Often referred to as the ‘capital of Europe’, Brussels is indeed home to many institutions of the European Union, NATO and other major international organisations and multinational corporations; the job market here is very dynamic and multifaceted, especially for foreigners. Therefore, if you wish to find the most suitable job for you in this city, it is important to know the environment first.
Through the years, Brussels has become a vital point of reference for those involved in public and regulatory affairs within the European Union. As a consequence, it offers much more employment opportunities than everywhere else in Europe, regardless of the specialisation, the sector you are involved in or the level of seniority. It should also be taken into account that, in a country with three official languages – and many more used in the cosmopolitan capital – people with good language skills have the best chance of landing a job. Being bilingual or multilingual here is truly considered an asset, especially for people that want to work in close contact with the EU institutions: with 28 EU Member States – and many more partner states – different languages are spoken every day in offices.
When looking for a job in Brussels, the first thing to do is to identify the potential employers. The range of career paths in the capital of Europe is very wide: beyond NATO and the European Institutions, you can find job openings at embassies, permanent representations, consulates, representations of regional and local authorities, industry associations, NGOs and law firms. There are also vacancies in consultancy and communication companies, as well as translation and recruitment organisations. For this reason, when browsing for your future job, websites like Eurobrussels.com, Jobs.EurActiv.com and Actiris.be are essential starting points, because a great number of job ads correlated to EU affairs can be found here. Moreover, it is advisable to have an efficient network of contacts. Networking should not be considered only as an exchange of information with others; networking is especially about establishing and nurturing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with the people you meet. Therefore, one of the best things to do to widen your contact list is to take part to the European Commission’s Info days, or to conferences and events. It is equally important to keep in contact with previous colleagues and/or professors.
The largest international organisation by number of employees working in Brussels is without any doubt the European Union, shortly followed by NATO. The EU alone employs more than 40.000 people in various institutions, many of which are either at the Commission or at the Council. A career as civil servant for the EU institutions implies first and foremost being citizen of an EU Member State, as well as being fluent in at least two or more languages. For more information about working for the EU, current job vacancies both permanent and temporary, deadlines and applications, it is useful to have a look especially at the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO): as a matter of fact, the recruitment procedure changes with the position you are applying for (trainee, interim staff, temporary agent, contract agent or permanent official). NATO also employs a high number of foreigners; however, successful applicants must be nationals of a NATO Member State with skills in a relevant discipline and proficiency in English and/or French. For more information about job vacancies at NATO, it could be helpful to consult their website section.
Finally, you should take a look at some of the most popular professional figures in Brussels, in particular the project manager and the lobbyist. At EU level, project managers can be found within EU Institutions, European Agencies as well as in Delegations of the European Commission in developing countries; at a smaller level, this job position can be in any public or private organisation that receives support from the EU for the implementation of its initiatives or that intends to set up a Grant Department for benefitting from EU funds (i.e. Chambers of Commerce, NGOs, SMEs, Universities and schools, Municipalities, Associations, …). The main tasks of a project manager consist in monitoring EU policies and funding programmes, drafting and managing EU projects, dealing with stakeholders (European Commission and consortia), and, ultimately, delivering trainings and specialised publications.
Being at the center of the EU decision-making process, Brussels also attracts thousands of lobbyists promoting the interests of a variety of groups, from big companies to public stakeholders and NGOs. Lobbying is normally differentiated from other advocacy work as it focuses more on the legislative process, as it tries to influence the drafting and implementation of new or existing laws. Lobbyists offer expertise by presenting arguments and counter-arguments to shape law according to the interests they represent. By providing clear and qualitative inputs into the legislative process in a competent and transparent manner, they help legislators to develop practical and appropriate laws which will ultimately impact on society.
To conclude, the chances that Brussels offer from the professional point of view are many: the job market is flexible and dynamic, as well as international. Now, the only step left is to figure out which career path to follow.