Monday, July 29, 2019

What Does it Take to Work at the UN?

by Sadia Saba and Alexis Wright, UNA-NCA Summer 2019 Program Assistants

On June 26, 2019 UNA-NCA, in collaboration with The Fund for American Studies (TFAS), hosted a Careers in the UN Panel Discussion for young professionals to learn about different career avenues available in the United Nations network and its diverse set of agencies. Participants heard from a discussion by Marco Fabian Sanchez, the Youth Engagement Coordinator for the UNA-USA, and Liz Lizama, the Communications and Social Media Coordinator at the UN Migration Agency. The panel was moderated by Sultana Ali, the Communications Manager at the Pew Charitable Trusts and UNA-NCA Vice President for Communications. 

Participants in the audience were eager to hear from the panelists’ previous background, experiences in UN agencies and overall reflection of their career paths. Liz and Marco emphasized the importance of entry-level temporary positions and internships. Seemingly trivial, these temporary experiences are crucial in opening the door to longer term positions. The key to discovering new opportunities, they urged, was developing and maintaining meaningful relationships with colleagues and supervisors. Positive attitudes in the workplace does not go unnoticed by those around you, even in entry-level positions. All three speakers underscored the importance of having a strong set of soft skills. Enthusiasm, a can-do attitude, and overall pleasantness to be around all were crucial components to their individual journeys to their current positions.

Even though there was a heavy emphasis on the ways in which one can enter a career within the UN, the panelists mentioned their careers were definitely built over time. Both panelists mentioned that they had to take many leaps of faith to secure their current positions such as moving their entire families with the mere promise of short two month contracts or debating the idea of attending graduate school and working at the same time. Overall, the speakers both mentioned that it takes patience and flexibility to enter the field of UN careers. 

The United Nations has a breadth of career opportunities for those passionate about its extensive work, and the speakers are all living testaments of that. With patience, ambition and a willingness to take risks, the dream job awaits for global advocates everywhere. 

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