Article published in Cafebabel
European Parliament in Strasbourg. © RESULTS the power to end poverty
Being a MEP's Assistant is probably the first dream-job of many young Europeans, but what does this profession really mean? What does it imply? We tried to find out more by interviewing Heather Bailey, Assistant at the European Parliament.
As we all can imagine, being a MEP's Assistant seems to be a very tough job, but if you live in the world of politics - especially European - that's the right way to go. We contacted Assistant Heather Bailey, who, in the middle of a very busy week, was able to give us some responses. Bailey is working for Sylvie Goulard, French MEP from the Liberal group - ALDE.
When asked which main skills an Assistant should have, Heather promptly answered, "Reactivity, thoroughness, dedication, time management, people skills, flexibility and languages." In fact, it is a job that requires a lot of versatility and also resilience. "You need to know where your boss needs to be and when, and to have the relevant documents with you. If you are someone who likes to decide their own work plan and to work independently all the time, then this is not the profession for you," she added.
What skills are required?
One of the most important things in order to perform this job is the capacity to be organised and ready for anything at any time. "It is essential to be able to prioritize tasks. The train ticket may well need to be changed before the amendment needs to be drafted and validated. You have to have a good sense of planning and time management, you will undoubtedly be working on multiple things simultaneously, from booking travel, organizing visitors groups, attending committee meetings, meeting lobbyists, drafting an article. Without my to do list, I am lost!" said Heather.
If you’re wondering about applying for a job like this but you are unsure because you are not affiliated with any political party, that might not necessarily be a problem. However, it is very important that you are abreast of what's going on regarding European politics and even international politics. "I think it is absolutely possible to be hired as an assistant without a political background, in the sense of not being a member of the political party of the MEP," she declared. In contrast, Heather said it is more difficult to become an MEP's assistant without an interest in politics and policies, "as work experience in the field of European issues is an excellent way of illustrating both the candidate's interest and concrete skill set."
About the main difficulties she faces at work, she answered definitely "having enough hours in the day to get everything done (...) there is a lot of work to do and one of the challenges I face is being responsible for both legislative and administrative tasks." It is obviously a multi-task job where people have to be multifaceted to be able to accomplish all the goals they propose to achieve, and time, as we can see, is a crucial factor.
The EP in Strasbourg shrouded in fog. European Parliament © Pietro Naj-Oleari
Working as an MEP's Assistant is a challenging yet rewarding job. According to Heather, "each day is really different, some much more stressful than others. Strasbourg sessions can be particularly stressful as the diary is normally very full, the days are long and the deadlines are often shorter. For example, it can be stressful getting the delegation voting list ready with not much time, if the voting list is long, and the group position is very different to that of your delegation and you might not get the voting list until quite late," she explained. Things can also sometimes be stressful in Brussels, for example if you are in trilogue discussions and the negotiations are reaching a conclusion and you are nearing a deal (or not)".
To be selected, Heather sent her CV with a cover letter by e-mail, a regular application procedure, and afterwards she was called by her future boss. They had a small conversation in order to arrange an interview and after that she was hired. Since then, busy is what defines her days, but she assures that it is a very rewarding job.
According to European law, accredited assistants are paid up to €7,802.39 a month. Assistants’ contracts and salary payments have been supervised by the financial department of the Parliament itself since 2008, as before this date they were the responsibility of the Assistants' Member State. This alteration is aimed to ensure transparency and non-discrimination.