David Ohana, who runs the film and special projects at theUN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is a model of patience. As a panelist at the event, he said that “it took over 10 years and 27 job applications” until he received a phone call for an interview at the UN.
Another way of getting a foot in the door is working for an organization that is involved in the UN indirectly. “Spending time at an NGO [nongovernmental organization] is a great way to get noticed by the UN, especially if it’s something in the same area,” said Kurt Chesko, a program officer at theUN Mine Action Serviceand a panelist. (An additional source for job information in the nonprofit world is http://unjobs.org/)
While languages other than English are vital for applying for a job in the UN Secretariat — which carries out the daily tasks of the world body through its base in New York and stations worldwide — it is critical that applicants can write clearly in English.
“Sometimes, the UN overlooks really great candidates because they don’t have the English background,” Dujarric said. If you are a native English speaker, he added, don’t forget to put that in your personal history profile. Inspira offers three kinds of entry-level jobs to apply to: consultancy, professional and general service.
It is also important to know that when people apply for a general service category job in the Secretariat, they can get stuck behind a “virtual wall” between so-called ‘G posts’ and the professional category, Dujarric said. “That’s something to keep in mind as you plan your UN career.”
Moreover, professional level posts generally require a master’s degree. The UN global staff is more than two-thirds male, so the organization encourages women to apply for positions to help make it a more gender-balanced operation.
“If you really are interested and you don’t think you have a great background, such as 20 years of experience, a piece of advice: network as much as possible, go to as many events as you can, do as many internships as you can,” said Isabel Raya, who worked as a consultant for theSustainable Energy for All initiativein the office of the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.
Raya, who is a graduate of the Center for Global Affairs master’s program, with a concentration in international development, came from Spain to New York to ultimately seek a career at the UN. Like the other panelists, she advised the audience to network and to be persistent.
“Think outside the box,” she said. “The best thing you can do is to network as best as possible. Follow the UN agency you are most interested in, attend events open to the public, start networking, keep business cards.”
With her international affairs background, Raya worked at two separate unpaid internships at the UN, which she said was a “full-time job and difficult to combine with [her] studies,” but worth it. One of the internships involved traveling to Mexico to be a Spanish-English translator for three weeks.
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PassBlue- a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, CUNY Graduate Center
Author: Elisa dos Santos
*This articleoriginally appeared on PassBlue(4 February 2014) , and is granted permission to be republished on MUNPlanet.