Live the Dream: Finding a Job in Brussels

Article published on May 1, 2014
Article published on May 1, 2014

In the Belgian capital 30% of the inhabitants are foreign residents; thousands of them are young workers from all over the world. They are highly motivated; skilled; with outstanding CVs; but they don’t always find it easy to get a job. Café Babel went to Brussels and asked for tips for young workers from different fields with diverse personal histories. Advice to help YOU to find YOUR dream job

In the coun­try of Specu­loos, we find work­ers from all over the world. Els Schep­pers, the Specu­loospasta in­ven­tor had a motto, back in 1968: “If you re­ally want some­thing, you can do it”. And that could also be the guide­line for Nuno Loureiro, an As­so­ci­a­tion Co­or­di­na­tor at In­terel, the Eu­ro­pean Pub­lic Af­fair Awards Con­sul­tancy of the Year 2014 Win­ner. Be­fore this job, this am­bi­tious 27-year-old Por­tuguese man, who has mas­ters in Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence, had done some un­paid in­tern­ships, worked at Del­haize Su­per­mar­ket to earn some money, had de­pended on his girl­friend for help for a while; did night classes and sent thou­sands of ap­pli­ca­tions. Any­thing to achieve his dream of work­ing in Brus­sels in Eu­ro­pean af­fairs. "I have re­ceived hun­dreds of nos in my life. After a hun­dred nos, you be­come ‘im­per­me­able’ to re­jec­tions. Al­ways ask for feed­back on your re­jected ap­pli­ca­tion and the key is to for­get that you did it. Then when you get an an­swer it’s al­ways a nice sur­prise. If they an­swer, that will help you for fu­ture ap­pli­ca­tions. But don’t wait for it."

Don't feel trapped!

Work­shops, lan­guages and con­tin­u­ous learn­ing are his so­lu­tion. "Don’t adapt only to what is re­quested by your job. There are thou­sands of op­por­tu­ni­ties out there. Don’t be stuck in your job, even if you like it. Don’t give up send­ing ap­pli­ca­tions."

Nuno had jumped from in­tern­ship to in­tern­ship and sev­eral times had to go reg­is­ter him­self as un­em­ployed in Ac­tiris, the Brus­sels Fed­eral Pub­lic Em­ploy­ment Ser­vice. "There is a Lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties here in Brus­sels for young grad­u­ates", and that mo­ti­vated him to be­come an en­tre­pre­neur through B!ngo. This Brus­sels In­terns NGO helps young pro­fes­sion­als to find a good, fair and qual­ity in­tern­ship in the Brus­sels re­gion. There­fore, he rec­om­mends every­body to "think about your CV wisely. Con­sider the photo. Some­times I don’t write the word in­tern­ship but in­stead write what I was doing like Pro­ject As­sis­tant. Oth­er­wise, my CV could look bad with so many in­tern­ships. Every­body does that here in Brus­sels."

His six years of pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence were spent in Vi­enna, Kiev and Brus­sels and he comes across the ma­jor­ity of his pro­jects be­cause he keeps his con­tacts. "Net­work­ing with peo­ple that you have met or worked with is key and Linked in is a good tool", he ad­vises.

What about love?

Mar­ciano Silva came to Eu­rope be­cause he found love. Now he finds him­self in love with Brus­sels. He is a Man­ager at Exki!, a fran­chise com­pany with more than 70 restau­rants spread across six coun­tries. But this 35-year-old Brazil­ian works in the cen­tral one, be­tween the main sta­tion and Grand Place. It’s a place where he has to switch from Eng­lish, to French, to Span­ish, to any lan­guage in which he can help peo­ple from all over the world. When they ask him about job op­por­tu­ni­ties, his main ad­vice is "to look for of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion ac­cord­ing to legal doc­u­men­ta­tion and to not work il­le­gally. With­out pa­pers. Never."

While prepar­ing fresh sal­ads, a latté and serv­ing cheese­cakes, Mar­ciano ex­plains that he has worked here for seven years "to look for fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity, but with­out for­get­ting what I love to do". After his shift at the restau­rant, Mar­ciano does what he re­ally loves: paint­ing. Gal­leries, ex­hi­bi­tions and in­ter­na­tional clients are his focus. And sell­ing the acrylic paint­ings helps him to send money back to Paraná; to be able to fol­low his artis­tic dream, using his cre­ativ­ity and knowl­edge from an arts ed­u­ca­tion and to spread the word about mod­ern Brazil­ian art.

Look­ing to the city from Mi­lieu Law & Pol­icy Con­sult­ing’s bal­cony, Mari Tepp re­veals how Brus­sels’ mul­ti­cul­tural en­ter­prises con­tribute to the in­ter­na­tional mood of the city. "Every day you work with peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds and feel very dif­fer­ent as­pects, like the way peo­ple use their lunch break and how long it lasts, for ex­am­ple. Peo­ple be­come more tol­er­ant and re­spect­ful." She is a young Es­ton­ian who has lived abroad for three and a half years: Ger­many, France, the USA and now Brus­sels. Work­ing in a mul­ti­cul­tural of­fice as a Pol­icy Re­searcher, Mari al­ways tried "to pay at­ten­tion to all op­por­tu­ni­ties open in­ter­na­tion­ally, and some pro­vided schol­ar­ships". Her rec­om­men­da­tion to her un­em­ployed friends is "to not lose self-con­fi­dence, even if it looks like no­body wants you. There is a place for every­one. If it takes a while to find that op­por­tu­nity, stay ac­tive. Vol­un­tary pro­jects, cre­at­ing a startup, learn­ing lan­guages, build­ing up your skills; that is all very valu­able for your CV, too."

In the city where you can use at least three dif­fer­ent lan­guages to ask for a hotel room, Mirela Mis­tor had to learn all three. Ital­ian is also on her list of lan­guages, com­pleted by her mother tongue Ro­man­ian. She has worked for four years in a hotel com­pany and came to Brus­sels when Ro­ma­nia was a fresh EU mem­ber state. She left her lit­tle sun be­hind and started to clean houses, ob­tain­ing a job in the Tourism sec­tor and mak­ing use of her de­gree in the field. Her main ad­vice is "Study, in­vest in your­self, and study at any age, even when/if you al­ready have a job, keep study­ing". She man­aged to bring her son and en­cour­aged him to "keep in mind that what­ever you do, or want to do, you have to be the best". Mirela goes to Ro­ma­nia every sum­mer, but she feels dif­fer­ent. "Com­ing to Brus­sels changes your men­tal­ity. You open your mind. Peo­ple don’t look at you; they don’t judge you by your clothes. Of course if you have your par­ents there be­hind, sup­port­ing you all the time, you would not have the courage to come and fight. The stronger are the ones that can live amongst strangers, in­stead of amongst friends, be­cause any­body can do that’, she says proudly. ‘If I had to live again what I lived so far, I don’t know if I could man­age it. You know, the mo­ment makes you stronger. Every­thing is pos­si­ble if you want it!"

This ar­ti­cle is part of a spe­cial se­ries de­voted to Brus­sels. It's part of "EU-topia : Time To Vote", a pro­ject run by Cafébabel in part­ner­ship with the Hip­pocrène foun­da­tion, The Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion, the Min­istry of For­eign Af­faires and the EVENS foun­da­tion. The whole se­ries will soon be avail­able on the home­page.