- 29 Jan 23
There are numerous career pathways awaiting young Irish people in the EU. Christopher Finn, who’s on the Junior Professionals Programme in the European Commission, shares his experiences with us from Luxembourg.
Experiencing life in another European country is the dream of many Irish students who are contemplating post-college life. But not all of them realise that pursuing a career within the European Union institutions or agencies can provide the perfect pathway to do so.
The work of the EU is remarkably wide-ranging, and as such, it recruits people with a variety of skill sets and backgrounds – whether that’s law, science, economics, agriculture, language or technology – for rewarding careers in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg.
The Government is currently offering lots of support to Irish citizens going through the EU recruitment process, in an effort to get more Irish people working within the institutions. Those supports include information sessions, practice test material, training webinars, interview coaching, and more.
A great way to get a foot in the door is through traineeship opportunities, which are usually paid, and last anywhere from three to 10 months – with numerous pathways available to secure temporary or permanent contracts after the traineeship ends. The European Personnel Selection Office (ESPO) also holds regular recruitment competitions.
Among the most important things to consider when looking to work for the EU are language skills, as most recruitment competitions require candidates to be fluent in one EU language and proficient in another. Keeping up a language throughout university is a great idea – and keep in mind that both English and Irish are official EU languages!
For Christopher Finn from Galway, who’s currently on the Junior Professionals Programme in the European Commission, it was a passion for languages that first led him to the EU.
“I originally wanted to become a French and Irish teacher, so I studied French and Irish at college in Galway,” he tells us, speaking from his office in Luxembourg. “I picked up Irish translation, thinking it would be a third subject that I’d never use in the future. But I kept it on, and started getting interested in careers in translation.”
After college, Christopher travelled to France to teach English, during which time he applied for jobs through the CAST Permanent system – which offers a way to work within the EU as a contract agent – and was hired as an Irish-language proofreader in the Publications Office of the EU.
However, he’s recently made another big career move, taking the leap from languages to policy, to apply for the European Commission’s Junior Professionals Programme – a comprehensive learning, development and mobility programme, set up to retain and develop junior talents proven on the job.
His day-to-day work now largely involves analysing the implementation of policy in the European Commission’s health department, with a particular focus on cancer policy.
“You really have no idea what could come from one day to the next, which is really exciting,” he says. “And you can really sense that it’s not just a place that you have to stay fixed all the time. You can do so many different things over the span of your career.”
Roles in the EU tend to offer a healthy work-life balance – and life in Luxembourg has plenty of perks, Christopher points out.
“It was minus seven degrees this morning, but it’s still a lovely place to wake up to!” he laughs. “There’s a great Irish community here, with a GAA team, different expat groups, and Irish pubs, of course. Even in Luxembourg as a whole, there’s so many associations, clubs and sports teams you can be involved in. It’s so small – and safe – you can walk around anywhere. Public transport is free as well, so you don’t even think twice about getting around. You can go for hikes in the Ardennes on any weekend you like – when it’s not minus seven degrees!”
So, for people considering pursuing a career in the EU, Christopher’s advice is simple: “Go for it.”
“You’ll never regret it,” he resumes. “It’s a great opportunity to meet people from so many different backgrounds, who are extremely motivated, and are just lovely people. Get your foot in the door – because once you have, the amount of things you can accomplish is amazing.”
• More information about EU careers and the support on offer can be found at dfa.ie/eujobs or by emailing [email protected]
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