Speak Out

Two women on the street talking to each other. Both are dressed in long coats, Spotlight Europe
“My mother said ‘That’s my coat.’ The woman answered with a laugh. ‘No it’s not, it’s mine and very expensive’’. She meant that my mother could never afford that kind of coat.” (Flickr: randallo/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I am sitting at the school bench and thinking about what to write. It’s an early Tuesday morning and I can’t find anything that I think is a problem in the EU. My thoughts are spinning around in my head but suddenly I am starting to think about my parents, about immigration in the EU. My mother is from Iraq and my dad is from Bosnia, they were coming to Sweden about twenty years ago. They both have their stories that I love to listen too, but if I have to connect one of their stories with the EU, it will probably be my mother’s.

My mother has had a fulfilling childhood. In her family it was very important that you reveived a good education. So she became an engineer. It was the beginning of the war and my mother and her family needed to leave their country. I could tell you her story about her trip, but it would not tell you anything about the EU.

When my mother came to Sweden she was sad that she had lost her career. She had no job, not so much money but she made the best of it. She started cleaning to get money. During that time she has met my dad. She cleaned about 10 hours a day but still had not much food on the table.

“It was not any coat you could buy anywhere.”

My dad liked to surprise my mother, so one day when she was coming home from a day of cleaning he gave her ’’that coat’’. It was not any coat you could buy anywhere. It was the coat my mother saw in the glass window in the very famous luxury gallery that has its name ’’NK’’ in Stockholm. It was too expensive for my mum to buy it.

Next day it was cleaning time. She was going to clean a big house where a very rich family lived. This woman who lived there had a career and looked down on people like my mother who didn’t have much money.

My mum wore her very expensive coat that day and she had left it in the hall. This woman was going out to run an errand. While she was putting on her shoes she took my mother’s coat on. My mother said ’’That’s my coat.’’ The woman answered with a laugh ’’No it’s not, it’s mine and very expensive’’. She meant that my mother could never afford that kind of coat. My mother asked her to look for the size. The woman saw that my mum was right. It was her coat. She left it and walked out without saying a word.

“Don’t let your career ever take over your self-esteem.”

Your education is important but don’t let your career ever take over your self-esteem. Today my mother is working at an office. We are neither rich nor poor. My parents always want that we get everything they can afford.

Maybe you wonder what my mother’s story has to do with the EU? I want to confirm that it’s a tragedy how society is built. We are all human beings, why don’t we act like that? You who’s reading this, you are a part of society, we all are. Never think that someone is better than you because they’re not.

My EU 2030 would be different when it comes to society and education. Your career is telling you who you are today: If you have a bad job there are always people who will look down on you and you will feel that you’re not their ’’level’’. That is scaring me.

In 2030 the EU parliament should start an project about how we can save society. It will organize events around the EU area and you will get to know people from the different layers of society. And if you come from a country with education you will have the opportunity to still have a job.

“I want 2030 to be released from the word snob, poor and average.”

I want 2030 to be released from the word snob, poor and average. If we look back at my mother’s story we can see that even if she had been rich or poor she would never have been rude to someone. It’s about respect. Maybe you wonder why you need to care? Well, my mother grew up privileged in the beginning before her life changed so drastically. It can also happen to you. Tomorrow there could be a war in your country and you will be in the situation where you have to leave everything.

One of the foremost reasons to create the EU was that they wanted a world with peace. If we let down on society and our education we will never find that ’’Peace’’ we are looking for. It’s not too late to build up a society with more opportunities and it’s not too late to build up a ‘’healthier’’ society either. We all earn this.

I was relating to my mother because this is how the reality looks like. With my article I wanted to confirm that showing respect in society and having more choices in the job market should be a more important discussion in the EU parliament.

About the author:
Melissa Haurdic, Spotlight Europe
Melissa – Author at Spotlight Europe

Melissa participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Stockholm in November 2014. She goes to the ESS-gymnasiet in Stockholm.

Careers in Today’s Europe

When you finish school and embark on a career, we expect a better Europe. These days, almost a quarter of young Europeans in the labor market are unable to find a job, according to a European Commission report last year. The same report also found that our unemployment rate in the EU is the highest in world outside of the Middle East and Africa – right now, more than 5.5 million young Europeans do not have jobs.

Of even more concern, the report found that 7.5 million young Europeans between the ages of 15 and 24 years old are not employed, not in school and not in training. Even when the European economy improves, whether you want to have a high-flying career or just a steady job, an education will remain the best way to reach your goal. If you leave school before obtaining any degrees, or if you only receive the lowest possible degree, you will hardly stand out when you look for work.

People quit school for many reasons, and the EU has embarked on structural reforms to help overcome this problem. We now understand that the overriding reason young people are having trouble advancing is that they lack skills relevant to the workplace. That is why we need more robust education-to-employment systems in Europe.

This means that, as a young European who will be looking for work in the coming years, you probably will not get your desired job immediately. Nevertheless, there are some things you can do to set yourself up for your future:

  • take the opportunity to continue to educate yourself
  • balance education with a profession by getting a part-time job while you study
  • be flexible and ready to change, either by switching to a different company or to a different position in the same company
  • believe in your own ideas and be known and appreciated by teachers and colleagues
  • persevere and don’t get discouraged – employers love positive and enthusiastic people

Of course, employers must also make sure that young talent is not wasted. At UniCredit, we are trying to do our part in three different ways:

First, we are promoting studies in economics, finance, law, politics and social sciences. We do this through the UniCredit & Universities Foundation, which supports promising students and researchers, offers grants and awards for scientific publications and promotes numerous initiatives in cooperation with Europe’s main universities.

Second, to help foster the young talent among our more than 147,000 employees at UniCredit, I have also made it a priority to build a workforce based on merit. The quality of a person’s work depends on many factors, including what he or she knows and has experienced, how he or she performs in different scenarios, and how he or she manages relations with colleagues and clients. To hire or promote someone based on those traits is the definition of meritocracy.

Most big companies understand the right attitude and personality are needed to develop a true meritocracy. UniCredit hires people through an impartial process that values the knowledge and skills of the candidate, and whether he or she shares the values of our Integrity Charter: fairness, transparency, respect, freedom to act, trust and reciprocity.

With greater meritocracy in Europe, we will be better equipped to compete at the international level. In the last two decades, productivity per hour has increased by 10 percent in Spain, 20 percent in France and Germany, and 30 percent in the US. In Italy, meanwhile, productivity per hour has not changed. Clearly we must do better.

Third, to enhance the quality of work among our people at UniCredit, I firmly believe in the power of feedback. It is often difficult to hear criticism from others, but accepting constructive feedback is critical to improving yourself – it helps you to better see your strengths and pinpoint where to focus your efforts. An honest assessment is the secret to creating a meritocracy, and it is also how you can better understand what you want out of your future career.

Performance evaluations can sometimes frustrate or discourage us, but they are essential for successful development. They help give responsibility to those who deserve it, recognize potential and reward hard work. This type of feedback is so important that at UniCredit, we now conduct annual performance evaluations for both managers and staff.

When you embark on your own careers, it is my hope that you are equipped with the right competencies, hired based on your proven skills and potential, and you are comfortable giving and receiving productive feedback. Given the initiatives being planned or currently underway, I am optimistic that Europe is turning the corner, and that more employment opportunities will become available for new entrants to the job market. Success in this area is essential to ensuring Europe remains a key player on the global stage for years to come.

About the author:

Federico GhizzoniFederico Ghizzoni is Chief Executive Officer of UniCredit S.p.A. with almost 150.000 employees. Since 2012 he supports the “My Europe” Initiative as a Member of the Board of Patrons for European Youth. more…


PS: Federico Ghizzoni will gladly answer all questions you might have. However, due to time constraints, he cannot do so regularly. We will collect your questions and comments that have been submitted until and including November 21, 2014, and will pass them on to him. For all questions submitted after that, we cannot guarantee an answer.