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.

Life update in bullet points and Sunday Song

– When one wakes up at 06h15 every morning and comes back home some time between 19h00 and 20h00, it is quite difficult to find the energy to open the laptop and write on the blog. That might have something to do with the fact that I spend most of my work day in front of a computer.

– The traineeship couldn’t be going better – nice team, nice fellow trainees, awesome venue and you know you traineeship is worth something when they give you important tasks that actually *need to be done* instead of the stereotypical coffee and trips to the Zerox machine.

– I have had my first press release publish and sent to journalists and media. Woohoo!

– I might be addicted to coffee by the end of this traineeship, which is a shame because I do not have any vices. But there is no other way (see bullet point #1).

– Giving up your Saturday morning to attend French classes is the very definition of “commitment”. Especially when the last time you studied French was 5 years ago, and as a consequence you understand everything you hear and read but you can’t answer back because you forgot how to form a freaking sentence.

– I cooked Chateaubriand with a special sauce that quite resembles Café de Paris sauce, my boyfriend couldn’t put his fork down (and neither could I) and I am extremely proud of myself right now.

– I can’t believe two weeks of office life brought back the kgs I lost while in London 😦

– I am extremely tired, but extremely happy (minus the extra weight) 🙂

Fleetwood Mac – Don’t Stop