Ciaran Cronnelly, politician

Current employer: Citizens Advice

Current job title: Strategic Change Consultant

Current location: Weston-super-Mare

Ciaran's advice to current law students

Don’t limit your options – there are a variety of careers out there.

I was initially convinced that the only career I wanted to pursue was to be a solicitor, but in the end, I found an alternative career that I really enjoy and is as impactful and rewarding.
Whether you are certain of the job you want on graduation, are undecided or are looking for inspiration, the Careers Service is here to support you. 

Be surgical with your applications

Towards the end of my degree, I applied to many law firms before I realised it wasn’t the route I wanted to go down. On reflection, the standard of my applications was poor, as I failed to tailor them sufficiently and my approach was too broad as I applied to any firm, not the right firm.
Your applications will be more successful and authentic if you focus on applying only to firms you are excited about and share your values.

Volunteer – you will enhance your skills

I can’t emphasise enough the importance of volunteering. Volunteering offers you the opportunity to gain new transferrable skills and experiences that will help you in your career.
The University of Plymouth can help you secure placements, work experience, part-time work and more while you are studying. Find out more about the Careers Service

From law and order to charity and politics

When did you decide to follow the career path you are currently on?

Throughout my time at university, I volunteered at Citizens Advice Plymouth – providing people with advice to help solve their problems – and Witness Support – supporting witnesses and victims of crime during trials. Volunteering at these charities helped to ignite my passion for this type of work.
These opportunities not only gave me new skills and experiences but also showed me there were alternative careers out there that could be just as impactful and rewarding as a career as a solicitor or barrister.
I decided to pursue a career in the charity sector shortly after graduating and was fortunate to secure my first job as a caseworker at Citizens Advice Plymouth.
Fast-forward to today and for the last few years, I’ve been working at the national head office of Citizens Advice, where I’ve had roles leading national services helping hundreds of thousands of people a year, as well as providing consultancy to local CEOs and Chairs about mergers and restructures.
Alongside this, I’ve also begun a political career.

Have any events in your life strongly influenced your choices about the kind of education and work that you have pursued?

After graduating from university, I briefly tried to pursue a career as a solicitor but after numerous applications, I never quite secured a training contract. On reflection, this was an important catalyst that drove me to where I am today.
I’d say the greatest influences were my passion for helping people through volunteering coupled with my appetite to apply the knowledge I had acquired at law school. I’m incredibly lucky that my career allows me to do both.
For my sins, I’ve also become a politician. If I’m being honest, I’m not quite sure how that happened as I’ve never had much interest in politics and I’m a terrible public speaker but in 2019 I was elected as a councillor.
I had no political experience, had never stood for election before and had a tiny campaign budget. All I had was a drive to give a voice to the community I live in and the various skills I had acquired throughout my education and career.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Plymouth?

At A level, I studied law and was given the opportunity to take part in a mooting competition (I was terrible and came last), which triggered my appetite to study law at university.
The decision to study at the University of Plymouth was an easy one for me. I’m a Plymothian and I wanted to attend a quality city university with a good law school while remaining in the South West.

Has the University of Plymouth helped you with your career in any way?

The University of Plymouth gave me many of the foundations I’ve used to build my career. I’d say the most influential was the encouragement, direction and support that I was provided to undertake volunteering opportunities alongside my law degree, particularly as I used this in my work-based learning. It helped me to turn theory into practice.
These opportunities directly led to my first job and the experiences I acquired have remained integral to my current roles.

What did you enjoy about your course?

I thoroughly enjoyed studying law and I’d definitely recommend it to others. It’s an incredibly broad and varied subject, which made it an exciting subject to learn and it’s one of those topics that you can easily see how it applies in everyday life.
I also liked that the course included elements of practical learning and meeting many like-minded individuals throughout the course who have remained friends 10 years later. 

What are your plans for the future?

I intend to continue working in the charity sector as I enjoy what I do and the difference it makes to people. I know what my end goal is – just not the bits in between – and I’d like to one day be the Chief Executive of a large charity.
With regards to my political career, that’ll be down to the voters to decide how long I last. At this point in my life, I’ve no intention of becoming a Member of Parliament, but you never know what the future holds. 
Bright red lifebuoy on the pier