What a difference an institution makes

(or how I am so disappointed to see a pitiable practice trickling down to those who are, in the end, my peers)

Job hunting is a nuisance no matter what. It will always be a real pain in the neck (unless your family owns a company, then you’re a shoe-in and settled for life). Even if you have a EU traineeship – and that’s a really big deal to have over here -, it will still amount to nothing to certain recruiters, because it is not the “right” institution. Newsflash – if it’s not the European Commission and if it’s not the European Parliament (and, on a stretch, the European Council), then you are not “an immediate hire” (heard from the Head of a consultancy himself). Of course, we can’t pinpoint the the failure of a job application to this factor only, and that is not what I am trying to do here – I am just referring to this extra factor which is used as a reason for them to completely overlook your CV, no matter how competent and professional you are.

What really saddens me – and is the real reason behind this text – is to realise this attitude is settling among the EU trainees themselves.

I finished my EESC traineeship in February, but some of my friends have just started theirs. That means they will obviously share some of their experience on Facebook and other social media. So here I was yesterday afternoon, minding my own business, when I see that one of them plans to attend an event called “EU Trainees Debate #1”. Curiousity killed the cat, and I opened the event page to see what it was about – only to realise this event, organised by the E. Council trainees, apparently only includes “Commission, Parliament, and Council”. The trainees of the other institutions, as far as I could see, weren’t even invited to participate as members of the audience (which will be able to ask questions).

European Economic and Social Committee. Committee of the Regions. European External Action Service. European Ombudsman. European Court of Justice. All of these are European Institutions, and all of them offer traineeships twice a year. Are their trainees less than the ones from the legislative/executive institutions?

If I can begrudgingly understand (but not accept) the primacy often given to trainees from “the big three” by recruiters (most companies are after contacts in order to advance their interests and agenda, after all), I simply cannot be a happy camper when I see this mentality reaching the trainees themselves. In theory – and in the EU legislation – all trainees are the same, no matter the institution. We have the same allotted traineeship time (40h/week during 5 months), we are paid the same amount of money. To see the trainees discriminating among themselves makes me lose hope that this mentality will ever change.

I am fiercely proud of my EESC traineeship, of the things I have accomplished there and of the fact that they have tried, until my last day, to keep me. I know it help me to land a job, sooner or later. And it will make me feel even better to know I had to fight against adversity and – yes – institutional discrimination. But I will keep fighting and denouncing this issue past my “in-between jobs” phase. You can mark my words – because no cause is too small when you believe in it.

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The place where we were once happy

My traineeship finished last Friday and it still pains me to think about that, let alone trying to describe what I feel.

I have had work experiences in quite a few different places now, most of them with excellent colleagues and a nice atmosphere. Having said that, allow me to quote Sinnead O’Connor and proclaim: EESC, “nothing compares to you”. It is indescribable what having a taste of your desired career can do to you. It really is. And it is even better (or worse, depending on your point of view) when your team talks to The Powers That Be every single day – unbeknownst to your for a while – asking them to do something and make you stay. There’s got to be a way, they say. They point out “how ridiculous it is to let people like her go when we are so overworked and understaffed”. They become infuriated when finding out the European Commission is still allowed to keep trainees as interims, but all the other EU institutions aren’t. Let me rephrase that – WE become infuriated; count me in on that one.

I feel like Icarus in a way. I feel like I’ve been allowed to fly so close to the sun only to fall like I always knew I would – the first thing that they tell us when our traineeship begins is that “no trainees stay afterwards due to the new legislation, and if they do it is a true miracle”.

Life after a taste of your dream job can be pretty boring – especially when you did not manage to get another job or traineeship. It’s only been four working days and I can’t remember a week taking this long to pass. I sit down, send more applications and try to keep a positive attitude; “if it worked once, it will work again”, “if you don’t get the one you want, the right one will come”, say my ex-colleagues, who are way more experienced that I am and have been here and done this. I want to believe them, I have to believe them – but then there are those moments when you remember you have bills to paid, a life plan to share with the person you love and live with, and the phone simply won’t ring with a call for an interview, let alone a definitive offer. The only e-mail you get are your dad’s, and when they are not they always say “thank you but no” – and that’s when they are kind enough to reply back, because most recruiters seem to shield themselves behind the inconsiderate “only selected candidates will be contacted” line (it takes five minutes to get all the rejected applicant’s e-mails and BCC them with a general e-mail saying they weren’t selected, but god forbid people nowadays from being nice to each other! Nevermind that with every application they send, people are putting their lives on hold…).

I am not a quitter and never have been. I am a fighter. And I will fight until the end. Resilience truly is my middle name. I just wish job hunting – especially in Brussels – wouldn’t make one feel so worthless, despite evidence from your former workplace that you aren’t.

My former colleagues e-mailed me saying the office is not the same without me and infinitely more boring, that is hard to find someone with my enthusiasm and pleasure to work every single day, despite waking up at 6am everyday and taking two trains to do so. Maybe that was the key to it all – I felt so fortunate, so thankful, so happy to be there and being treated like an equal who offers valuable proposals and insight, so proud to be a name and not a number that the small annoying things didn’t even matter to me. And I want to feel like that again, for the rest of my professional life.

There’s an EPSO competition to pass, and damn right if I won’t go to hell and back to pass it all and get back to the place where I was once happy. But it is a one-year process and in the meantime there is a job to find. Let’s pray and hope that I am allowed to find it soon.

Never forget

Image

American Troops Landing on D–Day, Omaha Beach, Normandy Coast (photo credit: Robert Capa, Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Dear World, but especially dear EU:

It’s been 70 years since the D-Day. And yet the re-emergence of the ideologies the Allies defeated in the WWII has never been so frightening as now. Though many votes on those kind of parties were the so-called “protest votes”, there were also some who voted because they agree with their ideology.

We need to stop sticking our heads in the sand, to stop being so narrow-minded in our vision and conception of Europe that thinks no evil can happen if we follow our own route. We need to be able to listen to different visions, or else people will follow the route of desperation and turn to extreme movements and parties.

It’s been 70 years. 70 years can seem a lot, yet on the great scheme of things it was just yesterday. Please don’t forget. Never forget.

 

“No thoughts had I of anything,
Or at least that’s what I thought;
I even thought I couldn’t think,
But now I think I never thought.” 

Christopher MillerAt This Point in Time

The end of the “permissive consensus”?

As a soon-to-be Master of European Studies, it was with great attention and concern that I followed the European elections’ results last night. As much as I would like this blog to be all about good things and nice music, I cannot ignore the pressing reality that must be discussed and debated as much as possible. And one of the reasons why I created this blog was so that I could speak my mind freely, instead of having to deal with narrow-minded classmates on Facebook who immediately label as “naïve” people who happen to have a different vision… I’m not saying that won’t happen in the comments later on, but such is life.

I have a lot to say about these results and I hope my line of thought is clear enough…

The media and the political elites already labelled last night’s results as an “earthquake”. I will say that, sadly, such outcome was already expected. We can blame the powers-that-be in Brussels, who dismissed citizens’ dissatisfaction way too many times; we can blame the low-turnout, for it helps the rise of extremist parties. We can blame national parties for spinning European concerns into national ones as a way to galvanize votes for the upcoming national ballots, instead of focusing on what really matters right now. We can blame whatever and whoever we want, but the reality isn’t going to change: from now on, we have a extreme-right, hard Eurosceptic front in the European Parliament, and we will have to find a way to deal and negotiate with them. Jean-Claude Juncker, who according to last night’s results is the best positioned candidate for the presidency of the European Commission, kept saying throughout his campaign that he won’t dialogue or acknowledge Eurosceptic voices, let alone extremists. I will say that, if he is indeed appointed and approved, he really has the work cut out for him…

Although he did not get my vote, I very much approved Guy Verhofstadt’s aftermath speech. He did not dismiss or ignored the European Parliament’s new reality and, although not addressing it directly, he did show throughout his speech the need for a united pro-European front from now on. One of my lecturers addressed the famous “unity in diversity” slogan a couple of days ago, saying that it should be replaced by something along the lines of “Divided we stand”. I somehow think he is right…

I come from an European country in crisis, although I don’t live there – and certainly won’t due to personal reasons and choices – anymore. I know what austerity measures are doing to my fellow citizens, how much they have costed them. And it sincerely pisses me off that abstention rates were so high last night. I understand that the present situation led to a feeling of hopelessness and disenchantment. I see why people are so sick and tired of the current parties and politics – I am one of them. What I don’t understand is, when given the chance to finally have a say in the way the European project is steered, they simply don’t get up from their couches and vote. Even a blank vote sends a powerful message. What is worse, most of those people who don’t bother to vote are part of my generation – a generation who is (or should be) qualified and educated enough to understand that refraining from voting won’t solve anything, quite the opposite. But politicians and elites are also to blame for this. They need to stop acting like ostriches and sticking their head in the stand. They need to make voters – especially the younger generations – interested in politics, or at least in the matters that do have an impact in their future and daily lives. They need to come up with feasable alternatives and to reach out for the European youth, and not just say “I feel for you but blame solely your national government for the crisis and unemployment” (I am looking at you, Mr. van Rompuy…).

Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, Danish ultranationalists, the Five Star Movement in Italy, the Greek Golden Dawn… We do forget too easily. Give them a chance and we’ll be back to 1945. The European project needs an effective and deep structural reform in order to avoid such an outcome. But it also needs to listen. It desperately needs to listen. And it desperately needs to change. We all need to change. From Eurocrats who prefer to ignore what’s in front of them, to politicians who only care about their paycheck at the end of the month, to citizens who think that refraining from voting is a good thing, to the so-called “good ones” who could help to improve the current situation but prefer to stay aside. We need a change for the best, or else we’ll change for the worst. And the worst is already here…