The Model United Nations (MUN) is a series of programs run throughout the world with the goals of furthering understanding about the United Nations, educating participants about world issues and promoting peace and the work of the United Nations through cooperation and diplomacy.
Students gather in groups of 15 to over 500 to simulate member states representation in the bodies/councils/organs of the United Nations. Simulations at large conferences usually include several of the six committees of the General Assembly each having a different topic in which it specializes for the debates. Conferences may also simulate councils other than the Security Council, such as the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Conferences sometimes simulate the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or a historical Security Council body reconstructing an especially turbulent year of history.
During the simulation sessions, participants usually employ a variety of communication and critical thinking skills in order to present the policies of their country. These skills include: public speaking, group communication, research, policy analysis, negotiation, conflict resolution, rapporteuring, lobbying and consensus building in a multicultural setting. Additionally, at the end of the various MUN conferences, outstanding delegates or delegations are awarded in order to motivate and commend them for their exemplary performance.
What roles does an MUN play especially in career building?
Many are the times it has been mistakenly assumed that only law and international relations students stand to gain from an MUN session. This is indeed far from the truth. MUN’s, being a simulation of the United Nations, enables students acquire some key skills, network and in general have lasting memories of the conference.
But the question that one may ask is, but what does acquiring some key skills and networking in an MUN have to do with career building? My answer would be that it has got everything to do with it. I believe there are three core skill-sets a participant can gain from MUN that are beneficial in any career.
1. Communication skills
2. Organizational skills
3. Job-related skills
An MUN is all about communication. Delegates have to communicate their state’s position and debate on policies that affect their states as well.
Effective communication requires being able to express your ideas and views clearly, confidently and concisely in speech and in writing, tailoring your content and style to the audience and promoting free-flowing communication.
• Clarity and Conciseness: Tonal variation, pacing and volume to enhance the communication and encourage questions;
• Persuasiveness and Negotiation: Arriving at an agreement that is agreeable to both sides: a win-win situation. Back up your points with logic and hard facts. Show tact to those you disagree with.
• Making a speech in front of an audience: Presenting your message in an interesting way, structuring your presentation, using audio-visual aids effectively and building a rapport with your audience.
These aspects of communication are important in career-building because good communication skills and excellent contact skills are but the most important in any career whether in law, medicine, and engineering, lecturing you name it. It is a skill that cuts across the board and where best to build up on such as core skill other than an MUN?
Organizational skills are one of the most important transferable job skills anyone can possess. Various careers need people who can stay organized and focus on the projects at hand. Whether at the managerial level or at a junior level, these are skills that any career oriented individual should possess. Organizational skills in the workplace can include general organizing, planning, and time management, scheduling, coordinating resources and meeting deadlines.
MUN’s help in imparting these skills as well. The ability to organize the delivery of your arguments as a delegate; the ability to work within certain timelines in order to come up with a resolution e.g. in the General Assembly; the ability to coordinate and practice your people skills to get more votes for your resolution; all these aspects take cumulatively or individually, help in firming up organizations skills to any MUN’er.
Various careers have different job-related skills. To be a doctor you need to be an effective communicator so that your patients understand you; to be a lawyer you need to be a good researcher to be able to defend your client effectively; to be a diplomat you need to be an effective negotiator to be able to defend your state’s position. These are just but examples of how job-related skills differ in the various career-paths that students may undertake.
Nevertheless, there are those skills that are a constant. Skills like being a team player and being analytical are skills that are important in any career.
MUN’s helps delegates to debate and articulate ideas especially for delegations/teams. I like to relate a team to a car. In order for a car to move, it has the engine to move it, but the engine itself has various parts inside like pistons, oil filter so on and so forth. All these parts play a role in moving a car. The same applies to team players, not everyone can speak at the same time especially in delegations, but one person can be the main speaker, another the researcher, another being the voice of reason in the team and another coordinating the whole team; all these with a view of making the MUN experience count and produce a team result.
In summation, a lot can be said as to how MUN’s affect career building from various angles, but the skills that an MUN imparts in you are immeasurable. These are skills that I have acquired as an avid MUN’er as well as my friends from around the world with whom I have met through MUN’s, agree to the fact that MUN’s play a huge role in imparting skills in those who participate in them. Well, now all that is left is for you to begin scouting for your next MUN and allow yourself to grow and experience the wonderful world of Model United Nations.