The UN is one of the biggest employers in international development. Despite the impressive number of open positions, landing a job with the UN is not always easy. Competition for most positions is fierce but, with a lot of preparation and the necessary skills, you may land your dream job with the UN. We asked several consultants with UN working experience to share their insights and offer valuable tips on how to get your first UN job.
What skills and requirements are necessary to start a career in the UN?
“Most positions require some form of tertiary qualification and several years of professional experience. The more senior the position, the more experience and/or qualifications are required. Some of these positions are by secondment, e.g. peacekeeping missions (police, military, political, etc.). Besides staff positions, there are also short-term contracted subject matter expert (SME) consultants who are usually required for project monitoring and evaluation or training. For those under 32 years old with a Bachelor’s degree (or similar), there is the UN Young Professionals Programme (YPP)…”
“Working with the UN requires some specific skills which are mentioned in most of the job vacancies. Some of these are tolerance, integrity, gender sensitivity, being a team player, leadership, communication, being result-oriented.”
What are the challenges one has to face when applying for a UN position?
“The UN aims for an ethnic, national and gender balance to ensure that all parties have a voice. The downside to this is that, for those reasons, the most qualified person may not be chosen. However, balance also ensures the inclusion of less obvious skillsets such as local knowledge, differing socio-cultural perspectives and also offers the benefit of granting opportunity. True or not, this can sometimes be construed as positive discrimination, but most countries already have an internal quota system to ensure that locals are given voice – to ensure true representation, the UN should be no different…”
“The main challenge is competitiveness. There are many people in your own country and throughout the world with education qualifications and experience competing for the same job as you. If you see you need more experience, continue to prepare yourself by gaining some.”
How do you prepare for a UN interview?
“Many if not most UN interviews these days are actually exams, often done virtually. The best preparation for this interview approach is to anticipate the types of questions you will be asked and have already thought through the possible questions and answers. As such, the likely questions the applicant will face have been considered and ‘pre-answered’ before beginning the interview-exam.”
“Become familiar with the UN body you are applying to, their aims, activities, where they operate, their history, major players/projects, success stories, challenges and what they stand for. And of course, know/understand the position you are applying for. In both cases, conduct research, even reach out to forum groups and individuals – in short, take the initiative.”
“All the interviews are in the local language and in English, so what I recommend is to listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos in the foreign language related to the job you are applying for in order to get used to the pronunciation and idioms used by the specialists. Choose your clothes according to the job you are seeking, a business casual is always a good option.”
What are some mistakes that junior professionals make when applying for a UN position?
“They are unprepared and haven’t invested the time required to get through the application process. Unlike most domestic positions, international UN jobs are advertised and open globally – the competition pool is much larger and potentially more qualified. Most people who apply with the UN are motivated, both professionally and personally, and actively use their initiative. Preparation isn’t about just doing a few hours of research but gaining the necessary background skills first… both academically and in the field (ref. volunteer work).”
“Never lie in your resume or at the interview, the world is one’s oyster and the truth will always come out.”
What are the main benefits of working for the UN?
“The benefits are many, the work is exciting and fulfilling, and always challenging. The monetary benefits of life as an international civil servant are also attractive, although these are now being scaled back to some extent.”
“Working for the UN is not always easy, your work must always be of high quality, but the experience you gain is priceless, as high quality becomes your new standard. When you work as a consultant or on a short-term contract, you don`t get the benefits such as insurance or holidays but, when you become staff, the health benefits are really good.”
“…International medical and life insurance for you and your direct family members. More rewarding is traveling to different countries, learning about different cultures, customs, traditions, and behaviors. The most important benefit is that you have the opportunity to contribute to helping and/or supporting the development of and the humanitarian efforts for people who are suffering in other parts of the world.”
Check all the UN available positions here.
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Original article by Catalina Russu - https://www.developmentaid.org/news-stream/post/48919/working-with-the-united-nations-tips-for-junior-professionals