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Migle Van Aken

Migle Zvirblyte, MA HRM

HRM Officer, European External Action Service (EEAS), International Organisation

MA International Human Resource Management and Employment Relations, 2011

Tell us a bit about what your role at the European Commission.

Our team is a key liaising point between the European Personnel Selection Office and European Commission, and we mainly contribute to the planning and organisation of competitions for officials and selections for temporary and contract staff.

What made you choose Middlesex University?

I chose Middlesex because it offered the ability to study in an international environment and it came with good recommendations from those who had studied there before.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply?

The MA International HRM and Employment Relations course offered an exceptional setof subjects in the field of Human Resources which always interested me.In addition I always wanted to study from an international perspective and the programme which I chose touched that area.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

Gaining practical skills and working on concrete, 'real' projects was what I enjoyed the most. For example, I had to create an HR strategy for a company of my choosing, analyse the real issues it was facing and provide solutions to them. This made a real difference for me, not only studying theory but also focusing on practical skills.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Middlesex?

At Middlesex there is a real international atmosphere and you have coursemates from around the world which is fantastic. I also really enjoyed engaging with my tutors as well as the extremely interesting subject areas and projects.

How has your course at Middlesex helped you to achieve your career goals?

Before entering Middlesex University I was studying Psychology, but my postgraduate studies at Middlesex helped me acquire a unique set of skills by combining this with the Human Resource Management. I believe that the combination of skills acquired in the 2 different areas of my studies together with the international aspect of the programme at Middlesex helped me to get the job at the International Organisation.

What was the benefit of doing a postgraduate degree to your career?

Postgraduate study enriched the knowledge that I gained during my bachelor's degree. Choosing a related, but at the same time quite different, subject for my postgraduate degree helped me to acquire a unique set of skills which has helped me establish my career.

I also found that my postgraduate studies very much focused on practical assignments, which helped me to easily put my knowledge into practice.

What key skills did you develop in your course which you were able to use in your jobs after graduation?

Work within international teams, problem solving and resilience.

What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective student interested in studying a postgraduate degree at Middlesex?

Get the most out of your studies. Choose a course which is interesting to you and absorb all the knowledge that is shared wit . Collaborate with your course mates, especially those from other countries, as you will learn new things from them and broaden your views.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you get to where you are professionally today?

I believe that the international aspect of my course and the ability to 'think globally' which I acquired while studying at Middlesex helped me get into my current position at the European Institutions.

Can you give an example of a time when you put the things you learned at Middlesex to practical use?

In the beginning of my career at European Institutions I worked in the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) where I had an opportunity to put my knowledge about the Assessment Centres in practise. A number of required skills I brought from the 'Recruitment Selection and Assessment’ module which I followed in Middlesex.

While studying in the Middlesex University I had a chance to follow the course 'Globalisation and work' which introduced me to the role of International and in particular European Organisations. During this module I learned about the decision making process and in particular the relations with the Trade Unions. One of the areas which I am responsible for in my current position as HRM Officer at the EEAS is the relationship between the EEAS Administration and Trade Unions.

What made you choose the industry you work in and what are its pros and cons?

I always dreamt of working with people not 'papers', so I thought that Human Resource Management would be a field where I would have the opportunity to work with different people to improve their work life.

The industry is very rewarding since HRM can offer a number of different areas such as recruitment, selection, policy, learning and development and many others which I am still looking forward to be able to discover in my future career.

The only drawback I can think of is probably the fact that I did not manage to escape paper work! Working in HRM involves preparation of different documents, policy papers, decisions, contracts and the like; however I always see the bigger picture and know that my work is valuable.

How did you get your first foot on the career ladder?

After graduating from Middlesex University I started work in an entry-level position at an HR company. I enjoyed the company and it gave me the opportunity to find out more about the industry.

This first experience improved my CV and this in addition to my studies helped me get accepted to the traineeship programme at the European Commission, which then led me to my current position as HRM Officer in the EEAS.

What has been your defining career break or highlight to date?

Getting on to the traineeship scheme at the European Commission was the defining career break so far. There were a high number of applicants and only a very limited number of positions offered, so getting chosen for this programme was a great personal and professional achievement for me.

During the traineeship, I had the opportunity to learn from the best HRM professionals and this helped improve my skills to a great extent. It also confirmed for me that International HRM is the field I am passionate about and I wish to associate my future career with.

What are the top three tips you would give to current students and recent graduates who are looking for a similar career to yourself?

  • Think global, learn languages, attend international courses as there are big chances that in your future career you will be faced with international challenges and will have to work within international teams.
  • After graduating try to get experience in the field of your studies via traineeships or low paid entry jobs in order to get valuable experience. It will pay off in the future.
  • Be proactive in your first professional assignment. Raise questions, ask for extra tasks and show initiative.

What one piece of advice would you give to the 17/18 year old you?

Learn languages and don't be afraid of challenges, believe and trust more in yourself and your capabilities.

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