Elaine Carroll: Your Leaving Cert is important but it doesn’t define your career path

ELiane | AIBF
Elaine Carroll, CEO of All-Ireland Business Foundation.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Did your wish come true? Are you in a much different occupation now, or somewhat similar?

As over 61,000 students did their Leaving Cert this year, I couldn’t help but reflect back on my own childhood dreams and my own experiences.

Recently I found an old school journal that had my TOP 3 Career choices on it- written in 1996 (I’m giving away too much there!!!)


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Mark Little
1 – Have Mark Little’s job.

At the time Mark was RTÉ’s first Washington Correspondent. I think it was the prospect of working internationally and being a presenter that really attracted me. Perhaps the excitement of covering various news stories and being able to talk very impromptu felt like a real challenge.

I’ve since hosted Mark on one of our recent monthly Leadership Series here at AIBF and we had a laugh about this!


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Ivan Yates.
2 – Become Minister for Agriculture

At the time Ivan Yates had this role and I really liked his straight-talking no-nonsense style. He oversaw a particularly difficult period for Irish agriculture, including dealing with a sharp rise in BSE cases. Coming from a farming background myself and studying Agricultural Science for the Leaving Cert as an extra subject, this career path was a contender.

I did end up scoring top marks in Agricultural Science; however, I’ve yet to venture into politics! Maybe it’s not too late?? Ironically, I have since worked with Ivan on several occasions including the All-Ireland Business Summit and look forward to doing so again in the future.


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Mary Ribinson.
3 – Be President of Ireland

Impressed by role models such as Mary Robinson I always had the vision of being a leader of the people. Impressed also by characters like Robin Hood, I held the idea that you could do so much good by redistributing wealth more evenly, and holding a position of power like the president would give me license to do that. After all Robin Hood’s motto was to ‘rob the rich, give to the poor’.

Ironically my professional career saw me graduate as a Chartered Tax Advisor, a role I worked internationally with looking at how the tax system can be used to redistribute wealth.

The point I wish to get across is that I have become none of the above, and that’s OK. I’ve taken elements of all three over the past 2 decades and gone down the road of entrepreneurship.

For all those who received various offers last week and perhaps didn’t get their office of choice – no road is without its twists and turns (& potholes!!). Do something that has an element of what you want to do in it or is a roundabout way to get there. Trust me, there will be plenty of crossroads and you will find your way.