- Daily & Weekly newsletters
- Buy & download The Bulletin
- Comment on our articles
Find a job in Brussels
Whatever the circumstances, it can be difficult starting from scratch in a new country. Language barriers and unfamiliar cultural values combine to create an environment very different from what you’re used to at home. But with the right resources, it may be more straightforward than you think to find employment here. Our guide will point you in the right direction.
These are a good resource if you’re looking for work but aren’t sure what options exist. Trained headhunters will be able to match your skills to a job that suits you. Companies such as Start People, Randstad and Manpower all have branches in Brussels and throughout Belgium. It’s best to not only email your CV but to phone and make an appointment to meet a consultant, and follow up by email so you’re remembered by your recruiter, who may meet 20 people a day. Also, don’t rule out accepting temporary contracts. Temping is often the way to get your foot in the door and is used by businesses who prefer to suss out potential employees in action before committing to them long-term.
Websites such as EuroBrussels, Jobs in Brussels and Brussels Jobs are invaluable when it comes to finding out about prospective jobs in the capital. With new positions posted every day, these sites are among the most-used by employers in Brussels to advertise vacancies, be they NGOs, European institutions, the UN and Nato or global companies operating in the capital. Most are targeted at the international working environment, making it easier to find English-speaking jobs. Internships are also advertised here and can be a viable way of starting at a company.
Recruitment agencies liaising with the European Commission
Unknown to many is the option to work as a secretary or administrative assistant on a short-term basis at the Commission in Brussels. Every few years, a recruitment agency is selected to fill these roles. Randstad and Daoust are currently in charge of this task. Roles last from a week to six months, and are ideal for people looking for experience at the Commission. You can work for up to three years in this way; however, for every six months worked, you must take a break of four weeks.
International schools may be an interesting source of employment for teachers who don’t speak French or Dutch and are unable to teach at Belgian schools. They teach the children of expat workers in Brussels, where they receive their education in many languages. Almost all pupils study English. Although mainly filled through government secondments of teachers from around the EU, positions are sometimes advertised on EuroBrussels, The Bulletin’s website or on the sites of the respective schools. Language teachers in general are always in demand – Berlitz, Amira and the English Academy may be looking for teachers. German, French and Spanish native speakers can contact the Goethe Institute, Alliance française or Instituto Cervantes. The Bulletin publishes a list of language schools and international in its magazine every autumn.
Belgian employment agencies
Actiris is the employment office run by the Brussels-Capital Region and it has a branch in each commune. Forem and VDAB are the Flemish and Walloon equivalents. If you become unemployed in Belgium, you can find information about the local employment agency at your town hall, who can also help when it comes to applying for unemployment benefits.
Word of mouth
It’s the oldest way of communicating and is sometimes overlooked in the internet age, but often the personal approach is what separates a potential employee from the hordes of anonymous candidates in the head of HR’s inbox. Let people know you are job-hunting – you never know, that person you mentioned it to at a party or in passing at a yoga class might have just heard of a vacancy at their company. Some jobs are never advertised, or may start off as a temporary opening, and you might be lucky enough to step in, especially if they’re looking to hire immediately. A personal recommendation is also an asset; people are more likely to take someone on if their reputation has already been vouched for.
Embassies & international companies
Another option, and one that might be useful if you come from outside the EU, is to contact your embassy in Brussels. They will know the potential problems facing its citizens and should have a list of the companies from your country that have branches in Belgium. Jobseekers from outside the EU need a permit to work in Belgium. The company hiring you must apply for this on your behalf, essentially justifying that you were the best person for the job and that no EU candidates were fit for the position. Many international companies have their European HQ in Brussels and employ large numbers of expats. They may be hiring, so get in touch with their HR departments.
If you’re hoping to work for the European institutions, start by perusing the listings on the European Personnel Selection Office website. This is the official agency set up to recruit for the institutions and is the only way of securing a long-term position at the European Commission or Council. Candidates must pass a competition or concours, which comprises a series of tests and interviews over several months. The competition is tough, but don’t let this put you off – after all, 27,000 people work at the Commission. Note that most competitions are open to European citizens only.
Groups dedicated to networking can also help with creating contacts, sharing ideas and discovering opportunities. One such group is Internations – register and receive information, tips and details of networking events in Brussels. Another source is Meetup.com, where you can find a selection of events and interest groups that may prove useful in your job search.
Freelancers and those in the creative professions also have options, such as Creative Club. Another aid for artists or musicians who are setting up as self-employed under the tax system is SMartBe. This not-for-profit organisation serves as an advice bureau and will help you identify what taxes you should be paying and what you should declare as expenses. You can make an appointment to speak to an advisor.