International Relations PhD student Igor Merheim-Eyre shares his experience of becoming an EU Careers Student Ambassador and how you can become a 2016/17 Ambassador.
I have had the luck (and honour) to be an EU Careers Ambassador three times. Sadly, a time has come to pass on the baton and, as you are reading this post, the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) is in search of a new Ambassador at the University of Kent.
So, you are probably wondering what is an EU Careers Ambassador, and what is her or his role? Let me explain through my own experiences. Back in the day (more specifically, in 2015), I attended a networking event at the European Commission office in London, where I met a British official working for EPSO, who spoke about a (then) relatively new scheme to promote careers in EU institutions to university graduate students. Being an undergraduate student at Aberystwyth University in European Politics, I jumped at the opportunity, becoming the first (and back then) the only EU Careers Ambassador in Wales.
In September 2011, EPSO invited all EU Careers Ambassadors across Europe to a weekend training in Brussels. Tough, long and requiring a lot of coffee, the training proved to be invaluable for my understanding of the different career opportunities within the EU institutions, but also the best means to promote these. There was, however, another important under-current that unravelled in the next twelve months: the new skills I have slowly began to develop (organisation, public speaking, event management, just to name a few) and, crucially, the network of friends and colleagues I developed that has evolved and expanded over the past few years, which came to include people from across different universities, EU institutions, the Foreign Office and many more.
In 2012, I have moved to the University of Kent for a Master’s degree, and re-applied for the role. Once again I had the chance to travel to Brussels for training. However, owing to personal circumstances, I have only managed to put minimal effort into the role, which highlights one particular nature of the role: it is only as good as you can make it. It showed to me that, just as with any other paid or unpaid role, it is your own energy and creativity that can turn something with a lot of potential into true success.
At the same time, the role somewhat managed to stay with me. As my other professional areas developed, I continued to work with the new EU Careers Ambassadors, holding talks on lobbying or think-tank opportunities in Brussels, but also remaining in touch with some of the wonderful people I have managed to meet during the time, often meeting for coffee or chats, whether that was in Brussels, London or Berlin.
In 2015, as the last year of my doctoral studies began, I decided to re-apply again. Once again, it has been a fantastic year, holding talks across the University, and meeting new people along the way. However, the year has also helped me to appreciate just how much I have managed to gain out of this role: my public speaking skills soared (particularly important since I now teach undergraduate students and present academic research at international conferences), I have become a comfortable networker (though I prefer to use the term ‘making new friends’), while I have become increasingly more and more confident about organising events of various kinds (from a ‘Europe Day’ cultural festival to professional workshops).
At the same time, this final year as EU Careers Ambassador still showed the challenges ahead: that students (especially British) are still little aware of graduate opportunities in the EU, that students need to be encouraged to learn new languages, and that co-ordination with the University’s Employability Service needs further strengthening. Still, this can all be easily tackled with the right dose of enthusiasm, energy and creativity. However, it is time for a new person to take on the role, inject it with those qualities and gain as much (and more) invaluable experience as I have managed to do. Therefore, if you want to face a bigger challenge and be part of this great network, apply today, take on the role, and make it your own. To that end, I wish you every success.
Further information about the EU Careers Ambassador role can be found on here:
Applications close on 1 April 2016, 12.00 midday (Brussels time).
For further information, contact Igor Merheim-Eyre firstname.lastname@example.org