WorkWild Geese

‘When you are Irish, there’s a red carpet out for you in this town’

Recruitment consultant Catherine Flood has devoted much of her life to helping Irish people get a start in New York

Having navigated the road to career success in New York when she arrived from Ireland on a Donnelly visa in 1991, Catherine Flood has huge empathy for young Irish graduates following the same path.

As a recruitment consultant, Flood has devoted much of her life to helping Irish people get a start in the Big Apple, as well as throwing herself into a wide range of social and charitable activities focused on the Irish American community.

Irish graduates typically arrive on a year’s grad visa, have only a couple of months to find an internship that must be relevant to their degree and need to return to Ireland if they don’t find a position. Flood is currently making her way through 45 résumés that arrived in her inbox after giving a talk recently to a local Irish business networking organisation.

“Graduates arriving out here need a lot more support from simply issuing their visa to getting a job. It’s a very gratifying business to be in, knowing that you have helped people find an opportunity when they really need it,” the Monaghan native notes.


“Today’s world is very online. I’m old school. You lift the phone, tell me what you are looking for and whether you are flexible enough for the first couple of years to get a rung on the ladder. You send me your CV, I’ll help you change it because it’s not what people look for here and we’ll get your career started.”

For those with the right skills and qualifications as well as the capacity to sell themselves well, New York has a lot of possibilities and the labour market remains vibrant, she says. But candidates also need to have the right attitude and adapt to American ways. A common problem, she says, is a long-winded résumé.

Most jobs are filled on personality in this town. You need to come in and show an employer you are prepared to work as part of the team

“I see people coming to America with a four-page résumé, detailing everything they’ve done in their life to date. When I get a résumé like that, I tell them to narrow it down to one page and sell themselves. Nobody has time to read a long résumé. Give me a résumé in one page that sells your personality and work ethic. Tell me your degree, your previous job, how long were you there, why did you move and where else did you work.

“Most jobs are filled on personality in this town. You need to come in and show an employer you are prepared to work as part of the team – that there’s no airs and graces about you. You’ll make the coffee and do the photocopying.”

Flood worked hard to establish herself when she arrived, undertaking a business degree by day and doing personal care at night to pay the rent. She worked for a company distributing Irish food products and also took time out to travel.

A spell in Australia gave her experience of working in recruitment – which she enjoyed – and when she returned to the US, she launched her own business in this area, tapping into the Irish network in New York, which has been the bedrock of her business since.

Flood’s clients range from construction firms and private equity firms to law firms and those providing private homecare assistants for the care of the sick or the elderly. She says she doesn’t turn her nose up at any area of employment opportunity in which she has contacts or knowledge.

Being Irish and knowing Irish people has certain advantages, sometimes in unexpected ways. One of Flood’s clients, a Canadian law firm, recently hired a young Irish graduate off her books: “They told me: ‘We just love her accent. We want that on our phone, it’s warm and welcoming as the first person people hear when they ring us’.”

New York is also where Flood met her Irish husband Dermot O’Brien, who works in the city’s financial district. The couple has three daughters and lives north of the city in Westchester county, about a 40-minute train commute from Grand Central station.

Having run her business on her own over the years, Flood has recently entered a partnership with a long-time friend and colleague, Linda Croston, restyling her business as Croston Flood Recruiting, Consulting & Events.

The two have worked together on initiatives such as the Aisling Irish Community Center and Project Children, a charity set up in 1975 by Cork native and former New York policeman Denis Mulcahy. Project Children has brought 23,000 children from both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland to America, providing respite and promoting mutual understanding over the years.

As well as her involvement in a wide range of charity and not-for-profit work, Flood has also been an active member of the Irish Business Organization of New York. An active sports enthusiast, she is a founder of a Monaghan Ladies GAA Football team in the city and has run numerous marathons.

Flood says she does miss family in Ireland but very much enjoys her way of life in New York, including the pace of life and the weather. “There’s a great vibe here that makes you feel very alive and when you are Irish, there’s a red carpet out for you in this town.”