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Roelle Ann Santa Maria

March 27th, 2021

Bursting the “Brussels Bubble”


Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Roelle Ann Santa Maria

March 27th, 2021

Bursting the “Brussels Bubble”


Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Many LSE students look for a promising and fulfilling career working for European (EU) institutions. However, the elephant in the room are that EU institutions and EU civil servants operate as and reflect a microcosm; across a myriad of attributes, EU civil servants share similar characteristics i.e., being a part of the so-called “Brussels Bubble.” 

In a recent panel, we welcomed Brussels Bubble insiders as they shared how they took the first steps and entered this enigmatic yet bewitching EU microcosm. With that being said, where do you begin?

Ask yourself, what do you need to do? 

We are all at different stages in our career with varying levels of experience. Just as you are preparing to enter a new sector or perhaps attempting to transition to one: learn everything about that sector and start planning out your next steps.

Do some research and get connected! 

You need to build an understanding of the Brussels Bubble and gain a network of contacts to get the insider scoop will be extremely helpful in your preparations.

Getting relevant experience and training.

For fresh graduates or even experienced students, look for first-hand experience and a “taste” of the sector. Don’t sit back and wait for results!

Scope out the competition
If you’re unsure what kind of skills would thrive in that environment or attract employers, go and try out aptitude tests such as the EPSO test. It is a complicated and quite challenging competition, you are competing with thousands of people. This will serve as a good benchmark to know where you stand with other candidates and to know which areas you have more room to grow.

Internships are always a good place to start to test out the waters. For e.g., check out the Blue Book internship, it is a well-acclaimed training programme for EU Commission young hopefuls. However, don’t get too blind-sighted by only looking for well-known internship programmes, you won’t progress if you unconsciously reject experience due to personal or peer pressure.

For more experienced students, remember that although you may have X amount of exposure in the workforce, it may not be relevant or necessary in the field you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to start again with an internship and make use of your previous experiences to stand out!  

Key insight: when companies hire interns, keep in mind that they look long-term. They look at which interns would suit the company culture and will be part of the organisation for a long time in the future. Seize the opportunity! Successful internships usually help you transition and break into the industry!

Test out your application
For people coming into the market, there’s no way to avoid the competition. Don’t wait for a miraculous call-back or to get yourself on the radar. Try sending out speculative applications. This is one of the few ways to skip some of the waiting game. By doing so, you might be filled in on some positions that are opening or have yet to open. It might take a lot of work, silence, or even rejection, but if this is something you want to do then it shouldn’t deter you!

Making your profile and application one of a kind

Ironically, the Brussels Bubble is defined by its eerily similar set of candidates over the years. People who work in this industry often have similar profiles i.e., an econ, law, or public policy degree and speak multiple languages.
However, the best service that you can do for yourself is that instead of trying to fit in someone else’s box,
think about what makes you unique. The changing landscape means that there is value in unique and flexible individuals.

Telling your story: relevant skills and experience
As the market grows and responds to an ever-changing landscape, there will be new or other skill sets that will be considered valuable.

If you have prior experience, how is it relevant to the work you are applying for and the industry? For e.g., communications skills have become a valuable and highly demanded skill for supporting and engaging with public affairs.

Your CV and cover letter are important to adding dimension to your application and to expand on your existing skills and previous experience. Make it meaningful and tell the story of why you want to work in this bubble and how you will fit and enhance the experience within. 

Find out more about how to start a career in Brussels by looking into our Brussels related events.


About the author

Roelle Ann Santa Maria

Posted In: Career planning | Insider tips

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