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Rena Buckley

10 Jun 2021

Tom Wilkinson Commercial Director of Brightwater is in conversation with Rena Buckley, Chartered Physiotherapist and a well known figure in GAA circles having been a dual player with Cork camogie and football.

Rena is also a committed advocate for 20x20, an all inclusive movement to shift Ireland’s cultural perception of women’s sport.  She has recently made the move from her own private practice to working with VHI. She is talking with Tom about the value of mentorship and getting advice during the whole job hunting process.

TW: Good morning everybody, welcome to “Firesides on Leeside” with Brightwater and this morning I’m joined by Rena Buckley. Good morning, Rena.

RB: Good morning Tom.

TW: Ta failte romhat as they say.

RB: Go raibh maith agat.

TW: Very good, now Rena, you’ve joined us this morning to talk about recruitment, career moves and job changes. We’re going to spend about 20 or 25 minutes talking about some changes that you’ve made over the past few months which has just culminated there recently so thanks very much for that. Can I just kick off by saying that the focus of this meeting is on your experience in changing jobs from interviews to the application process to the job offer stage, just to get an insight into that. We’d just like to get your views on that so we’ll kick off. So Rena, in the last 12 months, we’ve had a global pandemic, we’ve had a lot of challenges for everybody and yet you decided it was time to change jobs so what motivated you in the beginning to change jobs and when did that happen? What motivated you to change jobs, particularly during a pandemic?

RB: I suppose back in 2015 I would have opened a physiotherapy practice in Macroom and it was something that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and it’s been a lovely busy practice. Like many people, when the pandemic hit, I was one of the businesses that closed so we were closed completely for nine weeks. I suppose that gave me a little bit of time to sit back and reflect; where I was, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go and so on and so forth. A couple of things would have crossed my mind that I would have spent some time thinking about.  The motivation factor in seeking a change, in that I was seeking a better work life balance. Like anyone working for themselves, who are self-employed, particularly in small operations, you end up putting a lot of hours into it. So that was something that I felt that I was putting a little too much time into work and I didn’t have too much time for anything else. Obviously, there was a second thing brewing in the back of my head and that would have been security. Because of the pandemic, there was a little bit of uncertainty around and I was questioning security going forward and was that something I was looking for. I suppose as I was getting older, that was something that was becoming more and more of a priority. I was looking for something challenging. I was looking for a new challenge, something that would stretch me and help me to progress professionally. If I could find something that could align to my values, that was something that I was looking for and that was what motivated me to look and see what was out there.

TW: And how long were you in Chartered Physiotherapy? It was over 10 years, I believe, was it?

RB: Yes, I would have graduated from UCD in 2009, and ever since then I’ve been working in private practices, in various practices, initially around Cork and Kerry. 2009 wasn’t a great time to qualify so there was a bit of chopping and changing early on. I’ve been settled in Macroom since 2015.

TW: In a year then and as a recruiter, in a year when an awful lot of people said “no way am I going to change jobs, there’s too much risk in the world, there’s too much uncertainty” and we certainly found that in our business, even while the job market has improved significantly in the last while, you decided that your actual business was slightly risky then given the pandemic. You used that time to change jobs. I should correct myself, you didn’t change careers, you changed jobs, you’re staying within the same sector.  It’s worked out, you’ve recently signed contracts. We won’t go into details but you’ve just completed a recruitment process and are at offer stage, I believe?  What new job have you finally accepted and why?

RB: Absolutely, yes. I suppose I’m passionate about health promotion and I certainly wanted to stay within the health sector. When I looked around and reflected on where I was at, I did understand that I have a skillset. Because of the pandemic, I assumed that health was going to be a priority for people going forward but just my own particular area was a little bit uncertain. That’s what spurred me on to move so I’ve just recently secured a role with the VHI so I’m going to be working with them in the Mahon clinic as an Integrative Specialist Health Physio and I’m really looking forward to that.

TW: Congratulations, that’s fantastic

RB: Thank you

TW: And that’s a permanent appointment

RB: It is, hopefully, yes, a permanent, fulltime appointment.

TW: I’m an Irish Life customer but maybe I’ll go to VHI now that you’re over there. We’ll see.

TW: In terms of jobhunting then, what were the first steps? What did you need to do back then? Had you a CV? Were you on LinkedIn? What did you have to do to get (the process) going? What were the first steps in your job hunting process?

RB: I suppose I’ve been working in private practice physio so any interviews I would have done regarding private practice physio were quite informal to be perfectly honest so in terms of interviews and CVs, my experience was very low. One thing that happened was during my time off because of Covid 19 pandemic, the local enterprise office (LEO) offered some mentoring.  I was put in touch with Grainne Carmody and Grainne provided excellent mentorship to me. She gave me a few pointers in terms of LinkedIn and social media so certainly I would have updated my LinkedIn. She would have also made me aware of the opportunities available and the market that was out there in terms of healthcare. She would have given me a bit of direction in terms of preparing for that market and how to go about that. That input from Grainne, that mentorship, I found hugely valuable in terms of nearly preparing for an application or consolidating my thoughts in terms of where I wanted to go so that was really important for me. Grainne would have put me in touch with a guy called Hugh Griffin, I think he works with Munster Executive Institute. Hugh then stepped in and took that mentor role for me. He probably would have come in and listened to me, he would have looked at what skills I had, what strengths I had and he would have given me advice in terms of upskilling so that was very important in terms of getting myself ready for the market that was out there. He would have pointed me in the direction of yourself in terms of upgrading a CV so I would have put a bit of work into the CV and had it looked over by yourself. That was hugely beneficial because I probably wouldn’t have had input like that ever and while I had been looking up documents online, just to get a little bit of a personal touch, I found hugely helpful. That’s how my journey started in terms of preparation.

TW: Who can go to Grainne in terms of that first step which led to all the other contacts but does Grainne provide it, dare I say it, a free service to people? The mentorship is free, is it?  Does LEO provide free mentoring?

RB: It was one of the grant aids that LEO (Local Enterprise Office) offered to businesses that were shut down because of Covid 19. I qualified for that, because the private practice was closed and that’s why I got in touch with Grainne because it was supported by LEO, the local enterprise office.

TW: In terms of the CV, I do remember giving you a hand. It looked very well. What did you do on LinkedIn that was different? What did you put on there? You were trying to promote yourself as somebody who was stepping into the jobs market – that was the plan wasn’t it? What action did you take when writing your CV and updating your LinkedIn profile?

RB: Absolutely, that was putting myself out there a little bit. It needed to be upgraded. I would have updated any qualifications I may have had.  I would have put on LinkedIn any work I would have done outside of private practice physio. I would have done a little bit of sports analysis work so I would have upgraded that kind of stuff on my LinkedIn account. Just small bits and pieces, just making connections and so on. Small bits and pieces which would be helpful. It was even helpful to go through the process for me and to reflect on my skills, my strengths, my weaknesses, my experience and just going through that process, I thought was very beneficial as well.

TW: Did you know then what you were looking for when you did your LinkedIn? You were meeting with Hugh Griffin, you were working on your CV, you were looking at the jobs boards. Was it then forming a picture of “I know what I’m looking for” and therefore you had clarity on what to search for at that point.  How did you decide what you wanted from a new role?

RB: Yes, One thing that I was very sure about was that I definitely wanted to stay in the industry. I think I’m quite passionate about health promotion. I’m passionate about sports as well so the two things would interlink very well. I was sure about that. The other thing that I was sure about as well is that I wanted something that would give me a nice work-life balance. Not that I was afraid of hard work or anything like that but that you weren’t getting contacted frequently on your days off and so on. Just probably a bit more clarity in terms of time on and time off and that you have that security and so on and so forth. And then that whoever you’d work with, that your values would align with theirs. I’d be coming from a practice that I had developed. I think the culture was really good in Rena Buckley Chartered Physiotherapy clinic, the atmosphere was really good. I did think it important that whoever I would work for, that the values were right in that company. Hopefully that’s what I’ve found and I’d be very confident that that’s what I’ve found through the VHI.

TW: Absolutely. I think when you’re running your own business as you were then, the phone was always going wasn’t it? No apologies, everyone wants a work life balance. Signing up for a new role, obviously hopefully that will be there. From what I hear you’ll be busy anyway.

TW: In terms then of the first steps, and making an application, it sounds like you hadn’t done that in a long time, going online, maybe printing off an application form, filing it in and sending it back. Any memories of how that went for you in the first couple of applications you would have made?  What was the job application process like for you?

RB: Certainly everyone goes through a little process. You’d analyse the advertisement first, if it’s something you’d like to work in, if the job is exciting and then if you meet the criteria and so on. That’s probably the easy bit. Then the more difficult piece is to match your application to the job spec. In terms of the whole process, I thought that step was relatively straightforward. You have as much time as you like to put into that preparation. Whereas if you compare it to the interview process, that’s very much “you must do it when the time is there” whereas the application was, if the job was something that I found very interesting, then I was going to dedicate a lot of time to the application. I think that was a very doable task.

TW: And just in general, how was the jobs market when you started, did you see much that you could go for?

RB: Little opportunities were cropping up in fairness. I haven’t been looking for an extremely long period so over the course of the year, there were certainly a couple of jobs that cropped up that were certainly of interest for sure.


TW: So then we come to the interviews.  They can be challenging as we all know, it can be very challenging. It had been a while, at least a long time since you’d done a formal interview with a team of people so what are your memories about the initial interviews, the preparation and the actual interviews on the day and how they went? What are your thoughts on the whole interview process?

RB: First of all there was the preparation. While you have an awful lot of time to prepare the application, maybe not as much time to prepare for the interview itself. So, over the course of the last 12 months, I’ve done a couple of formal interviews. One thing is that, like any skill, you get better with practice, like any skill.

TW: Yes, when people are doing interviews and are committed to the recruitment process, the first interview “see how you go”, the second one, you’re in the zone and getting warmed up. It’s like being back in sports, your first couple of matches, your third and fourth, it is a bit like that. I find that with candidates that we work with, when they’re going for the second, third or fourth interviews, their performance improves because you’re giving them the same advice but they’re also learning from their own experience so they’re improving.

This was before Christmas, wasn’t it, Rena, the interviews you did? You did some after Christmas as well. In terms of your preparation for the interviews, did you have somebody ask you questions the day before or did you do anything in particular to help with your prep?

RB: Yes, I will say I was a little bit at sea. Obviously you hear the talk that it’s very important to prepare for interviews but I sat down and I wasn’t fully sure what to actually prepare. That was my first reflection on the process. Then I would have gone and looked up documents on line, I would have gone to and looked at their advice in terms of how to prepare for interview so I would have followed their direction. It’s a time-consuming process but definitely I would have found the more preparation that’s put in beforehand, definitely the more beneficial it is on the day. Then the third thing, I had another conversation with yourself before-hand and that really helped me. It just gave me, as someone who would not have been involved in an interview process for a long time, it gave me a deeper insight into what the interviewer is looking for. You made two comments to me on the phone call and those two had the biggest impact on me. The first one was to treat an interview like an exam. It was something that hadn’t dawned on me but it’s very obvious, when I think back on it. In an exam, you must write down the key words in your answer and in an interview, it’s the exact same process. If you don’t tell them the key words that they’re looking for, you’re just not going to get the marks. That really hit home with me. Before that, you’d be getting advice like “be yourself” because you might be a little shy in the interview. That’s not going to get those key words so that was a huge learning process for me.

The second one was something you said, away from the objective side of things. Enthusiasm, you said was the secret sauce of interviews. That really struck a chord with me as enthusiasm was a word that Eamonn Ryan, our former football coach, he used to use that about sport all the time. Whether you’re a player or whether you’re a coach, enthusiasm, you just can’t buy it. If you’re enthusiastic in training and you’re enthusiastic at the match, you’ll keep learning and you’ll get there in the end. When you said it to me, it really struck a chord. It made me realise that, in my preparation I must be enthusiastic as well as on the day be enthusiastic. Those couple of words of advice were invaluable.

TW: And none of it is easy. Interviewing is not easy. It’s easy for me to sit here after how many years of telling people you need to do this, and the secret sauce, the enthusiasm and the preparation, you’ve still got to go and deliver, you still have to deliver on the day. The energy in the room can be off so many things. When I say exam paper, I always mention that because literally, you can be asked so many things in an interview. “How many golf balls in an airplane?” – that’s one example I got off a YouTube clip but I really believe that a person going to an interview can influence the interviewer to the conversation parts that they want to highlight. They can manoeuvre themselves around. Of course, you can be political. Michael Martin hasn’t answered a straight question for 12 months. The way that they answer the question and they don’t even answer the question! But at the end of the day, you are trying to “pass the exam”, you are trying to match the criteria and if you do, then the meeting should be successful and go onto the next level. I appreciate the feedback and I could talk about interviews more than I should. At least those two things helped in the process for yourself.  

TW: Any memories of the interviews? Anything that came up or funny things that happened. Any feedback for anybody listening right now from the interviews or meetings that you had, did anything stand out? Was there anything about the interview process that stood out?

RB: I would have done an interview before Christmas face to face and the ones that I did after Christmas were virtual. I actually found the virtual ones excellent. I suppose we’ve all become used to virtual meetings as we are now. And then you’re in the comfort of your own home, in the comfort of your workspace. You have your timing correct as you’re not worried about getting to a place, your timing is impeccable. Your preparation is down to a tee and there’s the element of relaxation as well. The virtual interview was something that I found, I won’t say enjoyable, but I thought it was practical. I suppose the other bit of feedback, from the preparation, it certainly gave you a little bit of confidence. And if you have confidence, then you can be a little bit more relaxed and if you’re relaxed, you’ve a better chance of being able to perform, to say the things you want to say, to say the things you’ve prepared.

TW: For sure

RB: That’s as good as you can do. It’s the same as everything. Sometimes you are beaten by the better team. As long as you do your best, what else can you do?

TW: Thanks for the feedback on the virtual interviews. The only point I would make is that people feel like there’s a lack of energy in the  room that would be there if they were actually in the room. I talk about the energy in the room a lot when helping people with their interview preparation. I think that recruitment has benefitted from the technology of having interviews back to back, from the comfort of your own home, go online for half an hour, go back online again a couple of days later for an hour and complete the process quickly. Momentum is good in recruitment so I think virtual interviews are here to stay. 

TW: Moving on to the VHI process then, the recruitment process, what was advertised? What did the job say? What will you be doing?

RB: I’ll be an Integrative Health Specialist Physio so half the time will be dedicated to musculoskeletal physiotherapy and the other half of the time will be dedicated to integral health coach. That will be a new role for me and there will be an educational piece and a training piece for me in preparation for that role. Integral Health is all about individualisation, it’s about the whole person, it’s a multidisciplinary approach. It is person centred, it uses conventional and alternative approaches. It certainly uses a coaching approach which empowers the patient or empowers the client. I’m really excited about that, that part of the position, that part of the role. It will be a new dynamic, a new angle in terms of health promotion for me. It’s very exciting. It will be challenging for sure but it’s hugely exciting particularly in Covid, a lot of the health issues that are going to crop up in account of lifestyle and diet and physical activity. This approach hopefully will be good for everyone going forward.

TW: Fantastic.

TW: In terms of then when you were completing the recruitment process, the job offer and the contracts of employment, that’s all done now. How did you find the job offer stage of the process? Was it smooth enough?

RB: Very smooth in fairness. I thought the process was really good. The communication was very clear, very concise. Feedback was very well entertained and the process was done very quickly and very smoothly with all questions answered, very upfront so I was very pleased with the whole procedure.

TW: In summary, what was the most helpful advice given during your job hunting? So, just summing up now, Rena, in terms of this meeting obviously and our interview today, the main points you’ve made would be around starting with Linked and your CV, obviously applying for relevant jobs. I think what comes through is how the process, the thoughts you were having, what it made you think about when you were starting off the process, how it made you assess your skills, writing your CV, looking at your profile and then obviously going to interview, then again delivering at the interview, the second round, presentations and meeting the challenges there. You’d clearly recommend recruitment because you’ve been successful but it is a challenging process. As recruitment professionals, we do encourage people to have the time to do it, the energy, to be able to start the process, work your way through it, identify your goals and then know what it is that you’re looking for which is absolutely essential in recruitment. I think we’re trying to, working with people every day, we’re trying to say that changing job, it needs a plan, it needs a strategy, it needs preparation and it needs time. I’m sure you’d concur with that now from how you describe it today.

RB: Definitely, I’d agree with all that summing up. The other point that I’d make is that it’s a process that’s hard on your own. I think a little bit of a steer and a little bit of direction, for me, in my journey, that was really helpful. Obviously I had to start the journey myself, I had to put in a lot of work and you obviously have to do it on the day and so on. But I think a little bit of a steer, using your network, talking to people, that type of input was really important to me. We all know in any career, mentorship is very important.

TW: Absolutely, mentorship is the buzz word in the last couple of years that’s really being used and is now being used effectively. People have a much better understanding of it as well. But it’s to look for mentorship as well, it’s to use our ears and really listen to people’s feedback at every stage of our careers regardless of age or how long we’ve been around. It really is helpful to get some feedback and to be open to that. On behalf of Brightwater, thank you very much for your time today and the best of luck in the new role.

TW:   you’ve also got a big day next month and yourself and your future husband will obviously be looking forward to that, the best of luck with that as well. I can’t let you go without getting your shouts out or tips for the GAA season ahead. I heard you won a few All-Ireland medals, I must check the details, they say you played a bit, you were handy. In terms of ladies’  (are we ladies’ hurling or camogie?) Any tips for the GAA season ahead?

RB: Just camogie, I’d say, yeah.

TW: Must be the Kilkenny crowd who call it ladies’ hurling, I was listening to them a bit on the radio. So what are your thoughts on Cork winning the double this year? Football and camogie for the ladies? What do you think?

RB: I think they have a great shot to be honest. The camogie championship is wide open between the top three teams, Galway, Kilkenny and Cork.  Kilkenny won it last year, it will be hard for them to do it back to back. Galway will be disappointed with their performance in the final and Cork were not far off them so that’s a three horse race. Cork are in with a great shout.

 In terms of the ladies’ football, Dublin have been the team in the last couple of years, they’ve had a couple of retirements coming up in the next year or two so there’s an opportunity there. Dublin without doubt have been the standard bearers for the last few years so everyone is trying to catch them. Armagh did very well against them last year so keep an eye out for Armagh. But Cork will be in the hunt as well. In the final last year, maybe Cork were a little bit off the mark, I thought physically Dublin were just that bit ahead of them so if Cork can get their preparation spot on particularly in pandemic times this year, I’m sure they’ll be hot on Dublin’s heels at the end of the year.

TW: Fantastic. So Dublin, in other words, you’ve heard it here first, folks. I think that Dublin are very good. I’ve watched most of the finals and semi-finals. I think Cork ladies were unlucky against Kilkenny last year, they were beaten in the Park last year in the semis.

RB: Correct, yes.

TW: They weren’t far away that day. There was a couple of incidents that if they went the other way, Kilkenny seemed to finish strong even though Cork looked better on the day.

RB: Yes, I agree. Kilkenny got a couple of goals and they just came at the right time for them. So look, Cork beaten on the day but not far off it.