On Friday 5th and Saturday 6th of February, POLITICO organized its yearly EU Studies Fair in the heart of Brussels. After giving it some thought, I decided to attend the entire program (which you can consult here). I was initially hesitant about going: I have already graduated and do not intend to take another course. But rather than feeling lost among the stands of universities showcasing their programmes, I actually gained some very valuable insights.
The event might have been called a Career Fair instead, as POLITICO went the extra mile to provide more than just educational advice. The general mindset was one of comprehensiveness: education, side-activities and professional experience are all equally important for your future career. It closely aligned with my personal view on career preparation. Furthermore, the fair confirmed some other things I had been pondering about.
Stand out from the crowd by presenting yourself as different. Clichés are born for a reason and so is this one. The panel conversation “Steps towards my future career” on the first day was particularly insightful in this regard. While discussing the importance of internships, whether or not to study a second master’s degree, and other such topics, one key subject was to brand yourself. The resume check by HR companies on the second fair day basically gave me that same hint.
So figure out who you are, what you are capable of and where you would like to end up. Easier said than done, this core information will help you create the image you want for yourself. This should not only be clear in your resume and cover letter for a particular vacancy, but this should become a way of life. Embody the values that you want others to hire you for. At the same time, do not forget to be real as you don’t want to come across as too perfect either.
Figure out who you are, what you are capable of and where you would like to end up.
Today’s social media offer you all the tools you need to brand yourself as a young professional. LinkedIn being the foremost with which you can exalt your achievements. If you’re looking to share your thoughts and show who you are as a person, Twitter is still the number one place to go. Use it wisely and, yes, I personally believe that you can even mention it on your resume. Finally, to address the elephant in the room: your Facebook does not necessarily have to be public. The panellists agreed, but did advise to have a publically available and presentable profile picture.
Look Beyond the EU Institutions
Do not get me wrong, working for the EU institutions would be an incredibly interesting job. I would definitely advise applying for a position whenever you can, just make sure to put things in perspective. Last year, 35.000 job applicants took that same shot at what were only 145 vacancies. These numbers were provided during the presentation given by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) and reveal a bleak reality. Chances are that you might never actually work for the EU. But does this have to be the end of the world?
35.000 job applicants took a shot at what were only 145 vacancies in the EU.
No, not at all. The world of international affairs has so much more to offer. The panellists on the first day also included journalists, consultants and entrepreneurs. These are just some of the professions you can pursue. As these same panellists pointed out, Brussels does not even have to be your starting point. If you’re not from Belgium, why not take a look at your home country instead? A lot of people actually commence their international career on a local, regional or national level of their government. Having gained incredibly relevant experience, who knows you might still land a job with one of the EU institutions.
Live a Little
While at an event such as this one, I attempt to make some new friends. It is more than the seemingly obligatory “networking” in which you would focus on talking to the professionals at the reception or in the hallways. Instead, why not talk to your fellow students and graduates attending the same event you are? They share your interests, concerns and possibly even your aspirations. Talk with each other, not just to find out that you can help each other, also because you are likely to make some good friends. I spent a good amount of time enjoying Belgian fries and beer with students and graduates from around the world. And so should you.
Why not talk to your fellow students and graduates attending the same event you are?
You obviously do not have to take my word for it. In fact, I would advise any young professionals – be they students or graduates – to visit next year’s fair themselves. Registration is free, so why not give it a try? In the future, International Perspective will definitely remind you of the EU Studies Fair’s newest edition!