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Then the Great Resignation. Fast forward to 2022 and we’re now in a cost-of-living crisis with soaring energy bills, while the threat of another recession rumbles on the horizon. Suffice to say, it’s been a tumultuous time for the global economy over the last couple of years. And that got us thinking… How has the market for public affairs jobs in Brussels weathered the storm so far? What are the prospects like for candidates and employers — and what’s the outlook for the future? We sat down with Kristof Doms, Partner at Platinium Executive Search, to help us pick through these thorny questions. After many years at Philip Morris International, including a seven-year stint as Head of the Brussels Liaison Office, he joined Platinium Executive Search in spring 2022 to help corporates and associations shape their public affairs functions and attract and retain top talent. Below, Kristof tells us why he thinks Brussels has bucked global market trends — and why candidates remain firmly in the driving seat right now. 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Then the Great Resignation. Fast forward to 2022 and we’re now in a cost-of-living crisis with soaring energy bills, while the threat of another recession rumbles on the horizon. Suffice to say, it’s been a tumultuous time for the global economy over the last couple of years. And that got us thinking… How has the market for public affairs jobs in Brussels weathered the storm so far? What are the prospects like for candidates and employers — and what’s the outlook for the future? We sat down with Kristof Doms, Partner at Platinium Executive Search, to help us pick through these thorny questions. After many years at Philip Morris International, including a seven-year stint as Head of the Brussels Liaison Office, he joined Platinium Executive Search in spring 2022 to help corporates and associations shape their public affairs functions and attract and retain top talent. Below, Kristof tells us why he thinks Brussels has bucked global market trends — and why candidates remain firmly in the driving seat right now. 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Fast forward to 2022 and we’re now in a cost-of-living crisis with soaring energy bills, while the threat of another recession rumbles on the horizon. Suffice to say, it’s been a tumultuous time for the global economy over the last couple of years. And that got us thinking… How has the market for public affairs jobs in Brussels weathered the storm so far? What are the prospects like for candidates and employers — and what’s the outlook for the future? We sat down with Kristof Doms, Partner at Platinium Executive Search, to help us pick through these thorny questions. After many years at Philip Morris International, including a seven-year stint as Head of the Brussels Liaison Office, he joined Platinium Executive Search in spring 2022 to help corporates and associations shape their public affairs functions and attract and retain top talent. Below, Kristof tells us why he thinks Brussels has bucked global market trends — and why candidates remain firmly in the driving seat right now. 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EU Affairs Roles Are More Important Than Ever — And Employees Are in the Driver’s Seat

EU Affairs Roles Are More Important Than Ever — And Employees Are in the Driver’s Seat

First came COVID-19. Then the Great Resignation. Fast forward to 2022 and we’re now in a cost-of-living crisis with soaring energy bills, while the threat of another recession rumbles on the horizon. Suffice to say, it’s been a tumultuous time for the global economy over the last couple of years. And that got us thinking… How has the market for public affairs jobs in Brussels weathered the storm so far? What are the prospects like for candidates and employers — and what’s the outlook for the future?

We sat down with Kristof Doms, Partner at Platinium Executive Search, to help us pick through these thorny questions. After many years at Philip Morris International, including a seven-year stint as Head of the Brussels Liaison Office, he joined Platinium Executive Search in spring 2022 to help corporates and associations shape their public affairs functions and attract and retain top talent.

Below, Kristof tells us why he thinks Brussels has bucked global market trends — and why candidates remain firmly in the driving seat right now. If you’re thinking about switching roles, you won’t want to miss this one…

Brussels Stays Resilient, Bucking Global Trends

In recent months, stories of mass lay-offs affecting US companies have made headlines and rocked markets. Although largely limited to the technology sector so far, the phenomenon has fuelled concerns in Europe that a potential spill-over effect might soon be seen on this side of the Atlantic.

“In Brussels, we haven’t witnessed anything similar to the economic slowdown seen in other places — rather the contrary,” said Kristof. “Companies are more serious about the EU affairs function than ever before, and are spending more money on consultancies and/or investing in their own teams. Demand for good professionals is at the highest we’ve seen for the past 10 to 15 years.”

So, what makes Brussels’ job market different? On one hand, organisations are increasingly aware of the general tendency for regulatory initiatives to impact one sector first, before expanding to others within a few years — meaning it’s vital to build out a resilient public affairs team. On the other hand, Kristof points to the specificities of the von der Leyen Commission to explain the increased demand.

“There is an extremely ambitious Commission President. She put together a very dynamic College of Commissioners, each working in their own area of expertise, and they’re producing regulatory proposals at an unprecedented rate. Because of this, companies are really confronted with the need to hire.”

It’s What You Know, Not Who You Know

This explosion of files coming out of the current Commission is not only impacting companies, but also candidates looking for a new role.

“The biggest challenge for candidates at the moment is to keep up with everything that is relevant,” Kristof outlined. “Employers, team leaders, and heads of office are asking me whether the candidates I propose have a feeling for this increased pace of regulatory initiatives.”

This trend is even beginning to reshape the nature of public affairs work. Solid analysis and rational argumentation have always been core to the profession — but a tenacious grasp of the relevant subject matter is more important than ever.

“There’s now a higher degree of specialism and professionalism in the industry. Many lobbyists have had to develop a specific area of expertise — like sustainability, healthcare, environmental topics… It’s making the jobs more interesting, but also more demanding,” said Kristof.

Public affairs is a highly disciplined professional activity. It’s not to be taken lightly!
Kristof Doms, Partner at Platinium Executive Search

Candidates Remain in the Driving Seat

Challenges aside, Kristof notes that candidates hold the cards in the current environment — and with increased demand comes increased bargaining power for would-be employees. So, what do candidates now typically seek from potential employers?

“Candidates are looking much more now than in the past for a job that makes sense to them, particularly in the younger generation,” said Kristof. “We had a case recently with a candidate who decided to leave a large American corporation in favour of an NGO. Why? Because it felt like a better fit for the person. It happens quite a lot nowadays that candidates are looking for a job that is in line with their fundamental values, and aspects such as sustainability are more highly considered.”

In addition, applicants are increasingly focusing on the longer-term development opportunities that an organisation can offer them in a much more holistic way.

“There was a time when people just wanted to be exposed to an international career,” noted Kristof. “That’s no longer enough. Most of the younger candidates have had the opportunity to go out on Erasmus and so on; travel has become much more part of everyday life. They now ask to be given opportunities, to be empowered to take on bigger things over time. In essence, they want the freedom to evolve in a way that is meaningful to them.”

It’s no surprise that work-life balance also comes up time and time again in conversations with candidates. Kristof’s experience correlates with the wider trends indicating that most Europeans prefer to work from home at least part-time.

“Working from home at least two days a week seems to be a must for many,” said Kristof. “Many people have realised that it was just nonsense to be regularly stuck in traffic jams and that they could better organise their time, balancing out being in the office and working from home. Companies that do not allow this are perceived as less attractive on the employment market.”

What’s Next for Public Affairs Jobs in Brussels?

The prospect of another recession looming over Europe raises the question of the outlook for the Brussels public affairs market. Does Kristof expect it to remain as resilient as it has proven to be over the last two years?

“It’s difficult to make a prediction. We just went through a pandemic and now we have war on the European continent since spring 2022 — who would have forecast that? However, at the moment we aren’t seeing any slowdown in hiring public affairs professionals in Brussels. Of course, recruitment will always be a cyclical business, meaning it can be impacted by potential economic downturns… But for now, it remains very busy times for us!”

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