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July 1, 2016 marked my second full year in effective unemployment. The last twelve months or so I made a great effort to get back into the EU politics scene, multiple job applications notwithstanding. It was to no avail. The numerous analyses, seminars, and two short books I published were not enough to improve my employment prospects.
Indefinite persistence on a cause that delivers no results is foolishness, especially since it represents resources allocated inefficiently. This is time and energy I could have put into something much more productive and indeed rewarding. Hence the decision to quit politics altogether and proceed with a complete career reorientation.
Over the short term I will be taking all the necessary measures to effectively reinvent myself as a fully fledged Front End Developer (I am almost there). In practice this means I will discontinue my politics blog, reorganise my website to showcase my new work, and move on.
I have no regrets regarding my original decision to go into European studies. I gained a lot from my exposure to both the theory and practice of the political process, especially during my time in Brussels. I also had the privilege to meet many interesting individuals. My immersion in this milieu helped me become wiser. A better person.
There is one thing I lament and wish had done differently in my post European Parliament days. I was too polite to prospective employers that only cared about taking advantage of my situation, especially those who hold official positions or represent entities of the same status.
Allow me to elaborate without naming names because the issue is indeed structural. You see, this industry has a subtle, albeit supremely effective way of belittling you. It gives you hope of a sustainable career. You can land a decent job, especially if you are prepared to
leverage your connections prove your merit.
The norm however is a cycle of precariousness that involves partaking in dubious internships, “part time” positions that require full time effort and more, “activism” in hope of eventually joining some respectful NGO, and ultimately unemployment that further suppresses your demands, reinvigorating the cycle in return.
The typical EU politics employer expects you to have an impeccable CV and to ask for peanuts in return. Do not think of the effectively disgraceful working standard at offer as the exploitation it really is. Treat it instead as a “unique opportunity to gain first hand experience”…
Over the past two years I was presented with offers of such a sort. All of them in Brussels. I kindly declined. And that is where I erred. My reply to their hypocrisy should have been the honesty they deserve. An unapologetic fuck you.
I am upset to recognise the actuality of things, yet fully aware that language will not alter the state of affairs. The realisation as such does, nonetheless, provide a corrective to an otherwise defeatist attitude. A net positive.
I am no stranger to coding. I have been a tinkerer for many years, though it is the last few months where I really started to operate at a higher level. This correlates with profound changes to my workflow that have seen me use, among others, GitHub, Jekyll (the static site generator), and the Atom text editor.
Before I knew how to deploy a self-hosted WordPress site, create a child theme, and the like. But I was limited to working with standard CSS and HTML, while having to conform with the peculiarities of the WordPress CMS.
Whereas the new coding environment has broadened my horizons. I have created this very website from scratch and know how to develop just about everything I need. In this short amount of time, roughly since March, I have learned to also write in SCSS and Less, as well as Liquid. Add Markdown and YAML if you will. I have also understood how to utilise the command line, initially to leverage Git, and eventually to expand into other functions such as the wealth of npm tools.
Committing to change
Just to be clear, I do not think the developer scene will be a walk in the park. It is a highly competitive field that forces you to always learn new things in order to stay on top.
Also, I do not expect my transition to be an easy one since I am completely self-taught. Others have spent years in higher education perfecting their skills. I am just an outsider from the humanities. An amateur who happens to, inter alia, be enthusiastic about taking on a new challenge.
Whether I succeed or not remains to be determined. What eases my concerns is the thought that I have nothing left to lose. The political science venture eventually fell short of its potential. No problem. There is an inherent risk in every single economic initiative. A career choice is no different.
The mistake would be not to recognise the reality standing in front of my eyes; fail to acknowledge that this whole EU politics thing is unsustainable. Fortunately enough, I have avoided that pitfall and am now fully committed to the change(s) I am introducing to my life.
So consider this my “farewell” and, perhaps most importantly, my “hello world”.