languages can also give a competitive advantage!

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

Civic-mindedness, adaptability, resilience.

Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

Yes - I am always looking for new opportunities to study or attend training courses to further my personal and professional development!

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

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade hires a number of interns each year, both in Ireland and in certain diplomatic missions abroad. International Organisations such as the European Union also offer high quality 5-6 month traineeships which come highly recommended.

What is your current job title?

Third Secretary in The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.

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