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Employment Opportunities - AND NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS....... by Dick Suter

In an age when companies seem to be forever reorganising - meaning 'downsizing' - it's refreshing to hear that there are an increasing number of job opportunities in the Brussels area

Ann Wippermann, Managing Director of Excel Careers, says there is high demand for people who speak English as their mother tongue and who can speak one or two other languages. She should know, for her company focuses on finding full-time employment for people living in Brussels who can work in English.

"Basically," she explains, "our clients are all the multinational companies that come and establish offices here, who use English as a working language. Something that's also very interesting for your readers is that there is a shortage of talent in Brussels for the moment. I know that on a national basis we talk about 10% unemployment. However, it's not true of the Brussels market in areas of secretarial and support staff. There is a tremendous shortage."

"The positions are usually very interesting because of the structure of the companies here," she continues. "They are often the European Headquarters of Co-ordination Centers and due to their activities, which usually cover the Greater European Region - Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa - they have a lot of ex-pats coming in here for very demanding positions which will also require an enormous amount of travelling. And that means that the support staff they are going to hire have to be qualified people but also means that their job is going to be very interesting because their bosses are going to be travelling and they (the support staff ) are the ones who will have to keep the show on the road, co-ordinate the game and anticipate."

She underlines that clients, briefing Excel Careers on their requirements, cite 'proactivity' as a vital asset. "They have to blend in with the business well enough to understand it and to anticipate what needs to be done and proactively prepare to get in touch with people, keeping the ball rolling."

Sprechen Sie Deutsche?

It's clear then that there has been as big a revolution in the work of secretarial and support staff as there has been in managerial positions. "The level of competence that secretaries have has increased tremendously both in terms of the number of languages that they will be speaking and also how well they will be writing these languages. And that's where the difference can be made here on this market," says Wippermann. "Let's imagine the case of the Swede who comes here and has to deal with Eastern Europe. He will probably speak in German but I'm not so sure that he can write it. So that's the kind of skill that's now required from a secretary. In fact, the term 'business assistant' probably sums up the job description better than 'secretary'," she adds. .

Although international companies want fluent English, excellent French and Dutch are - not surprisingly - highly useful. Fluent German, too, is very much in demand and, as Ann Wippermann says, "it's a hot item in the job market."

Computer literacy

As essential as linguistic ability is computer literacy. Which means having a good knowledge of Word, Excel, Access and Powerpoint. "And although a lot of managers are PC literate, they will probably not be able to do wonders on Excel or Powerpoint," asserts Wippermann. This is also where the support staff's input is vital.

So if you're interested in obtaining a demanding, challenging job, think seriously about honing your linguistic and PC skill, especially since salaries are increasing in this sector due to the shortage of qualified people.

An important final point is that Excel Careers' income is derived purely from its clients, so it works totally free of charge for candidates.

©Dick Suter - 1998

Original article appearing in "Internationals in Belgium" Dick Suter was an editor of the magazine and contributor and Ginny Suter was a regular contributor in the late 1990's and 2000's - The magazine had a circulation of 10,000 Please note that this article was first published many years ago and telephone and fax numbers are likely to be out of date and email addresses have been removed.

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