Category Archives: EU Careers

Getting in the swing of the EU

I was quite busy on Friday and didn’t get the chance to blog about the Thursday event we organised with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and British Council. 58 (well 57 because 1 went astray) sixth formers came to Lancaster House to take part in a role-playing exercise based on the EU’s decision-making body the Council of Ministers. The schools all played a particular EU Member State, or the Commission or the Secretariat-General of the Council. They were sent briefing papers a few weeks before the event and came to Lancaster House on Thursday ready to debate the issues from the point of view of the country they were assigned. This time, for the first year, we had interpretation as well, giving a real sense of the multilingualism of the real Council. Not only did some of the speakers from the organisers speak in French and German, but quite a few of the students did too: the “French” representative in one of the working groups even taking verisimilitude so far she spoke French every time she took the floor!

There’s a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/EUMockCouncil and some videos on YouTube as well, with students and teachers talking about their experience.

Teachers talk about the day

The Netherlands talks about her day

It was a fabulous day. There was an incredible buzz from the beginning, and the students really got into their roles. I was following the working group on the Arab Spring and it got very passionate! There’s lots of talk about young people being disengaged from the Political process, but on the evidence of Thursday, that isn’t the case. Maybe it’s about them feeling involved. Quite apart from what they learn in terms of the EU decision-making process, several of the teachers mentioned how important it was for developing students’ confidence. Maybe none of them are looking for careers in politics or administration, but learning about engaging with people, defending a point of view and talking in front of people are all valuable skills for life.

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The intern experience

We sometimes have work experience interns working in the office here. I know there is a lot of talk about interns, but I think that the European Commission manages it quite well. Outside the graduate intern scheme, which is open to all and paid, we are allowed to take short-term unpaid interns. However, their time here is limited to 3 months and they have to be registered students who can demonstrate that the internship is going to help them in their studies. We have had several who worked just a few hours a week alongside their studies, but for them it was valuable workplace experience. Our latest was Cristina Leon Barbadillo , who has written a guest post on her experiences here over the last month:

Within all that the international aspects of law have to offer, especially after having studied EU Law, I knew that, despite the possible limitation of sticking to a particular area (the EU), it was of greater interest to me than any other. I believe in the EU, in how much it benefits its members and also helps other areas, of how unity is always a better option.

 We sometimes don’t understand the functioning of things, of institutions in this case or, even if we think we do, it’s not until we get to see them from the inside that we properly get to know how they work and how much they do. I certainly wanted to be, in whichever way possible, part of the EU’s institutions, and combining such participation with living in a city that makes me feel at home, seemed like the perfect chance.

 Shortly after enquiring about the possibility of doing an internship at the European Commission’s Representation in the UK and sending my CV, I received a positive reply, offering me to be a trainee at the office for five weeks. I felt (and still feel) incredibly lucky for the chance I was given. It was time to see the EU internally, to have some work experience and to help me have a clearer idea of where I wanted to take my future career.

 I arrived to London in mid-August, a city that I know well and which never disappoints me. My first day at the office was my initial contact with the European Commission: meeting new people, getting used to being in an office, understanding the dynamics of it, finding out where everything was… I hadn’t truly known what to expect, but it turned out to be a fantastic first day. Everyone made me feel welcome, and they would keep on doing so throughout my time here.

One of the things I’ve most appreciated and enjoyed has been the variety of activities I’ve been involved in, having worked with other departments besides Media. I prepared a presentation for the Head of Media, I followed the news closely every day, analysed meetings and current affairs situations, helped with the organisation for the Thames Festival and the upcoming European Day of Languages, as well as, of course, the more personal aspects of every day life at the office, meeting new colleagues, being with a ‘usual crowd’ at lunchtime.

 The Thames Festival took place this past weekend, on the 10th and 11th September. Being at this event for the first time, having the chance to participate with the EC Representation, was a wonderful opportunity. There were people challenging their friends and families to our EU knowledge quiz, others taking publications to truly inform themselves on the importance of the EU and, of course, many children who I’m sure had a fantastic time. Despite the supposed unpopularity of the EU in the UK, I was quite surprised by (and pleased to see) the number of people our stall attracted and the interest shown by our visitors.

Over the past few days, people have been asking me about my departure and whether I was looking forward to going back home and getting on with my course after five weeks here. As much as I do miss my family, my friends, my homeland after all, everyone at the European Commission office in London has made me feel like I fitted in, they have treated me incredibly well and have sent me really interesting tasks, leaving me with the sensation that I was being taken seriously despite just being a student about to go onto her third year at university.

I don’t know where my future will take me, whether I’ll be lucky enough to return to this office but, at least, I will have been grateful for my magnificent time here and for all that I have learned. What I am sure of, however, is that, somehow, I would very much like to contribute to the evolution of the EU. Whether it is within the EU institutions or not, I would highly recommend anyone to gain some work experience during their studies. If, however, you are interested in the European Union, the EC Representation in the UK office in London would be an excellent place to start and where you will definitely feel welcome at all times.

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Where my career has taken me

More graphic madness today. I’m doing a careers presentation at Leicester University next week and in an affort to make it a bit more viewer-friendly, I put together a Google map of everywhere I have visited around the world in a professional capacity. My favourite is the one right at the top – Svalbard. What an amazing place…

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More EU Careers stuff

I said I would blog about the event last week that launched the FCO’s EU Careers month, but time sort of got away with me and with the meeting of all Representation Press Officers in Brussels last week, I didn’t get a chance to get round to it. The event was broadly similar to the 18 October event that I have already written about, but the difference was that this focused a bit more on people who already have a career, whether in the public or private sector and who might be looking for a change. I spoke to some very interesting people who in my opinion would be an asset to the Commission. I hope the event, and the accompanying website,  will encourage them to apply. If you want a good laugh at my expense, see if you can find my video!

The careers bonanza continues with me doing an event at City University tomorrow and more later in the month. The other big theme of the moment is Volunteering, with this being the designated European Year, so I will try to write about that in the next day or two (promises, promises…)

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Coming week – 7 to 13 February

It’s a busy one, with several Commissioners in town

Monday 7 February

Commissioner Neelie Kroes (Digital Agenda) is in London at the Business for New Europe seminar “Building a Digitial Single Market”

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (Research, Innovation and Science) is in London, meeting the UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir John Beddington and making a speech at the Royal Society

Foreign and Commonwealth Office launches a new website highlighting the opportunities for careers in the EU

Tuesday 8 February

Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski (Financial Programming and Budget) visit London and addresses the House of Lords European Select Committee

Commissioner John Dalli (Health and Consumer Policy) meets President of Diageo Europe Andrew Morgan in Brussels

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (Research, Innovation and Science) meets Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Michael Russell in Brussels

Commissioner Maria Damanaki (Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) and Commissioner Connie Hedegaard (Climate Action) meet the Scottish Minister for Environment and Climate Change Rosetta Cunningham in Brussels.

Wednesday 9 February

HRH the Prince of Wales attends the International Sustainability Roundtable in Brussels, hosted by Commission Presidency José-Manuel Barroso

BBC Director General Mark Thompson meets Commissioner Androulla Vassilliou (Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth) in Brussels. Also meets Commissioner Michel Barnier (Internal Market and Services) on 10 February

Opening of Mimicry, an exhibition of 3D fashion photographs from Slovenia at Europe House, Smith Square

Thursday 10 February

Commissioner Gunther Oettinger (Energy) visits London, where he meets the Minister for Europe David Lidington, Minister for Energy and Climate Change Charles Hendy and makes a speech at the European Centre for Energy and Resource Security of King’s College London

Friday 11 February

Commissioner László Andor (Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) is in London, speaking at the conference “What future for Europe? What role should the UK play?”

Commissioner Michel Barnier (Internal Market and Services) meets the Chairman of the UK Financial Services authority Lord Adair Turner in Brussels.

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The David and Maros show

One of the things we do a lot of in this office, and more so since the new government came into power, is talking to people about what they could expect from a career working for an EU organisation. I’ve written about some recent events such as the FCO’s launch event in October last year, our Q&A webchat on the Guardian site, the language careers event in June 2010, and a week of several events in March. Last week I was filmed for a site that the FCO are creating and will be launched in early February – I’ll blog about that when it goes live. Now Boris Johnson’s economics adviser, who I knew when he was a correspondent in Brussels, plows in to the debate with a piece in City AM. And then I come across this from the Europe Minister and European Commissioner Sefcovic, which I do like. 

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What about working for the EU?

I was part of an event at the Foreign Office yesterday which brought University Vice-Chancellors, department heads and career advisers together to talk to them about the EU as a potential career for their students. It was heartening, if surreal, to sit a foot or two away from William Hague as he said “the EU is vital to the UK’s interests”. This government has really thrown itself behind this issue, and as far as these things matter, the fact that the Foreign Secretary came along the day before the strategic defence review and two days before the comprehensive spending review is impressive.

We kicked off with a film of students talking about what they knew (or perhaps more accurately didn’t know) about the opportunities that exist to work for the EU.

Then Simon Fraser, the top civil servant at the FCO, who did two stints in Brussels, talked very personally about what he had got out of it.

Many of the questions in the first part focused on the teaching of foreign languages in British schools and universities, something regulars will know I write about alot. I was then asked to be one of two case studies, just an example of what working in the EU can lead you to do, where I repeated pretty much what I have said on this blog before. There was, to coin a phrase, a lot of love in the room, and I was inundated at the end by requests to come and talk to students at this or that university. There is such a thing as overexposure (!), so we’re thinking of a sort of “Back to College” scheme, where EU officials who come back to the UK every now and then make themselves available to talk at their old university, or maybe the university in their hometown. Let’s see if we can make that work.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in finding out more, check out the Foreign Office site or the EU careers site.

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