The Eurobubble has changed. Whereas once the collection of European institutions and the organisations that spring up around it represented opportunity and a place to build a career, for too many young Europeans it now represents burning injustice, stagnation and crushed dreams.
If we want to reverse this and build a dynamic Eurobubble that attracts the world’s best and brightest, we will need bold actions by bold managers. People that do not exist in today’s Eurobubble.
Let me be clear, there has never been a worse time to be young in the Eurobubble. Intensified by the decimation of the job market by the Coronavirus, the notoriously poor behaviour of Eurobubble employers has finally reached breaking point.
Don't believe me? Go ahead, ask the youngest person in your office what they had to go through to get where they are.
They’ll tell you that they worked hard to obtain a masters degree, that they made a huge economic sacrifice to move to Brussels to compete with hundreds of others for unpaid internships. They’ll tell you that, after these internships, their mental health and economic well-being was put through the grinder of competing with thousands for a handful of underpaid jobs. They’ll resent that the Belgian government helps themself to almost half of their meager wage for little in return.
Hardly an enticing prospect for the best and brightest of Europe.
But the stories they’ll tell you, being the nice and polite people that they are, only scratch the surface. The behaviour of hiring managers in the Eurobubble varies from uncaring at best to inhuman at worst.
The refusal of most employers to acknowledge receipt of an application, or to let a candidate know if they have been unsuccessful, has always somehow been common practice, encouraged by a refusal to criticise the hand that employs you. One hour of the hiring manager's time could alleviate so much stress and anxiety, and yet most refuse even that most simplistic of assuages.
And that is to assume that such a posting is legitimate at all. Many employers now post job adverts that are already filled, wasting hours of anxious young people’s time to ferment their own nepotism. During the pandemic, many companies chose not to follow through with advertised posts to save money. Understandable - but many left the postings up, wasting the time of thousands of applicants. In the worst case scenarios, applicants were given part time contracts and told to like it or lump it.
Far more worrying are the practices that are now common after the application stage. It is now disturbingly common for hiring managers to ghost applicants. In the past few months I’ve heard countless stories of people being called to interviews and never receiving a call back. In a few upsetting cases, applicants were offered jobs, but never contacted again.
And this is not to mention internships. A brief scan of the most popular job searching websites at the time of writing reveals a ludicrously high bar for entry. Native-level English, combined with experience in another organisation, combined with experience in a European institution should be requirements for entry level jobs, not an internship.
The tasks that interns perform also baffles belief. Internships exist to grant candidates experience of a workplace, they are not there for cheap labour. Having an intern solely to clean up after meetings and make the coffee is not real experience, and neither is granting an intern the same responsibilities of a full-time employee.
Every job applicant understands that the job market is difficult - that it has ebbs and flows, and that they need to be committed and dedicated to succeed. But it is the behaviour of Eurobubble employers that is crushing the mental health of applicants and driving them out of the city with a metaphorical pitchfork.
Why not compare the Eurobubble to different sectors. The difference between the Eurobubble and the tech or engineering sectors is, quite simply, revolting. Decades of snowballing poor behaviour by Eurobubble employers has driven the best and brightest Europeans away from Brussels - either to London, Geneva and Washington or to different sectors entirely.
‘But Connor’, I hear you say, ‘surely it will get better? It can’t get any worse, after all!’
In a word, ‘no’.
The depressing truth is that the bold action and innovation necessary to fix the stagnant Eurobubble needs to be shown by the very managers who are driving the Eurobubble into the ground.
As more and more young people flee the Eurobubble, as less and less talent is pumped through its veins, and as the quality of applicants reduces ever more and as more and more managers are the products of a mental grinder, soon we will simply lack the capacity to reintroduce innovation and dynamism into the Eurobubble.