Do you see this picture up there?
Do you know who this man is?
If you are working in EU affairs in Brussels, you probably should. Meet Frank Schwalba-Hoth, former Member of the European Parliament (MEP), and now one of Brussels’ most well-known networkers!
The UNITEE team met him on 19th November, 2013. We do this regularly, meeting inspiring professionals who can tell us about their career and how to become more professional. These meetings normally last about one hour and take place in our office.
So when we met Frank, little did we know – things would get a bit crazy. He took us on a 2.5h tour, higgledy-piggledy through the European Parliament.
He warned us about the fast shutting fire-doors, a life-threatening mechanism in the middle of the main corridor, and the dangers of not providing interpreters with a script of your speech:
“(…) that one time when a Swedish MEP asked for more SIDA in Africa, referring to the Swedish International Development Agency and not knowing that it meant AIDs for the French.”
However, besides some entertaining anecdotes, Mr Schwalba-Hoth also gave us some very helpful insight about how things in the euro-bubble work.
His advice: “When in Brussels, dedicate 70% of your time to please your boss, so work hard. Spend 15% of your time on having a good time, because you are still young, and then the remaining 15%, spend it on networking. Because building your own network will be crucial for your future career.”
And Frank knows what he is talking about. Being one of the founding members of the German Greens, he first came to Brussels as an MEP in 1984. Since then, he has been working, among other things, as independent political analyst and consultant. He is also known for his famous Soirée Internationale, a network event where he invites 60 to 80 people from different professional, cultural, national and social backgrounds.
“When you live in the European Union, with all its different cultures and nations, you need to open up to others! Otherwise, it is pretty egoistic, not to share your knowledge and experience with them. Therefore, it is important to give a chance even to someone from Bulgaria. (He is referring to our lovely colleague Maria here.) To meet you, to speak to you, and to understand why they are as strange as they are, and you hope they will understand why you are so strange.”
“This is much easier in Brussels. People come, but they know they will leave again soon. Look at the European Parliament, in the last two terms, more than 50% of the MEPs were not re-elected. ¾ of the Commissioners did not come back. You have constantly 3000 to 4000 interns in Brussels, a high level of fluctuation. We all know our stay is limited, and that makes us a lot more open to meet other people.”
Well Frank, thank you for meeting us.
What a truly NOrdinary personality! The perfect fit for such a NOrdenary place like Brussels.