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UN Job List Intro Part3: Finding that job you need to apply for!

This is part 3 of a series of posts about landing a career in the UN system. If you have not done so yet, you may want to check out the previous posts:

Part 1: What is the UN system and which organizations are hiring?
Part 2: How do UN contract types and levels work?

This week’s post is about identifying individual jobs and strategies that will help you decide what vacancies to apply for.

As usual and before I start, I would like to remind you that I’m not speaking on behalf of the UN and that I can’t help you with any individual questions.

The focus of what this is written below is on staff positions. If you’re interested in consultant positions, most of this information should be relevant for you, too (if you don’t know what this means, read part 2 of this series). I will write a little bit about internships later, in the meantime have a look at my blog and see what I wrote about internships there. For UN Volunteer postings, please refer to the most excellent UN Volunteer site.

Now, since you have an idea about which organizations you are interested and what the different job types mean, the next step is to find that dream job and applying for it.

Which jobs should you go for?
The short answer is: The job you love and the job are qualified to perform.
In reality things are not that easy. If you have never worked for the UN, then finding a niche that corresponds to your education and your professional experience is very important. Make sure your experience and qualifications match. And don’t expect that you will score a job as a “Human Rights Advisor” just because you think Human Rights are an important topic. You would need to make sure that you have the skills and professional competencies required to fill that post. The good thing is that these requirements are outlined one by one in the vacancy announcements. Make sure that you understand the requirements and satisfy them.
In some cases there is a challenge here: How do you become proficient in a specific area of work and how do you gather the relevant experience? The answer to this often times lies outside the UN System. Unless you enter via very specific entry level programmes, it is generally expected that you bring a lot of expertise, education and experience to the table. So if you find yourself not (yet) qualified in most of the jobs advertised, make sure you strengthen your profile by working in the private and public sector, national and international NGOs in areas which will help you gain the skills/experience you are lacking currently.

A next step is to think through in what duty station you want to apply. The first rule again is to apply where you could see yourself working. So if you don’t speak any Russian you may not want to apply to a post in Russia as a first choice. On the other hand, there may be compromises which are workable for you. In other words, you may not actually find the perfect vacancy in Florence (UNICEF has an office there) but Rome (FAO and others) may be just good enough for you. Note, that these examples are both examples of very sought after duty stations. Eventually being strategic about your duty station has limits. So make sure that you know more about the duty station before you apply and make sure you could actually see yourself serving in that duty station before you end up there.

A last element of consideration for now is the old “G” vs. “P” discussion. Many people argue back on forth if you should “strategically” apply (and accept) a “G” position if you eventually aspire to a “P” position. Again, the difference is that “G” or local positions typically don’t require a Master’s level degree and “P” positions are typically international and require a Master’s level position. Now there are very particular advantages to a “G” position (e.g. you will not be required to change your duty station all over sudden etc.) but the “door opening” to a “P” post is not amongst these advantages. Of course there are examples of staff that made a career from “G” to “P” but these are not that frequent and it will be very hard for you to make this transition.

Search for your job on the UN Job List
With these considerations in your head, have a look at the Advanced Search function of the UN Job List: It lets you define what kinds of jobs you would like to see from which agency and at what levels.

The search page can be bookmarked (so you can have a look every day if anything matching your criteria came up), it can be imported into your feed reader – just click “Result as RSS” – and even better you can create an email alert. The email alert is one of the most popular features of the UN Job List since it sends you your selection of new vacancies every week on Saturday.

In using the Advanced Search note a few things:

  • Make sure you play with different key words, and search combinations. It takes a while to find out what works for you
  • If you are interested in specific agencies or duty stations, make sure you understand the underlying data model. Not every agency publishes duty stations or contract levels. So you want to make sure that you include FAO if you’re interested in working in Rome etc.
  • Before you narrow down your search too much, try to understand the typical job titles of the UN. Make sure you understand what your dream agency understands when they advertise a “Programme Officer” and that a Programme Manager can either be almost the same as a “Portfolio Manager” or (depending on the organization) mean something entirely different. Ensure you understand the difference between an Administrative Associate and a Programme Associate etc. etc. It takes a lot of reading, patience and a observations before you understand the system. But it’s there.

Good luck with finding exciting and great job vacancies. For the next post I will try to collect a couple of “Dos and Don’ts” so feel free to ask what you always wanted to ask about UN job titles, duty stations, grades, levels and organizations. Again, I need to tell you that I can’t speak on behalf of the UN and that I’m not able to help you with individual questions but I’m happy to share my experiences.

And you should follow me on Twitter @unjoblist_news now.

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