Working for a living

This week is clearly careers week. I don’t think I’ve done a single careers talk since I arrived, and I’m doing two this week. On Monday we had someone from EPSO, our recruitment service, in the Rep holding open sessions for graduates (or soon-to-be-graduates) on the new round of recruitment and the new system. I was there to give a bit of a personal view of working in the Commission, describing my career path, and of course answering questions. The experience of new aspirants to an EU career will be a bit different from mine, as they will be taking tests designed to test competence and not knowledge. So no more questions about how many traffic accidents were there in the EU, or what is the weight of printer paper (both terrifyingly examples of questions in past competitions!). I was only at the final session of the day, but it was striking how many of the people who came along were from other Member States. Apparently this was less the case earlier in the day, but it raises yet again the issue I mentioned at Abingdon about the spectre of a loss of UK influence within the EU institutions.

Tonight I’m going to City University to talk to their Sociology MA candidates about possible careers for social science students. Given that I did a social science Bachelors and am starting a Sociology MA at City in September, it seems a shoe-in for me to do!

So, if I’m having to stand up in front of people and encourage them to consider a career here, I have obviously have had to think about what makes it a career I enjoy. So here is a purely personal look at the main things:

1) I love being able to use languages on a daily basis (and so that’s something I really miss here). As a spokesperson I got to do interviews in French and English, brief journalists in those languages and German and improve my minor languages by reading the press cuttings. Really made all those years of language learning worth it.

2) I’m a bit of a butterfly (5 different posts and 4 houses during my 15 years in Brussels), so working for an organisation with such a broad range of subjects means I can imagine about a lifelong career without worrying about getting stuck in a rut.

3) Leading on from that, there’s something for everyone. If you’re a really technical type, whose life revolves around widget regulations, then you can spend your whole career on widgets. If you want to move around a lot you can. There are many jobs giving an overview of a broad policy area, and many that are highly specialised.

4) The calibre of people you work with, both within the Commission/other institutions and their broader ecosystem of trade assocations, think tanks, law firms etc is very high. So intellectually it’s an amazing environment to be in. Like university with better food…

5) There is a strong element of idealism. I came to the view when I was a teenager that it is in our continent’s best interests to work together, and I was happy to be given the chance to work daily to make that happen.

I’m sure if I sat down for a beer and talked about this, more would come up, but that’s it for the moment. If any of this strikes a chord with you, why not apply for one of the recruitment competitions coming up? If you’re on Facebook you can follow developments via the EU Careers fan page.


Filed under Coming Week, EC in UK, EU Careers, Languages, Personal, Youth

5 responses to “Working for a living

  1. Michael

    I’m entirely with you on the ‘spectre’ of ‘loss of UK influence within the EU institutions, and sorry to have missed hearing your talk to the Abingdon European Society.

    The new approach to recruitment adopted by EPSO should not only do away with the dreaded eliminatory EU questions (there were worse than those you describe, but I don’t want to throw raw meat into the gaping Eurosceptic maw!) but should also considerably speed the whole process up.

    However, it will not in and of itself do anything to address the shortage of successful UK candidates in EU competitions. Unless and until enough British applicants with sufficient language skills in addition to qualifications in law, economics, accounting et al come forward, that will remain the same. And that won’t happen if we dispense any further with language teaching in our schools and universities.

  2. antonia

    I couldn’t agree with you more Michael. In addition, I’ve just seen some figures about the applications received so far and the UK is way down. There’s a real opportunity for UK graduates here. how can we get the info out to them?

    • Moray

      And of course we have the marvellous irony of the UK signing up to the new rules requiring people to have 3 languages, when even 2 is a significant challenge for Brits. No wonder applications are in freefall. Couple this with the fact that the Commission is crying out for native English speakers since almost all work now is drafted in English to start with…

      On a more constructive note, perhaps we need a broader tour of UK universities to sell Europe more?

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