Website role helped land job back home

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Hugh while working on JMU Journalism in his final year

When I left Ireland in 2007 to move to Liverpool and study journalism I never envisaged that I would be back living in my home country five years later.

The onset of a harsh recession and mass emigration of young graduates from Ireland made me even more certain that I would end up forging a career in the UK. But I was wrong.

When I left university in the summer of 2010 I initially took a bar management job for a few months as a stop-gap while looking for full-time journalism work. I freelanced with BBC Radio 4 and did a few other odds jobs as well as applying for an online journalism role in Dublin with a start-up news site TheJournal.ie.

I can’t really remember why I applied for it or what inspired me to do it but it would eventually lead to a couple of freelance shifts, working remotely from Liverpool. This gradually turned into something more permanent in early 2011 when I flew back to Dublin to do a few weeks of shifts as the Irish general election got underway.

After the election, I continued working there until August of last year when I was offered a full time position as a staff writer off the back of six months almost permanent freelancing. It was a tough choice to leave Liverpool for good but the opportunity was too good to pass up. Fortunately, from a personal point of view, my girlfriend was prepared to come along for the adventure.

Now settled in Dublin and working at TheJournal.ie my day involves everything from monitoring the latest news and reporting on it to going more in-depth with feature writing and analysis. It is intense and I’m often writing 2,000 + words per day.

I’ve had the chance to interview some big names such as the Irish Deputy Prime Minister and the North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness when he ran for President of Ireland:

All the while I’ve used the skills and expertise that I learned from my roles with JMU Journalism as features editor and later website producer. We have regular editorial meetings which I first got a taste of working on the website. That kind of experience at university gave me more confidence to pitch ideas at similar meetings at TheJournal.ie.

Similarly the leadership role I developed at JMU Journalism can be applied at TheJournal.ie when it comes to making decisions and judgments on stories I am working on. The final word lies with my excellent editor but it is the experience of explaining and justifying my ideas at JMU Journalism, which has become crucial to my full-time work in Dublin.

I continue to hold a role as senior editor at JMU Journalism, partly because of my interest in seeing the site continuing to grow but also to pass on my experiences with it to new students working on it. I’ve been involved in the JMU Journalism site relaunch and am really excited to see it come to fruition as I genuinely believe in not forgetting how you got to where you are in your career, and that is doing a job that on its best days doesn’t feel like work at all.

About Hugh O'Connell, Senior Editor