You may have thought that this time in yours or your teenagers life would never have come, but here you are with less than a month to making what some believe to be the most important decision in your life – choosing a further education course after your secondary education or Leaving Certificate. It is a time where one needs to look out into the future and picture what they would like to do for the rest of their lives i.e. choosing an ideal and realistic career. However way you decide, the process of choosing, processing and applying takes place through the Central Applications Office, better known to all of us as the CAO.

The Central Applications Office (CAO – a not-for-profit organisation) has been given the task by the Higher Education Institutions in the Republic of Ireland to process and manage applications for first year undergraduate courses and programmes.  Once completed, the participating educational institutions make the decisions on who to accept or not.

CAO Handbooks should already be in the schools and first round applications are due by 5.15pm 1st February 2013 at an on-line or on paper fee of € 40.00.  CAO offer a discounted fee of € 25.00 if they receive your application online by 5.15pm 20th January 2013.  Change of mind closing dates for course choices occur 1st March and 1st July (Check for exact details).

For many students and their parents / guardians, this is a very stressful time.  What courses do I choose, where and in what order?  These are critical decisions in a young person’s life who wishes to pursue third level education; they will possibly only get one chance.  20 courses need to be chosen (10 for Level 8 and 10 for Level 7 & Level 6).

The following considerations may help in completing the CAO process with more confidence and belief:

  1. Confirm that you want to continue studying for another 3-5 years
  2. Assess what is your realistic ‘Points’ target figure
  3. Are you a people’s person, a hands-on person or a mind person; one is always dominant, which one are you?
  4. Visualize what type of working environment you would love to be going into in say four years time on a Monday morning at 8.00am
  5. Review, analyse past achievements / successes where your natural strengths, talents, competencies exuded and came to the fore
  6. What are your interests, what are you passionate about? (may not be something you want to make a living from, but do give it some thought!)
  7. Choose courses that interests you at Levels 6, 7 and 8
  8. Choose course academic institutions that interest you considering institution reputation i.e.will they impress a reader of your CV in the future, where are they located, choice and cost of accommodation)
  9. If you are still unsure, choose a course that is generic i.e. that will give you more than one employment option or that will open up more than one door of opportunity for you in employment and indeed further education
  10. Ask the question, ‘How do I want to make a difference to the world of the future’?
  11. Remember if have two more opportunities to change your mind and choices

Once you get to 16, you’ve got some decisions to make about your future. Do you want to stay on in full-time education after completing the Leaving Certificate? Or would you prefer to start work and get training while you earn? Whichever route you choose, it pays to keep learning. More and more, employers are looking for people with higher level skills and qualifications. Although qualifications cannot guarantee you a job, people who have the right skills and qualifications have a better chance of finding a job with good prospects and more job security than those who don’t.

What type of a career would suit you?

One of the first pitfalls that people fall into when planning a career is to start out with the career instead of with themselves. Most of us can easily fool ourselves into believing certain things about our own personalities, attitudes, aptitudes, and characters. If you start with specific careers, you might end up narrowing your choices based on various opinions such as what you THINK you are good at, rather than what you actually ARE good at.

A good way to start planning your career is to think about what motivates you as a person.

Try to gain a better understanding of yourself, your needs, goals, plans, character, personality. Make a list of activities you have enjoyed – both inside and outside school or college. What was it about them that you liked? There are no Right or Wrong answers – for example, you might find that you enjoyed:

  • getting to know more about a particular subject
  • solving challenging problems
  • working as part of a team
  • meeting new people
  • working with your hands
  • working outdoors versus indoors

Once you have got a clear idea of your interests, the next step is to start looking for a career that matches up with them and then working back to identify what qualifications you require to make this career a reality.

When it comes to realizing your ideal career, start with yourself…and…choose a career that will open up more than just one door for you!


We have all heard the expression ‘My first impression was…’ or, ‘You cannot make a first impression a second time…’!  When it comes to presenting yourself on paper, selling yourself at an interview, selling your products and services, people are buying you first.  Do they trust you, do they like you and are you dependable?  All these traits are made by the person listening to / watching you within 30 seconds.

Making a Good First Impression on Paper:

When developing and writing a CV / Résumé it is critical that the reader can see and read everything about you in the first half page of the document, so as to an informed decision about you.  The first three headings Personal Details, Career Objective and Summary should contain words and statements from the job description and company website matching them to what you have and to what they want.

Making a Good First Impression at the Interview:

You have been called for interview and the first thing you should be is authentic, with a professional attitude and appearance mixed in.  We all know the importance of a firm, sincere handshake, but just as important is your smile and posture.  When walking, walk straight, walk tall with a smile on your face; people will notice it and like you for it.  When sitting down, demonstrate your height and presence with all angles in the ‘sitting-down’ position at right angles.

Your Speaking Voice:

The role of the interviewer is to promote free-flowing conversation i.e. to get you talking.  Don’t forget to breath is good advice here.  A lot of people do not breath correctly when speaking.  Watch / listen to the newsreaders and see / hear how they control their breathing.  Speaking with a deep tone, saying every letter in every word, pausing after key words / statements and ‘adding the music’ to your voice all help towards an ‘easy-to-listen-to’ voice.