Public Appointments Service

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Margaret Donaghue - Prison Officer
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Margaret Donaghue, Prison Officer

After completing her Leaving Cert, Margaret pursued a career in administration based roles, and completed several courses in this field. This training has proven invaluable for her current position in the Prison Service, where she continues her training within the Service towards a Higher Certificate in Custodial Care in IT Sligo.

Ask me your
first question!

What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

I decided to apply for this career because I felt I had the experience behind me to deal with people from dealing with the general public for years. It offered security and diversity which really appealed to me.

I came from an administration background and this has really influenced what I can do in the service on a daily basis. Having this background enables me to work in areas such as the waiting room dealing with visitors and the front door dealing with professional visits. I am also involved in a voluntary organisation which has given me valuable experience in First Aid which enables me to help out in this area if required.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

My parents have influenced me all through my life. They gave me the values to believe I can achieve anything I put my mind to as long as I work hard and give 100%. I have always loved a challenge and what better career to have than being a prison officer to give you a challenge.

How did you go about getting your current job?

I saw the advertisement in the local paper and decided this was something I wanted to pursue. I applied through and from there did the exam. Following this I was selected for interview.

Throughout the whole process I was informed of my progress on the publicjobs website at all times. Following the interview I was informed I was successful and from there I had to attend a medical. Within a few weeks I started training in Beladd House.

Describe a typical day?

No two days are the same, in fact things can change from one minute to the next. There is a great deal of variety in the job and each day you are assigned to a different task. These tasks range from working on a landing, in the school, gym, waiting room, escort duty to hospital or court etc.

Each day presents different challenges and the main thing to remember is to use common sense and fairness at all times. Be vigilant at all times and learn to think on your feet. The job can present many challenges but it can also present rewards.

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

Our main task is to provide a safe and secure environment for those in our care. Therefore our main task and responsibility is to carry out this service to the best of our ability.

Ensuring that this is carried out effectively can take on many different roles. You learn to be a listener, a strong communicator and a problem solver. You provide those in your care with the basic requirements they are entitled to and ensure that each prisoner is treated in a firm and fair manner.

What are the main challenges?

As a female officer I suppose the main challenge is the volatile environment. A situation can go from calm to stormy in a heartbeat. You have to stand back and access the situation in order to deflate it, and use common sense to ensure the problem is safely and securely dealt with. I would say that as an officer you are more mentally challenged rather than physically. You have to be mentally alert at all times.

What's cool?

The things I like best about the job would be: Job Security. Financial Security. Variety. Challenge. Availability to education. Availability to progress.

What's not so cool?

I suppose looking at the heartache and stress that is placed upon some of the families. In a lot of cases families are involved in the system involuntarily. Another thing would be the long hours. However the system does provide you with flexibility. It balances out with Max time on and Max time off.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

I would have an administration background and I have found this to be of great standing to me. I use these skills on a regular basis- working in the Waiting room processing visitors and working in the Visiting area processing professional visits.

I would have strong communication skills from dealing with the general public on a regular basis and this has enabled me to use this background to my advantage. I was always a problem solver and again this would enable me to deal with a situation fast and effectively. I also have a First Aid Qualification which has come in useful on many occasions.

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

I would have been out of the school system for many years before this opportunity came about so as far as subjects in school go, it would not have been a big factor. However I would say that the skills I gained through life so far have been of immense benefit. My main piece of advice would be to learn from everything you encounter in life and try as much as you can along the way.

What is your education to date?

I completed my Leaving Certificate and since then have completed many courses in Administration. Currently in training we are involved in a Higher Certificate in Custodial Care.

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

I suppose I would have to say I am proud of the fact that I have made it this far. I have met many great officers who will always support and advise you. Sometimes you feel you may not be making a difference but if you can manage to help just one person to straighten out their life then that would be a great achievement.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

I am a very good listener with plenty of patience. I would be very organised and ambitious.

What is your dream job?

My dream job - would be to win the lotto and not have to work, but lets be realistic, chances are slim.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

Without a doubt. The job offers security in many aspects. In this bad economic environment this job is really an added benefit. Starting off it may not be very financially beneficial but long term it will no doubt allow family life and lifestyle to be very comfortable. It allows me to consider doing and living a better lifestyle now. A huge benefit would also be the medical insurance that the service offers.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Learn as much as you can in any situation that presents itself. Never be afraid to try something even if it scares you to do so. And give it all you have. Be a good listener and a good communicator and be fair.

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

A good communicator. A good listener. Be firm and consistent.

Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

As stated we are currently partaking in a Third Level Course. We have been trained in C&R and BA and refresher courses are provided on a regular basis.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

I would not specify any particular background as being specific. Learn from everything and apply it where needed.

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