What sort of people enjoy working for the EU? Could you be one of them? The EU is a real draw for Warwick students, but there’s often a gap between perception and reality and the application process is not for the faint-hearted. Give yourself the best chance of success by finding out what’s really involved. I went along to a recent Careers in the EU event, to do just that. Here’s what I found….
People love working in the EU because:
- They work with international teams with people across (and occasionally beyond) the whole of Europe.
- They take significant responsibility early in their careers.
- If they get their work right, it could have a positive impact on millions of people.
- They can stay in the EU for all their working life if they wish (and in fact can spend as long as 12 years doing something else before they lose their right to return to working there), but since they are unlikely to stay in the same job for more than a few years they can combine the relative safety of working there with a varied and interesting career, with clear promotional prospects.
- The work-life balance is on the whole very fair.
The skills you will need to evidence include:
- Language. If your first language is English then your second language will need to be French or German. Part of the assessment is in your second language – the emphasis is on communication – if you used le when it should have been la, this is unlikely to be an issue if you are still understood. A-Level standard is a guide, but there are plenty of successful applicants who gained this standard by using their university’s languages support. If you have the interest and skills but not the language fluency then see what the Language Centre has to offer.
- Analysis and problem solving.
- Delivering quality and results.
- Learning and Development.
- Resilience (Explained as ‘not getting disillusioned or angry where things don’t go your way’)
- Working with others.
- Potential to lead.
To get into the EU you need to:
- Pass the computer based assessment. These use multiple choice questions to test your speed of thinking in verbal reasoning (20 questions in 30 minutes), Numerical reasoning (10 questions in 20 minutes), Abstract reasoning (10 questions in 10 minutes) and a situational judgement test – in your second language – which assesses how you might respond in certain circumstances (20 questions in 30 minutes). Using books and resources to familiarise yourself with these tests can be helpful – but the comment was also made that no-one has yet found a way to increase IQ!
- Succeed in an assessment centre in your second language. It consists of a case study, oral presentation, structured interview and a group exercise. One good idea – look at publically available EU documents to learn some of the EU jargon in your second language. The assessment timetable means that it would usually possible to spend a summer overseas to develop skills in your chosen language.
- Find a job! Passing the assessments merely means that you are put on a list (known as ‘the blue book’) of people who can apply for vacancies. The ‘blue book’ is available to all EU staff looking to recruit and the number of people on the list is intended to reflect closely the number of likely vacancies. Some people who have particular skills or interests or have developed contacts in the EU already will contact the part of the organisation which interests them with a CV, drawing attention to why they are interested in working there and mentioning that they are in the ‘blue book’ already – this is an entirely acceptable way to help oneself to find an appropriate position
Other things you may not know about applying to the EU:
- The UK has 12% of the EU population, but UK citizens form only 5% of the EU workforce and 2% of applicants. This percentage of the workforce is likely to reduce – predictions suggest that UK citizens soon to retire will not be replaced by the same number of new UK entrants.
- People who have English as their mother tongue are in great demand.
- You can apply more than once – if you have applied before and been unsuccessful this will not be counted against you (although clearly it would make sense to think about how you could improve subsequent applications!).
- You can get into the EU later in a career after doing something else first. There are secondments from the Civil Service, temporary roles which are then made permanent, and specialist positions – at present experienced economists and ‘city people’, lawyers, and scientists are much in demand.