My Career: This new role at South Munster Citizens Information Service really excited me

My Career: Regional Manager, South Munster Citizens Information Service, Lorraine O’Donovan
My Career: This new role at South Munster Citizens Information Service really excited me

Lorraine O'Donovan. Photo: Niamh Whitty/www.pictureitsold.ie

Name: Lorraine O’Donovan

Age: Mid 30s

Lives: Recently relocated to Cork city, from West Cork.

Job title: Regional Manager, South Munster Citizens Information Service

Salary bracket: €60,000+

Education background: Professional Diploma in Finance for Non Finance Managers in UCD, this is an ongoing study. PHD in Social Work from UCC in 2020. MBS in Business and Government from UCC in 2010, and a Diploma in Youth and Community work from UCC in 2009.

Hobbies: I enjoy travelling and have a long list of destinations on my travel list when things return to normal. I love swimming, reading and listening to Irish country music. I play the tin whistle and accordion for myself and my two rescue dogs, Harry and George, they howl every time they hear me play!

Describe your job in five words: Fast- paced, challenging, quality-focused, developmental, and rewarding.

Describe yourself in five words: Open, empathetic, passionate, warm and funny (always love a giggle).

Personality needed for this kind of work? Excellent communication skills are a fundamental part of my role. I think you also need to be a strong multi-tasker as there will be competing demands on your time and you need to be able to manage this. A sense of humour is also very important, you do come across some challenging and interesting situations by the nature of working with people to provide a service to the public and a sense of humour can be extremely valuable in tough situations.

How long are you doing this job? I’ve been working at the South Munster’s Citizens Information Service for almost three years.

How did you get this job? Before taking up my role in CIS, I worked at Le Chéile, managing a mentoring service for young people and their families who are engaged with the justice system. I also worked as a youth worker at West Cork Community Partnership where I managed a drop-in centre for marginalised and vulnerable young people. Under my management, this project was recognised as a model of best practice. I was also involved in developmental work across the wider West Cork area.

At this time, Citizens Information Service were recruiting for regional managers as they were under a restructure. 

In Cork and Kerry, five companies were being restructured into one – the South Munster Citizens Information Service. I was really interested in this role when I read about it, the change management and restructuring process was something that really excited me. The elements of successful change management in a company are very similar to work undertaken in youth work and social work, where you seek to empower young people and their families to make positive changes in their lives. My approach at SMCIS has always been to empower the staff and teams to develop responses or solutions to issues, rather than imposing things on people.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? There isn’t a specific qualification that you need, but certainly qualifications and experience in management and leadership would be beneficial.

Describe a day at work: This is a role where no two days or two hours are even remotely similar. It’s that variety that gives me a buzz. I really enjoy the mix of tasks and areas of responsibility that this role offers.

The first thing I do in the morning is make a coffee which is like my brain fuel for the day, I then check my emails and see if there is anything urgent that needs attention. After that, how my day goes is anyone’s guess. 

I am constantly balancing Zoom meetings for various projects and initiatives with our funder, board, management team, staff team and stakeholders.

As a manager, I always need to be there for my team and open to listening to them and hearing the emerging issues. I am constantly struggling to balance my own ‘to do’ list, prioritise the needs and knock some things off. Inevitably, each day something will go off the list, but it’s most likely two or more things will go off the list. Each day is very different, but there is a great sense of satisfaction to be able to move projects forward all the time.

How many hours do you work a week? Well, in theory it’s a 35-hour week, but sometimes it is a lot more. Obviously things come up from time and time, or there are a few deadlines coming together and you have to focus on them to ensure that they get sorted out.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: Like any job, it has its moments. It really depends on what is going on. Some days the stress can be a 5, but other days it could be a 9. Certainly, in the early days of the pandemic, it’s been a little mad, probably 9 or 10 for several months. Thankfully, that’s now changed a little.

In addition, our Company, the South Munster Citizens Information Service, launched its first ever Wellness Policy and Programme recently. We now have a full programme of initiatives planned for the year ahead. I am extremely lucky that the company and founder are taking employee wellness so seriously.

Do you work with others or on your own? My job is unique in that I work on my own as the Regional Manager of the South Munster CIS, but I work in partnership and co-operation with the Regional Managers of the other CIS companies nationally.

I have a fantastic management team of Development Managers across Cork and Kerry. We work together as a team to forward our regional projects. 

Throughout the pandemic, Citizens Information centres across Cork and Kerry have been working tirelessly to ensure local communities have access to the information and advice they need at this challenging time.

When do you plan to retire or give up working? Ideally, I would like to retire in my late 50s, I have visions of spending time travelling and doing some volunteer work abroad. I am trying to put the financial planning in place to help reach that goal.

Best bits: Every day is busy and extremely varied. There have been no two days which are the same in this role. Information is constantly changing and so that makes for a very dynamic working environment. Working with such enthusiastic and motivated individuals who genuinely want the best for their clients and communities.

Worst bits: I have to say there aren’t many things that I don’t enjoy as part of my role. Perhaps the worst bit is having a number of deadlines close together, however that’s just the nature of the role.

Advice to those who want your job? I think my advice would be the same to someone looking at any job:

Whatever job you are in, keep a list of your ‘wins’ or key achievements, this will help you identify what you can bring to the role.

Consider your own skills and experience and identify your strengths.

Look at the role and then map out your gaps in your experience or training. Then start looking at ways to bridge the gaps such as an additional course or look to get experience of board membership.

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