But, tentatively, it’s become safe to talk about new opportunities for many such people and their expertise and experience, as economic wellbeing makes its way back onto the national psyche and the graduates and others who had to emigrate can even think about returning.
And if they do, they’ll be bringing back some invaluable experience and life skill with them following their ventures overseas.
As Trayc Keevans, director of inward investment at Morgan McKinley recruitment specialists points out, spending time working abroad is far from being a hindrance when it comes to looking for new opportunities at home, particularly for graduates who may have emigrated straight from college in the aftermath of the recession’s onset.
Far from it: “The advantage is that those professionals have got really strong international experience that makes them even more marketable,” Ms Keevans told the Irish Examiner. “I’d say they would be perceived very favourably if they have managed to get that experience. It’s a case of bringing back learning as well and knowing what’s worked and what hasn’t worked.”
The time spent living and working abroad could even tip the scales when it comes to securing that new job at home, she said.
“Indigenous enterprise and also multi-nationals locating here are looking to pursue not just people with professional experience but also life experience.”
Meanwhile, for those who will be graduating from college in the near future or even school-leavers thinking about what third-level course to choose, she wouldn’t discourage some time spent working abroad as part of, or after, their next phase of education.
Many of the professional qualifications earned in Ireland transfer readily abroad which means it may be easier than thought to work in that chosen field in the likes of the UK, Canada, Australia or the United States. Then it’s another string to the bow when it comes to moving back home if that’s what emigrants want and decide to do.
“Take accountancy for example, that’s one area where we’ve seen people get involved in short-scale projects abroad, but it adds a nice element to the CV.”
Trayc advises the sixth-years currently mulling over their CAO form choices to consider courses which involve either an internship element or a semester or year working/learning abroad.
“Is there a work experience element with the course? A lot of universities have that now. How much importance is it given in the course? From an employer’s point of view, it’s a huge factor in how they’ll enter the workforce, with or without that experience. Also it’s good to have a year abroad, like an Erasmus year, because experience like that is important as well.”
Many students spend time abroad earning money and seeing a bit of the world but, according to Ms Keevans, it’s very useful during that J1 period, for example, to pick up “some relevant experience” which can make all the difference when it comes to approaching an employer.
Morgan McKinley have been carrying out a salary survey in Ireland for some years now, with the 2015 version due to be published next month, and recently added a “benefits” section to that work.
The findings are useful, Ms Keevans said, for their employer clients to assess, on a transparent basis, what’s expected by recruits in terms of both wages and benefits.
Trayc Keevan’s own area of responsibility is inward investment so she can use the survey to advise companies who are thinking of locating in Ireland about what salaries they need to consider paying to attract the right people.
Also, what added benefits their potential employees will want: a better work-life balance, time off, working partially from home, for example.
Some areas of employment are seeing improvements in salary since the economy started to pick up but others have yet to return to their former levels. Ms Keevans cites office support as an example. “There hasn’t been a dramatic increase in salaries to what they were pre-downturn. But there was a lot of consolidation of roles, for example a PA may have been combining with a receptionist’s role in the downturn. Now there’s a trend of separated roles again like PA, receptionist, office manager and so on.”
Something the survey, and work on the upcoming version, reveals is a demand for multi-lingual employees in many sectors, with German and Dutch speakers particularly sought-after.
“For companies that want to set up here, and even Irish companies themselves, Germany can be one of the biggest markets to target.”
The pharmaceutical sector is one that has shown strong growth in this country in recent years and that trend shows no sign of slowing down, according to the Morgan McKinley director, so it’s something that potential college-goers and graduates should bear in mind when it comes to choosing courses or specialisations.
“The pipeline of activity from the IDA is very strong in this area and all the associated businesses are also active. In research and development, there was a big push from the government to address this area, while the food sector is very buoyant as well as the tech sector.”
Other examples of current and future growth are supply chain planning, financial services such as aviation and other types of leasing, digital marketing, and engineering which dried up to some extent in the immediate wake of the bust but is now in demand.
They may be diverse sectors of the economy but have in common an upward trend in both the numbers and quality of jobs. “We expect to see salaries moving north in those areas,” Ms Keevans said, as we face 2015 with renewed optimism.