:: Non-Academic Careers ::
Practitioners in talk #Part 1We start the winter semester with new perspectives from practitioners who are also historians or sociologists. The range is wide - from publishing work to communication design to European trade union activities. Every month we publish a new interview.
You can read our last series of BGHS members' reports about their activities outside the university here:
Many paths lead out of the BGHS. But where do postdoctoral paths lead concretely? In the winter semester, we talk to historians and sociologists who have taken up their profession outside the university. Peter Scherrer spoke to us about his role as Deputy General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.
Mr Scherrer, until May 2019 you were Deputy General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). What were perhaps the three most important tasks for you?
Peter Scherrer: The most important task is to introduce the position of trade unions into European legislation. That is quite central: just before the European elections this summer, the Commission took a number of legislative initiatives that it absolutely wanted to implement before Parliament split up. There have been several legislative initiatives related to the so-called European Pillar of Social Rights. The second task is to develop positions supported by all ETUC member organisations: European Trade Unions speak with one voice. This is not automatically the case. There are major differences of opinion on trade issues, for example: TTIP has not only met with rejection. Or differences in energy policy: Polish miners see coal renunciation differently from civil servants in Luxembourg.
All are members of the ETUC though. The third most important task is to support our trade unions. In particular, member associations from countries where, for example, there is no functioning social dialogue and where trade unions are weak. In "Brussels Speak", this is called capacity building: helping trade unions and, depending on the situation, employers' associations to be strong. We also want employers' associations that are assertive. And we also have member organisations outside the EU, in the so-called candidate countries, such as Serbia, for example: there is a need to strengthen trade unions, some of which are not taken seriously by the respective governments. There, economic and social policies are made past the unions.
Peter Scherrer at a union demonstration.
What knowledge and skills do you bring to this work as a historian?
Peter Scherrer: I would say: a good general education. But I think I could have also been a political scientist or a sociologist for the work I did there. What is important is the tool of scientific work: analysing, summarising or reproducing things. I have always written relatively much in my profession and have now, for example, co-edited a volume entitled "Jetzt für ein besseres Europa!" published by the European Trade Union Institute (EGI). I have to say that for me the study of history has always been very important. Now that I am out of the immediate office routine, books are piling up again that I absolutely have to read. I have time for that, because I will use the summer break to see how things will continue professionally.
What tips do you have for colleagues from sociology or history who are starting a career in your profession?
Peter Scherrer: First of all: write a lot and draw attention to yourself. So, for example, when someone writes a thesis on the history of agriculture: Agriculture is still the largest budget item in Brussels and there are many issues related to agriculture. As a graduate, I would take a look at the associations and their publications; I would research what is on the agenda in Parliament. And then I would look where freely accessible events are, make me a reasonable business card, talk to people and also apply unsolicited. If someone can say on an application: Here I have my focal points, then I find that more convincing than pumping up every detail of life experience.
When someone at the age of 26 applies with a Master's degree and a giant slat of experience, I always think: My God, you can just admit that this is your first work experience now. But that the topic is important to you and that you have been dealing with it for a long time: something like that convinces me. And another tip - I wouldn't have thought 35 years ago that I say something like this: Good manners are always appreciated!I got that point. Mr. Scherrer, thank you for talking to us.
The talk was conducted by Ulf Ortmann.
You can find the complete conversation as PDF here (german):
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