This one today is mainly for the ladies, especially those of you who are just arriving in Brussels and looking to navigate the EU career world (guys please do have a read too :)). I’m a fan of websites like The Everygirl in the US, an online resource helping creative, career-driven woman with advice from entrepreneurs and successful women. I’ve also been lucky enough to take part in the Deauville Women’s Forum last year and met some amazing and inspiring women. But where do you go for advice in Brussels if you’re a young women just starting out on your path?
Founded by four friends, Laura, Jennifer, Veronica and Gabriela, the International Young Women Partnership is a good place to start. The group aims to promote a culture of friendship, solidarity and information-sharing among young women at the earliest stages of their careers. All coming from diverse international background, the four founders got together one evening over pizza and realized that a lack of information and accessible networks had been an obstacle in their first few months in Brussels.
The idea was to create a new network, where information and opportunities were traded freely and openly, where friendships were formed and where they, as young women, would feel comfortable. The group is not exclusive to women (men are encouraged to participate), but it does want to cater for the needs of young women and develop their confidence without apologising for it.
Started about a year ago, the IYWP has grown tremendously and now even has a partnership with the US Mission to the EU, among others, and offers free mentoring opportunities and networking events. There are also informal social gatherings held from time to time. Both newcomers and established women in Brussels can join the buddy-system or come to an inspiring talk with a high-level female speaker. There are already lots of events on the calendar for the coming months (see a full list here).
I asked Laura, one of the IYWP Board Members, for her top three tips for women starting out in Brussels to share with you:
#1 – Be confident in yourself, your abilities and in the fact that everything will be ok. A huge amount of stress comes from the uncertainty that young women face when they first arrive in Brussels. Whether you’re an intern or on a short-term contract, you probably feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. You’re under pressure to succeed far from home, to keep working once your contract is up, to build a social life and to find somewhere to live. That stress can lead to a lot of worry and anxiety and it’s much better for your happiness and well-being if you prevent it from taking over your life.
#2 – Do a good job, a really good job. Shine at work whether you’re photocopying or closing the accounts at the end of the business year. Be outstanding. Get yourself noticed for the incredible work you deliver, for your ability to communicate effectively with others and do it willingly. Nobody likes a martyr, the kind of people who volunteer to go that extra mile and then spend weeks complaining about how hard they are working.
#3 – Be friendly, sincere and charismatic. There is a lot of pressure in Brussels to compete and stamp out the competition on the way. However, that kind of attitude will make you as many enemies on the way as it does admirers. There is a wonderful community of talented and capable people in Brussels and that community is smaller than you’d think. If you step on everyone who gets in your way for that dream promotion, people will notice and they will remember. If, on the other hand, you are a bright, happy and helpful individual doing a great job you will stand out just as much, but for the right reasons.
That’s some great advice, thanks Laura! I wish the IYWP all the best and hope they can help many of you in your Brussels careers, whether you’re just starting out or have been here for a few years. This is what I call the best of Brussels!
P.S. Be sure to follow IYWP Facebook page for the latest event news and job postings!
Images via Tomas Spragg.