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‘Getting Ahead’: Expert career advice from those in the know - Colman Collins

  • Publish Date: Posted about 2 months ago
  • Author:by Leanne Moran

Colman Collins was one of the founders of Collins McNicholas in 1990 and served as Joint Managing Director with his partner Val McNicholas, until 2003 when Val retired. Previously, Colman worked in executive-level roles in Human Resources and Customer Services with Nortel Networks, and in HR with Westinghouse Switchcontrols and Thermo King. He is a certified business coach and is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Colman now sits on the board of Collins McNicholas as a Non-Executive Director. Colman talks to us about his life and career, while giving advice to those considering a change.

​Develop resilience. No matter how successful you are there will be setbacks.

Q1. In your excellent book ‘How to Succeed in Your First Job', you outline a number of key skills that a newly qualified graduate should have when joining the workforce. What sparked your interest in writing this book?

"If I am being totally honest I doubt if I would have written this book but for being completely restricted in my movements by COVID-19. In thinking about how I might spend my time then I thought it might be useful to document some of the things I had learned over the course of my forty-year career. I thought the people who might benefit most from this would be new graduates so I wrote the book with them in mind. My hope was, and still is, that my book might help them learn to settle into the world of work more easily without making some of the many avoidable mistakes I made when I began my working life."

Colman Collins with his recent published book 'How to Succeed in your First Job'
Q2. For those entering the workforce for the first time, what is one piece of advice you would give them?

​"I would give them three pieces of advice:-

    1. Learn to listen. You are a graduate which gives you a good foundation but you have much to learn to build successfully on that foundation.

    2. Develop resilience. No matter how successful you are there will be setbacks. These may be painful but it is how you learn from these that will determine the trajectory of your career. ​

    3. Be yourself. You have much to learn from other more experienced managers and colleagues but never seek to slavishly imitate them and subjugate your unique self."

Q3. Considering a career change or job move is extremely daunting, what valuable advice would you offer those at this juncture

"I would suggest considering the following points:

  1. Are you sure you have grown as far as you can go with your current employer?
    Be sure of this before you decide to look for another job or career. For example, if you want a change of role it might be easier to make that change with your current employer than with a new employer who knows very little about you."

  2. Don’t leave a job for money reasons only.
    If you are only getting a small salary increase this is not a good enough reason to leave a job. If it is a very significant salary increase you need to consider the possibility that you may be getting more than the position is worth and if that is the case the chances are that your salary increases with your new employer will be slowed down so you are not being paid more than people in that company doing a similar role.

  3. The best reason to leave a job is if you are offered a promotion that you are unlikely to achieve with your current employer.

  4. Be sure there is a cultural fit between your values and beliefs and those of a potential new employer. Do your research before you decide to make a move."

Q.4 In your years of working, what would you consider to be your best memory or achievement?

"I have many good memories and would find it hard to pick one over all of the others. In terms of achievements, I will list five all of which are related to the same subject:

  1. Setting up McNicholas in Galway in 1990

  2. Expanding it and managing it for 25 years

  3. Appointing Padraic White as Chairman of the company in 1998

  4. Selling it in a Management Buy Out in 2015 to Niall, Michelle, and Antoinette.

  5. Being retained as a non-executive director after the MBO ​

Each of these are important but the fourth one was the most important to me because selling the company to people I had worked with for so many years meant so much more than selling it to an external buyer with a very different culture and value system. Seeing the company go from strength to strength under the new team is very satisfying as many companies don’t successfully make that transition from one generation to the next."

Colman Collins, Co-Founder of Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services Group
Q5. What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?

"The best career decision I ever made was to leave my good job and promising career in Nortel Networks to set up Collins McNicholas. It was a very big move at the time but having just turned 37 I couldn’t see myself working in a multinational company for the next thirty years. I felt there was a market for a Galway-based recruitment consultancy and thankfully there was and it expanded from there."

Q6. If you were entering the workforce again, would you do anything differently?

"I would get a mentor or a coach at an early stage and retain one throughout my career."


Amazing insights from you Colman, cannot wait to see what you bring in the future. You can buy Colman's book here.

If you are looking to change careers, reach out to one of our Consultants and view all the current jobs available here.