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Nicola O'Higgins, Fishmonger
Maritime, Fishing & Aquaculture

Nicola O'Higgins, Fishmonger

Nichola O'Higgins owns and runs a fish shop in Wicklow with her Husband, who is also a Chef.  The job entails sourcing the best supply of fish, presenting it in the most attractive manner, providing advice to her customers on how to cook it, marketing their services, keeping the accounts in order and maintaining the highest levels of hygiene at all times.

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

Since leaving school I have worked in sales, credit management for a plc and now have my own fish shop. Every job I had I worked hard at and was in the right place at the right time with every advancement.

This was somewhat due to luck and my strong desire to be the best and earn more money. My life experiences shaped my every move as I had a small child and had to earn money to live.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

The biggest influence in life was having a son at such a young age which was a large responsibility.  The second biggest influence in my life is my husband with the fish shop - he just said lets do it and here we are!

How did you go about getting your current job?

My husband saw a gap in the market for selling fish in Wicklow and after two years of looking for premises, we finally found one and just went for it!

Describe a typical day?

My husband goes to the market very early to get the fish and I bring the children to school and creche and go to the shop for 9.15am. Then I set up the counter with the fresh fish. It is hard to be creative and also set up as quickly as you can.

The day starts. I serve customers and fill in details of the fish for traceability. The customers are the biggest bonus to my day. You keep the counter looking good with your product topped up with ice and make sure everything is super clean. You can never have any bad smell in such a small shop. So hygiene is a big thing.

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

Your main duty is to be very comfortable with the product and the customer you are selling to -  this is key.

So giving ideas on how to cook is a big thing along with information on where it is from and constant attention to hygiene. I am constantly thinking of new ideas for the shop and marketing fish in the area. Sourcing a constant supply of fish with the best quality is a daily task.

Keeping the accounts for the business in order is also a daily task.

What are the main challenges?

The sourcing and supply of fish is a daily challenge.  We are helped in this by other people in the industry and constant contact with the market.

What's cool?

I don't know what is cool about fish but the creative side of the counter and cooking suggestions give me a buzz.

My husband used to be a Chef and the ideas he comes up with are great and the customers love that.

What's not so cool?

The constant cleaning is mundane.  At the end of a long day on your feet you have to clear the counter which is heart breaking, putting everything away which took so much time to get ready and look good. You have to clean the counter, the fridge and  the floors - nothing can be left undone.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

The best skill I feel I have is personality. This is key when dealing with customers - people like it if you remember them and know their name. A good head for business is also key to making the numbers work.

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

I left school before my Leaving Certificate,  which I would not advise. I worked hard at everything I did and constantly tried to up my game.

I would advise to never take no for an answer, to get your foot in the door and work your way to where you want to go. My son is now twenty and is in college and he got great advice from career guidance in school.

What is your education to date?

Secondary School, Glengara Park, Glenageary.  I left school after fifth year. Courses since have been in sales, computers, tax and hygiene  - any area required to advance the job I was working in.

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

Education of life!

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

I was delighted to be offered the position of Credit Manager in a plc and I learnt from that that anything you want to do is possible if you work hard enough.

Now I am very proud to be known for the fish shop we run in a small town where we love to live and work. It is great to part of the community in this way.

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

I am very ambitious and determined, which gets me through anything.

What is your dream job?

Dream job - definitely no job  - retire on a beach!

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

At the moment I have free time on Sunday and Monday, so that is great as I can spend time with my two small children. Having just started a new business that is the best I can get at the moment.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

You need to work with people in the industry as knowledge is everything  - where to buy, who from, when etc. Health and safety courses and a pleasant manner and drive are also important.

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

Stamina, personality and a desire to sell fish!

What is your favourite music?

Love Madonna.

What is your favourite film?

Titanic -  great chic flick.

What is your pet hate at work?


What is your star sign?


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

I will be doing a fish filleting course very soon.

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

Any catering experience or food retail outlet.

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