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"Nothing much has changed, It’s mostly still the same, Yet Belfast is born again"

                                                                                                                                            (Belfast is Born Again, Foy Vance)


Traditionally Northern Ireland has lost out on retaining and drawing back talent due to a lack of specialisms, a shortage of job opportunities upon graduation, and our cities missing that 'buzz' usually associated with graduate hubs. The tides however, are beginning to turn with the rise of new investment in Northern Ireland, a drive in our social media presence and the ease of finding and connecting to careers, spurring an uplift in returners.

Shaking-off outdated perceptions, highlighting the amazing career opportunities available for graduates, and showcasing the growth of a unique, quirky culture in our cities, will not only draw the next generation back, but also attract a wider network of individuals, promoting Northern Ireland as a globally competitive economy.

Over the next few months we will provide you with an insight into the experience faced by returners who we have recently placed with our market leading clients. This month we focus on Shay Reynolds who is now working as a Digital Creative at MXB.


Originally from Coleraine, Shay studied advertising at the Ulster University, Magee campus in Derry/Londonderry. After graduating he was told that there wasn't a great deal going on in Northern Ireland, so decided to move to London to start his career in advertising.

Shay is an ambitious individual and moved over to London despite not having a job. He quickly picked-up regular freelance work which then turned into a full-time role. Over the next four/five years there was a mixture of freelance and agency work, which enabled him to live a reasonably comfortable lifestyle.

Shay had originally planned to move back to Northern Ireland after a couple of years. After five years of visiting home, the harder it became to board the plane back to London. Although Shay had established a strong base of friends in the city, these connections weren't quite the same as being close to family and childhood friends. Shay also missed the sense of community and just saying hello to people whilst out and about in Northern Ireland, and finally decided he needed to return home.

Having been key sponsors at Digital DNA and advertising a stream of marketing and digital roles, it was a no brainer that Shay would contact MCS Group. Having sat down with senior consultant Karl Webb, they looked at culture fit team dynamics and an overall understanding of where Shay wanted his career to go. Karl presented a number of key clients in Northern Ireland who best suited Shay's personality as well as skills. Within one month, Shy had secured a role with MXB and an exciting new career,

Readjusting back into Northern Ireland life has been easy for Shay who feels there is a much more relaxed vibe here. After just two weeks he knew he had made the right decision. In terms of work, surprisingly this hasn't been overly different to London, with the environment fast paced, busy and working to tight deadlines. One challenge however is that the teams here are smaller and sometimes competitive, although this does allow for increased ownership and creativity vs. being a cog a in much larger machine.

Since leaving Northern Ireland five years ago, the change that Shay has seen is phenomenal, things are really happening. The atmosphere here in NI is extremely positive, with lots of start-up businesses, and cool, quirky cafes, bars and restaurants popping up

 It also goes without saying, that the cost of living and rent is lower than in London, which leaves a greater amount of disposable income. Shay commented that he often felt confined in London, but since moving home, he has been white collar boxing, exploring the countryside and strolling along our stunning beaches. He feels that he wants to explore the country, and can just jump in the car and within 30mins be discovering somewhere new, something that was rare in London.

The overall feeling that came across was that Shay's quality of life has been transformed; friends and family are close enough, working hours have reduced, and having the ability to get outdoors on a weekend is unbeatable. Belfast as a city offers the buzz, range of shops and cultural growth to now challenge the larger cities on the UK mainland, whilst still maintaining a unique friendliness and community spirit.

Advice that Shay would offer to anyone considering a return to Northern Ireland would be; don't hesitate, don't put things off; set yourself a deadline and stick to it. Shay acted on a gut feeling but did have a financial safety net in place. He paid rent in advance and had a monthly budget which afforded him a few months to secure a role.

If you are considering a move back to Northern Ireland and would like to discuss the career opportunities available, we would be delighted to hear from you, please call our offices today on 028 9023 5456 or email