Been round the Brussels internship block one too many times?

July 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm 6 comments

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Clocked up some institutional experience (read internships)? Hold far too many Masters degrees in things that your mates back home can’t understand? About ready for gainful employment after far too long gaining nothing but experience? Well, you are not alone.

As with most of the large agencies in Brussels, we get sack fulls of CVs and covering letters – mostly spontaneous, some otherwise – looking for that first step up on the career ladder. Given the mountains of mail, how can you make sure that you get an interview?

Well, it just so happens our Talent Development people in the US write a regular blog on how to get your career off the blocks in the world of “p.r.” Albeit from a US perspective, the blog contains some pretty cool posts with a range of tips for anyone seeking to leap into the world of “pr”. Now beware our office likes to think of itself as “p.a.” – a subset of “p.r.” some of us would argue – but in any case the tips are still pretty useful for anyone thinking of crashing into our world.

While we’re on the subject, my own personal top three (self-explanatory) tips would be the following:

  1. Do your research. Speak to FHers (we like to talk) or people that know us, read this blog, surf our plethora of corporate sites, understand our services and our client base, what we think it takes to be good at what we do, what are the areas of our business are growing etc.
  2. Tailor your application. Your CV and covering letter should reflect how you are likely to bring value to our organisation and our clients. Here think about agency life and FH as an agency – in essence use the results of point 1.
  3. Get the little things right. Make sure you address the application to the right person (we had an applicant recently who addressed an application to FH to the MD of a competitor who sits across the street from us…not good) Check the spelling of F-H. Don’t use Times New Roman or make your CV look like it was written on a 1940s typewriter. Little things matter in our business and for our clients.

In any case, if you got this far, you probably are all wondering whether this post is completely off topic. Well if you’d been paying attention, doing your research so to speak, you’d probably have concluded that if you are (a) interested in EU public affairs/politics and (b) have skills/experience in the digital communications field in some way shape or form, you should be letting us know about your existence. We’ll leave that thought with you.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Internships in Brussels....  |  July 24, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Thanks a lot for these useful tips how to get an internship (and of course the hidden job ad…huh..very clever) …
    Indeed, great advice. I don’t think I have ever read something similar before. Sorry for that bit of sarcasm but I really would have expected a bit more from you guys.

    On a more general note, don’t you think that this “internship business” in Brussels is counterproductive for both – graduates and employers? It is sad to see so many over-qualified graduates that are desperately taking unpaid/low paid internships for a year or more just to make the first steps on the career ladder (or only to get into the EU institutions eventually).

    Internships should provide a first type of job experience preferably during your studies, not afterwards! It is weird to see job ads that offer internships and, at the same time ask for previous experience from other internships in the same sector… seem a bit over the top to me!

    And employers happily take advantage of this market situation: cheap labour, no need for too much training and a constant market supply of fresh “experienced” interns…

    I don’t have any idea how your company is thinking about this issue. Do not take this personally, it is more a general observation that has nothing to do with FH Brussels.

    Reply
  • 2. fhbrussels  |  July 24, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Hi there “Internships in Brussels…”,

    Thanks for the comment.

    First a point of clarification. The post is about how to get an interview for a proper job here in town. Have a re-read. A little clue is in the title of the post and the references to “gainful” employment. We were thinking of the vast batches of people who have recently finished stages and will be looking to move to a proper job. Apologies if not clear enough.

    On your points on internships, from a personal perspective (note disclaimer in right hand column about content on this blog), I’d have to agree completely with your comments.

    I too went through the internship mill (albeit a super one with a dedicated MEP who used me to do interesting stuff – god bless him, he was the best), despite my two top notch degrees, bags of prior and relevant work experience during my studies and my general brilliance…(at that stage still unrecognised). At some stage, one has to say enough is enough and ask for a job. It’s a risk but I did and hence I am here writing this reply to you.

    As such, when I arrived in a position where I could make a decision about how to find and recruit interns I did. I helped our office set up an an undergraduate internship programme – which has been going for three years now. It’s generally recognised as superb both for FH and for the interns. We get keen young undergrads for an entire year in their third year of study. There is no fear of them running off into the sunset half way through – thus wasting our investment in them just as they become useful – and they get a great year of experience that will make them grow immeasurably and look great on their CV. Interns do real work here and are an integrated part of our team. No photocopying or coffee making allowed.

    Added bonus. Iif we like our undergrads, we can always employ them the year later – in fact, our first “graduate” (David Turier) is about to rejoin us in August a year after finishing his internship and having just received his degree from my own Alma Mater.

    I’d recommend others to try this approach to finding and recruiting interns – it’s a win-win as far as we can see. Indeed, I recommended it to a client only last week as a way forward for their organisation. I’d be happy to share experiences with other organisations (competitiors incl.) on how to do it.

    James

    btw – any reason for anonymity?

    Reply
  • 3. fhbrussels  |  July 24, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Oh, and on your sarcasm… (appreciated clearly)…as someone who reads (scans) CVs on a fairly regular basis you’d be surprise how many applicants don’t follow our admittedly groundbreaking three tips… like say 90%.

    Reply
  • 4. Pierre-Antoine Rousseau  |  July 24, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Very appreciated article James. Yes, there is an internship business in Brussels. It’s amazing the number of people who wants – at any price – to work in EU affairs. But the demand is (far) higher than the offer.

    The problem is that – even after an internship in Brussels – it is very difficult to find a job in a PA consultancy,an industry federation, a NGO, etc. For instance, to become a junior consultant in a PA consultancy, you are usually asked to have at least 2 years of experience. The only way seems to be recruited after long internship. However, it’s rarely the case. I know what I am talking about!

    Btw. I have been thinking that it could be a good idea to open a collaborative blog on ‘How to find a job in EU affairs’.

    “Don’t use Times New Roman or make your CV look like it was written on a 1940s typewriter”. Why damn not choosing Times New Roman?

    Are you recruiting?

    Reply
  • 5. fhbrussels  |  July 24, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Pierre-Antoine,

    Not a bad idea on the blog on recruitment…however, one blog to think of things to write for is enough for me at present.

    On TNR font, I have a particular dislike for this font. I have no idea why. It must be overexposure at a young age. Out of interest, my personal preference at the moment is for Calibri. However, I note with regret that it is not one of the two fonts selected as FH brand identity compliant…but thankfully neither is TNR.

    On recruitment, we don’t tend to advertise so best to follow my (blatantly obvious) number 1 tip and talk to FHers about what your skills and how they might match with what we are looking for. We tend to go on word of mouth and people we run in to. We also tend to find space on the bench for the right people. See http://www.eu.fleishmaneurope.com for details of how to submit formal applications to us here in Brussels.

    James

    Reply
  • 6. Pierre-Antoine Rousseau  |  July 25, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Thanks for the answer.

    Personally, I like Arial.

    Reply

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A blog on politics, policy, public affairs and communications in Brussels and the European Union. The blog is written by the team at Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of the company or its clients. You will find the contact details of our team at www.fleishman-hillard.eu

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