Why You Should always Embrace New Challenges

My career journey (so far) as an International Economic Law LLM Graduate.

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis I decided to take a Masters course that combined my interest in international affairs, economics and law. Graduating from Warwick (2015) with an LLM in International Economic Law was undoubtedly one of the most inspiring journeys at a personal and professional level. The structure of the course and high standard of teaching sparked my interest in learning more about how international finance functions in an ever changing, interconnected world.

I was not sure exactly what I wanted to do, however I knew I wanted to explore international opportunities. My professional journey started in 2016, when I decided to undertake a three-month internship at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (France). I had the opportunity to interact with many interesting professionals who inspired me to continue my journey. These people included diplomats, administrators, lawyers and activists. They were people that wanted to travel, explore, work abroad and contribute to society in a unique manner. I started applying for several international conferences/meetings/scholarships and had the opportunity to participate in several funded conferences that took place in Japan, Mongolia, Switzerland and Belgium.

Being a young graduate, I wanted to make the most of these opportunities and they were an influential experience in my career journey. I interacted with different types of personalities, discussed international and sometimes sensitive issues, but most importantly for a young professional, it strengthened my “soft” skills boosting my confidence and developing my communication and team working skills.

Following the short but inspiring experience in Strasbourg, I managed to get a five-month internship at the European Commission. Working as a Blue Book trainee in the Commission’s department responsible for EU policy on banking and finance (DG FISMA) introduced me to the world of EU affairs. Gaining experience in EU institutions, even as a trainee, enabled me to interact with other young professionals who were interested in exploring and understanding the world. I was fascinated by how multicultural, dynamic and competitive this new environment was. It was a period of meeting inspiring people with big dreams, people who loved working and living with fellow Europeans and sharing their professional development journey.

At the end of the internship I decided to return to my home country, at least temporarily. I didn’t want to work as a “traditional” lawyer in the court and pursued a career that combined my passion for international law and finance. I worked for 2 years in regulated financial firms, and this experience gave me the opportunity to see how EU legislation affects the life of millions of EU citizens. My responsibilities required me to follow the legislative developments at national, EU and international level. Working as a Compliance Associate in a regulated financial institution reinforced my professional career. It was a very dynamic and innovative field in which the need for personal improvement, growth and learning was even more important. However something was missing – working in an international environment!

It took me some time to acknowledge this however eventually I decided to take action. The decision was not easy and was influenced more by emotions rather than logic. In January 2020 I returned to the “capital” of Europe to re-engage with EU affairs. I arrived just before the outbreak of the pandemic. In this unprecedented situation I had to be flexible, determined and innovative. I started intensive language classes that I thought could help my employability while trying to secure a position. Eventually I secured a position as a Compliance Associate in a promising start-up. Soon after, in July 2020 I received an offer to work as a Junior Professional (JPD) at the EU Delegation in India.

I had only a few days to decide whether to accept the position; to decide whether to take a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the middle of a pandemic. However I knew I wanted to take this opportunity regardless of the circumstances and I’m happy with my decision.

I’ve shared my experience to encourage anyone who does not feel confident in what they are doing or planning to do, to not give up. Even though it is very easy to lose faith especially in this difficult period, try to stay positive and keep on working on developing yourself. Life is not easy however if you are curious and interested in exploring our fascinating world, just do it. Especially when you are young (whatever young really means)!

Antonis Kyriakou, LLM/IEL, EU Commission/EU Affairs Attache/JPD – EU Delegation to India and Bhuta

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