The UN is like the notorious Berghain nightclub. Everyone wants to enter, but very few people are aware of how.
It’s not only about how you look, that much is clear. Young professionals who want to work for the UN often face (at least) three obstacles.
The main issue is still that many young professionals underrate their chances of landing a job because they have so much respect for the brand. Second, unlike consulting companies or investment banks, the UN does not hold recruiting events or specifically target students or young professionals on college campuses. As a result, a lot of recent graduates never interact with UN system personnel and never learn about the full range of available prospects.
Last but not least, there is undoubtedly potential for improvement in the UN’s information policy, particularly in terms of homogeneity and clarity. There are multiple portals for various programmes and a wide variety of information, rather than a single comprehensive central gateway.
To find all the current development job offers, visit our jobs page.
In order to help you locate the UN employment that is ideal for you, the following essay intends to provide you with a clear overview and better orientation of the prospects for working there.
How to Work for the UN
There are actually a number of entry-level options for young professionals wishing to begin their UN careers, even though they are rarely expressed in a straightforward or uniform manner. While the Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Programme and the Young Professionals Programme are very specialised programmes that are better suited for those who have their heart set on working at the UN and already have some experience in the given field, they are both appropriate if you are interested in learning more about what a career at the UN would be like.
What are the requirements for employment in the UN?
A career with the UN often requires an advanced degree from a university.
exceptional knowledge of either French or English, as these are the two most commonly used working languages.
Although not necessary for the majority of occupations, having knowledge of a second language is advantageous.
Without a doubt, prior work experience is the most crucial element.
Applicants may apply for several job categories depending on their prior professional experience. Although P-1 roles don’t require any prior work experience, they are almost nonexistent. For P-2, P-3, P-4, and P-5 positions, the minimum required work experience is two years, five years for P-3, seven years for P-4, and ten years for P-5.
I won’t get into discussing moral obligations and ideals at this time. I’m going to presume that if you’ve chosen to read this, you’re passionate about international development work and share the UN’s core principles. So I’ll concentrate on the cold, hard facts.
Normally hired from outside, UN employees are required to serve at many duty stations over the course of their employment with the organisation. Here is a comprehensive list of formal requirements and staff qualifications. Following these relatively broad criteria, which essentially apply to all jobs and positions, I’ll look at the specific initiatives targeted at young professionals.
- The UN Internship Programme
- The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Programme
- The Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Programme
- The Young Professionals Programme
The UN Internship Programme
The UN Internship Programme is the UN programme with the lowest entry requirements for prospective applicants. The number of UN interns has increased dramatically over the past few years, with over 4,000 interns working solely out of the New York headquarters. Enrollment in a Master’s or Ph.D. programme or being in your final year of a Bachelor’s programme are the prerequisites for most jobs. Typically, the internship lasts two to six months.
The lack of compensation is the major downside. Even travel costs are not reimbursed.
The Fair Internship project in New York and the Pay Your Interns project in Geneva are two of the many initiatives working to alter the current situation. However, several funds and programmes of the UN are independent enough to establish their own salary policies, and they do pay their interns. For instance, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), “Where an intern is not supported by an institution (university, government, or other institution), a stipend to cover basic subsistence costs will be paid by the ILO.”
There are also some national internship programmes that are supported by national governments. The Carlo-Schmid-Programme, run by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), and the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes are two excellent examples in Germany.
One further thing to note is that many interns are given the opportunity to serve as consultants after completing their internships, provided that the organization’s budget permits doing so. Having said that, be aware that temporary contracts often have a short duration (between 3 and 12 months on average) and don’t necessarily offer the same advantages as permanent employees do.
The program’s goal is to transfer your expertise in exchange for a better grasp of field development activities. UNV emphasises that while volunteers with a variety of professional and technical backgrounds are constantly needed, there are some specialised fields where candidates with the necessary training and experience are more commonly sought after. It goes without saying that applicants must be willing to deploy to challenging locations and they must be able to adapt to rapidly shifting living and working conditions.
Short-term assignments often last three months or less, as opposed to regular assignments, which typically span twelve months or longer. Volunteers must be at least 25 years old and are given (financial) help in the form of a moving grant, a monthly living allowance for volunteers, annual leave, and basic insurance.
The Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Programme
Another way to join the UN system is through the Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Programme, but it is much more competitive than the other two options. Only a few UN organisations provide JPO positions, and participants work primarily in one of the participating organisations’ country offices in developing nations.
JPO roles are sponsored by the national government of your respective country, thus you can only apply if your government is actively advertising a particular JPO position. Successful candidates are given one-year fixed-term contracts, which are typically extended for an additional year if performance is good. Assignments lasting up to four years are sponsored by some partner governments. The pay scale is equivalent to that of entry-level UN professional personnel (P1-P2).
JPOs need to be under the age of 32. A Master’s degree (or equivalent) in a field related to development is typically required, as well as two years of paid work experience in a related field, preferably in a developing nation. Written and spoken proficiency in at least two of the three official UN languages—English, French, and Spanish—is also usually required. Other less clear-cut requirements include having excellent information technology skills, showing that you can think strategically, and having a strong commitment to development
The Young Professionals Programme
The Young Professionals Programme, a recruitment campaign for young professionals to begin a career as an international civil servant with the United Nations Secretariat, is the last programme I’d like to discuss here. Once selected applicants begin their careers with the UN, the standard method calls for professional development programmes in addition to an annual admission exam.
Since this varies annually, the first step is to determine if your nation is now a member of the group. Reviewing the job vacancies for the exam subject that interests you is the second step. Make sure you meet the prerequisites for the particular subject. On the YPP homepage, you may find a list of the open positions.
Last but not least, you can use the web site Inspira to apply for the position you’ve chosen. To find out if you qualify for the exam in the exam region you submitted for, your application will be evaluated. You will be notified that you have been invited to the exam if your application was accepted.
Similar to the JPO programme, candidates must be younger than 32. Additionally, they must be fluent in either English or French and have at least a first-level university degree in one of the exam subjects (administration, finance, legal affairs, public information, social affairs, statistics). Therefore, requirements are a little less stringent than for the JPO scheme. Despite the fact that work experience is not specifically listed as a hard requirement.
As is typically the case with dream jobs, tenacity and commitment are essential.
Conclusion: Though rarely expressed in a straightforward or uniform manner, there are actually a number of entry chances for young professionals wishing to work for the UN. Although it goes without saying that getting into the UN takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, and devotion.
It can be helpful to think of it this way: the first two possibilities listed above are best if you aren’t sure if working for the UN is the correct choice for you just yet. The last two are more suitable for people who are bent on working for the UN because they are highly specialised and elite programmes.
One more piece of advise. Be aware that the majority of employment opportunities, especially for recent immigrants, are located in programme nations rather than the New York, Geneva, and Nairobi offices. The more advantageous course of action may be to apply for a UN position in the area if you are serious about working for the UN on issues of global development.
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