The best careers advice for candidates who hope to pursue a career in the United Nations comes from professionals who have direct experience of the UN system. This page contains tips from current and former UN employees, and professionals who have worked with organisations which have close links with the UN.
Look beyond UN Headquarters
Dame Margaret Anstee served at the United Nations for over four decades (1952-93), becoming the first woman to rise to the rank of Under-Secretary-General (in 1987) and to head of UN peacekeeping mission.
“Don't be beguiled by the ‘glamour’ of Headquarters. Be prepared to go anywhere you may be asked to work for the organisation, however remote the place and difficult the living conditions. In my experience it is the most unappealing and challenging postings that offer the best opportunities to prove yourself, and are also the most rewarding in terms of personal satisfaction."
Do your research
Sir Jeremy Greenstock GCMG, former Chairman of UNA-UK and former British Ambassador to the UN, remind candidates to research the details of any role they apply for:
“Find out what the core requirements of a particular job really are. The shop window might look interesting, even glamorous, but what does the desk mainly consist of? Government service, for instance, promises a ringside seat on the hurly-burly of politics, but even the best-placed jobs demand fundamental competence with bureaucratic detail and in-tray handling. Look at the engine-room, not just the bridge.”
Passion and conviction
Andrea Paltzer is a former Youth Outreach Officer at the UN World Food Programme (WFP) office in London. She highlights the importance of passion for career development.
“If you are passionate about something, then follow that passion. Passion is the easiest thing to convey to prospective employers and the best to work for. If you have conviction in your work and actions you will succeed in your career.
Make the most out of your experiences. Constantly evaluate what you have learnt and how any work, internships, voluntary positions you have done have helped you form and change your outlook on the world. Be open to new ideas and different ways of thinking and working and you will find your ideal post.”
Networking is essential
“Network and be confident in yourself: Take advantage of as many opportunities you can at various conferences, meetings, membership groups, etc. Go out of your way to introduce yourself to people, hand out business cards, and follow up so they don’t forget you. They may just remember you when a position in their office becomes available!”
UNA-UK is not an office of the UN and receives no funding from the UN system. We are not involved with UN recruitment processes and beyond guidance we provide, we cannot help you secure a job at the UN.
However, UNA-UK does employ permanent members of staff and hosts volunteers at its London office. Find out more about employment and internship opportunities with UNA-UK here.
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