The Third Secretary Competition was advertised on publicjobs.ie. Firstly I completed an on-line application form. Following this a letter was sent with the date, time and place for Selection Tests. These consisted of a Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Reasoning and Job Simulation Test.
On successful completion of these tests, I was informed the next round was a group exercise and an English comprehension exercise. Having been notified I had reached the required standard in these tests, a more detailed application form was sent for completion.
The last leg of the competition was an individual interview. An e-mail, followed by a letter was the manner in which successful candidates were informed.
Describe a typical day?
An average day as a Third Secretary in Press Office begins with the creation of a booklet of press clippings. This involves reading a selection of daily papers and copying articles which are directly relevant or of interest to the Department of Foreign Affairs. The booklet is then distributed to Divisions throughout the Department.
Media monitoring is an important element of the role and consists of remaining alert and notifying the relevant Division/embassy of any significant news developments or reports.
Answering press queries and requests for interviews is another important task. This comprises of conveying specialised queries or requests for information to the relevant Division and then offering a suitable reply to the journalist. Every effort is made to ensure the journalist's deadline is met or to accommodate the News Agency when organising interviews.
Editing, writing and issuing press releases is a regular undertaking. To ensure the public is fully informed of any initiatives or statements, involves ensuring the Press Release must be issued at the optimum time to ensure maximum coverage.
Finally in a typical day there is often work on an ongoing project, such as the organisation of a visit for foreign journalists, the press elements of a State Visit or an upcoming Press Event. Also co-ordination meetings with other divisions and Government Press Officer meetings occur on a weekly basis.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
Creation of a booklet of press clippings
Answering press queries and requests for interviews
Editing, writing and issuing press releases
Planning itineraries for visiting foreign journalists
Organising the press elements for State Visits and visits by foreign dignitaries and attending these events
Co-ordinating and attending Department of Foreign Affairs Press events
Issuing Media notifications to inform the media of upcoming events
Liaising with other Divisions within the Department and the Press Officers in other governmental departments
Updating Press Releases on the Departmental website
What are the main challenges?
Multi-tasking and prioritising tasks and queries can be very challenging at times. The Press Office is a face-paced environment and every query or request for information must be dealt with efficiently and thoroughly.
At times it is difficult to ensure all journalists’ deadlines are met, prioritising those that are more pressing, while also completing other tasks and continuing to monitor the news.
Dealing with the unexpected at a planned event, can also prove a challenge, and on occasion resourceful quick thinking is a necessity.
In the Department of Foreign Affairs there is a respect for learning and culture which is wonderful. Training is supported and encouraged. There is a wealth of interesting and knowledgeable individuals who are widely travelled and are willing to share their experiences and advice.
On occasion it is possible to meet high profile politicians or dignitaries who you admire, listen to their speeches live and attend major political events. The opportunity to live abroad and represent Ireland in a variety of different countries is exciting and I am sure will prove to be rewarding and challenging.
What's not so cool?
Dedication to the completion of a task can on occasion lead to a late finish in the evening, and sometimes early morning starts are called for. Also, as not all press queries can be handled within office hours, flexibility is sometimes required.
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
I communicate confidently both orally and in writing. Effective and persuasive communication skills are necessary in my present role.
Excellent interpersonal skills are also imperative. I am a team-player and actively encourage and support others. Networking and the ability to influence others is required.
Analytical thinking, problem-solving under pressure and effective decision making and judgment are skills I apply often. An organised mind and good time management are advantageous.