Life after UG: Working as an administative manager at the European Parliament
|Date:||20 July 2021|
Jan-Paul Brouwer works in the Office of the Secretary General of the European Parliament. He did both his bachelors and his masters in Groningen and graduated in 2001. Before he started at the Parliament, he worked in Human
Resources and Finance leadership roles at various EU institutions and bodies, including the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Defence Agency. In September, he will start a new role as Human Resources Director of the European University Institute in
You’re working at the European Parliament (EP). What exactly do you do?
“I currently work with much pleasure at the strategic support office that directly reports to the Secretary-General of the EP. The Secretary-General started a new approach on how to manage the EP some years ago. A challenge in IO’s is that
strategies thought of at high levels of the organization often do not reach the work floor as intended. The new strategic approach addresses this problem. The office I work in tries to make sure that the projects that are being done are actually measured and aligned to the top strategy and that feedback loops are created. The job sits in the center of the organization and we work on questions like: how do we improve the performance, functioning and structure of this big organization with around 10.000 staff? How do you steer and create agility in such a slow-moving big organization? That to me is very interesting and I think this improved way of working will also be a positive development to counter some of the criticism on the functioning of the EU.”
The EU is indeed highly criticized. After all, we’ve got the UN already and regional organizations might not be that helpful in comparison to international organizations.
“I think it’s completely the other way around. As the EU has shown over the past 70 years, it has been a tremendously impactful organization that has changed profoundly how Europe is organized and collaborates. Unfortunately, the EU as an organization is under pressure. Societies are leaning back to nationalism and populism, which I think is a very dangerous trend. We tend to forget why
this all started, which was as a peace project; we wanted to prevent something like WWII from happening again. We merged countries’ economies partly together and put it under a higher authority. It’s very important to remember the reason that the EU exists and to give it the credit that it deserves. Don’t shoot at it without taking any responsibility. Also, the non-costs of Europe are still much higher than the costs of Europe. These are things that probably are not amplified
You have got a career that most IRIO students dream of. Is it indeed a dream or is the reality not that glamorous?
“Hahah! I’ve asked myself this question very often because very few people are lucky enough to do what their passion is and get paid for it. I remember the first time I walked into the Brussels Parliament so clearly. It was such a massive building with such a great energy, and I was so happy that I could enter that world. I had already done an internship in Geneva at a small NGO (in fact, the oldest still remaining peace organization). When I stepped into the canteen of the UN building for the first time and I saw all those people from all over the world sitting together, eating, I knew that I wanted to be part of that. From then, I started looking for jobs in the international sphere which I then found in the EP. Of course, I’ve also had crappy bosses and difficult teams. In those situations, I ask myself: “What would I rather be doing?”, and I always come back to my initial
drivers. I like working with people, working in an international setting, organizing, and improving organizations. This is exactly what I’m doing. If these are things you like, it’s indeed that dream. I am in a very good position and I wouldn’t want to change it for the world.”
Do you have advice for people wanting a career such as yours?
“There are several things you can do and contemplate. First, though it sounds obvious, it’s important to find out what you want and like. It’s sometimes difficult to know at the beginning of your career but try to follow your passion. There are also many practical things that you can do to prepare yourself for working at an institution, such as internships. All the EU institutions, but also the individual Members of the Parliament and Political Groups take on interns, often much easier than you might think. These internships are interesting and even pay pretty good, but they are often unknown. Another thing that is often overlooked is that there are 50-something EU agencies in Europe. All these agencies offer internships and are more accessible. Lastly, a very important part is preparation. Prepare your CV and interviews! The people that are well-prepared suffer less
from stress and panic attacks during interviews, because yes, nerves are common. You can vastly diminish the stress by having a thorough preparation, knowing the job description, thinking about what they find important and how examples from your life add up to that. This sounds very simple, but it’s not and it truly works. This can have such a big effect on your career.”
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