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How To: Getting a Job at the United Nations


It can be hard figuring out how to get your foot in the door at the United Nations, especially when you are just beginning your job search and don’t have any contacts yet or haven’t been able to network for one reason or another. If you find yourself at this point, don’t worry. Many people before you have successfully joined the UN from the ground up, and by reading this article, you will learn a little of what it takes to get started.

While it may seem impossible, obtaining a job at the United Nations is indeed possible. Some applicants do get in with the right connections as stated above, but you can still get in with the right combination of persistence, a quality and relevant CV and good luck and timing.

Having a relevant CV is perhaps the most important part of the path to your hopeful new career. You need some experience working in the developing world for at least six months, but preferably over a year, in a place considered a “hardship” area. This will tell the hiring department that you know what it takes to handle this sort of job and can do it without wanting to quit

Knowledge of a second language is considered essential for many jobs at the United Nations unless you have a Ph.D. in a relevant and specific area. Be sure that the language you study is one of the UN official working languages such as French or English. You will also need a graduate degree if you are coming from a developed country, as they will not consider anyone who does not have one. Try and have a semester of working and living abroad as well.

Be persistent. You will need to apply for all of the jobs for which you might qualify that are posted on the United Nations employment database. Check all of the sites available and apply to different rosters. Ask your school’s career counselor if there is anything they can do to help you.

The fact is there is fierce competition for these jobs. Having an excellent CV and a great background sometimes is not enough, as someone else is going to have one just as nice. Just like with anything else, being in the right place at the right time is just a part of the whole process. You need to time it right and hope for the best, and eventually, your CV will end up in the hands of someone who thinks that you are perfect for the job.

Networking can’t hurt, either. Do your best to apply to all available UN internship programs and follow up on your applications heavily. Call in, ask for the hiring department and remain persistent. Sooner or later, someone will notice your talent at the right time; they will see the hard work that you have put into building your impressive resume and experience and will take the action needed to hire you on as part of the team.

How to Get Ready for Pursuing a Job at the United Nations

Having a desire to help people and better the state of the planet, notably in developing countries, is a primary characteristic that someone who is hoping to get a job at the UN must possess. You need to have deep compassion for the people of the world, even those whose cultures or belief systems may be polar opposites of yours. Yet, that is not all that it takes to get your dream job at the United Nations.

The people you will be helping need your expertise; they need you to be able to show them ways to build their own schools and help their own people at the end of the day, and the United Nations knows this. For this reason, the UN looks for people who have a variety of specializations and skills, some of which might even come as a surprise, such as wine makers and cheese makers. Some of them make more sense, such as nurses, green builders, lawyers and civil engineers.

Some experience that the United Nations is looking for includes, but is in no way limited to:

– Leadership experience. If you can manage and facilitate a project.

– Experience in training others in specific skills that can directly improve a local person or people’s quality of life in the field.

– Experience in helping to transform a community on the large scale.

– Teaching experience in any capacity, such as high school, elementary school or college.

– Experience in chaotic situations of high stress such as disaster response.

– Experience working in another language using predominantly that foreign language to do the job.

– Cross-cultural skills.

It is one thing to simply have skills such as these; the United Nations wants to see them in action and the first step to doing so is describing them in explicit detail on your CV. You cannot assume that the person reviewing your CV will know how your skills will translate to your potential employment with them, so spell it out in plain text for them to get a clear picture of what you will bring to the company.

It is also imperative that you are fluent in English in every sense of the word. You must be able to speak it, write it, and understand it with ease. The United Nations has a number of other official working languages that they encourage you to be able to speak, write and understand as well, such as French, German, Arabic, Portuguese and a number of other languages.

With all of these skills at the ready, you need to be networking in order to meet people who have taken the path that you are on and landed a successful position at the United Nations. Not only will you have a good knowledge base for taking on your challenges, you will perhaps even get in good with those you learn from and get a recommendation for work.

Getting a job at the United Nations is not simple, but it is possible. Have the right knowledge of their working languages, have the right experiences and know the right people and you could be well on your way.

Tips on Getting Your Dream Job at the United Nations

Many people dream of landing a job at the United Nations, but just as many people do not even try to do so because it is such a long and demanding process. If you don’t try, you’ll never succeed, so it is important to remain calm and look at all of the ways that you can take steps toward landing your dream job. Below are a few paths you can take to eventual full-time employment at the United Nations.

Become an Intern

Many agencies will recruit interns that can give you a number of important connections, skills and opportunities that will help you in your future job searches for an IGO or UN job. Do keep in mind that to be an employee, you must be out of your six-month range of being an intern. Nevertheless, getting an internship will help you get a paid job later down the line. What’s more, sometimes this inhibition only applies to certain agencies, so that means you can intern in one and apply in another immediately after completing the internship. Interning is a wonderful way to help you to get your foot in the door and understand how things work. You will also gain a good understanding of the agencies and begin to prove yourself to your employers while making contacts and building your resume all at once.

Get into Entry-Level Positions

Many agencies of the United Nations and IGOs alike will have many entry-level jobs for Junior and Young Professionals. These are programs that target people such as young lawyers who focus on human rights, development of an area and protection of refugees, among others.

Sign on for Contract Work

Alongside these formal routes, you can also get hired on a short-term basis with a contract. These typically become available when a full-time faculty member has gone on leave or to work overseas. These jobs will also often show up when a new project emerges that needs more hands to work on it. By networking, you can find out about these opportunities more easily, as they are not always posted up for public application. Contract work can be stressful, but it helps you to make contacts and get a feel for the position that you want to have full time.

Network, Network, Network

As you have likely learned, having contacts on the inside is important. Finding these contacts comes through interning, but you can also ask other professionals and see whom they know. You can also join the UN Association of the United States of America.

While working for a position at the United Nations is a long, time-consuming and arguably difficult process, you can get that job with determination, persistence and passion. Just as with any other job, you need to build a solid CV and know some of the right people to help you not only prepare for the job, but also help get your foot in the door. Start applying and pounding the pavement!

A Comprehensive Guide to a Landing a Job at the United Nations

You possess a strong urge to travel and a desire to help other people. You have a sense of ambition and want to better the world. Isn’t that enough to be able to work at the United Nations? Unfortunately, the answer is no. No profession comes easily, and just as any other job, you are going to need to work hard for a long period of time to get the skills you need to work at the UN.

You also need more than just a good heart to do the work. People that live in developing countries need helpers with real life skills–skills that these citizens do not possess, but want to learn. They want to be paid for work doing disaster clean up, for building schools and for caring for their children, just like you.

The question is what does it take besides a bleeding heart to work at the United Nations? As a good starting place, it helps if you have some sort of background in foreign language, international law or experience living and working abroad. Even with all of these boxes checked, it can be a difficult job to fill. Getting into the UN or IGOs means a lot of creativity, persistence, networking and even a little luck. Although, there are ways you can give yourself a leg up.


The UN likes to hire local people when it is possible to help in a developing country. International people are brought in to fill in gaps in local talent. Even in the case of what are called donor countries, countries like Switzerland or the United States or Germany that have UN offices, the UN likes to hire people from developing nations when they can. The UN sees the idea of hiring these people as an investment, and when you show that you want to contribute to that investment in your CV, you can increase your chance of being hired.

If you have a specialization that they are looking for and happen to be any of the wide variety of people they like to employ, you may also increase your chances of getting hired.

These specialties include:

– green builders

– vocational teachers

– sanitation experts

– paralegals and lawyers

– midwives

– wine makers

– police trainers

– juvenile justice experts


Most agencies also like to hire interns as internships give out great skills, opportunities and networking connections that can be used in the future. One important thing to consider is that interns cannot be hired as full employees during the six months that follow internship completion. That said, internships could still help you to get a paid job later down the line and help you prove yourself to potential employers.

Entry-Level Programs

Many agencies like the UN or other IGOs have entry-level programs for what they consider junior and young professionals. This includes programs for lawyers and other sorts of law-related jobs that put a focus on human rights, development, refugees and more.

Contract and Consulting Work

Outside of channels like these, IGOs will also hire professionals on a short contractual basis. These can come available when a faculty member goes on leave or a mission of some sort. These jobs can also show up if there is a new project that has popped up that the office needs assistance with. To find these, your best bet is to network.

Getting a UN Job in Development

Have a Relevant CV

Of course, you will need experience in developing countries for a minimum of six months, but ideally more than a year. It should be in a region that you are hoping to work. This tells the hiring department that you can handle the work and that you will not quit when it gets hard. Recruiting for non-private sector jobs abroad is often done without spending a lot of money. It can be hard and it means taking risks on candidates they never get to meet.

Having a second language is another essential aspect of qualifying for a UN job unless you have a Ph.D. in something specific that is job-related. Make sure the language you know is one of the UN languages like English and French. You also want a graduate degree, as they will not consider a candidate from a developed country who doesn’t have one.


There is a huge pool of people who are applying for jobs at the United Nations. If you don’t get one, apply for another. The best thing you can do is apply for more than one; apply for hundreds of jobs throughout their entire website job portals. Apply to different rosters. Check out the career center at your school and ask the career counselor how they can help. You must be aggressive in your pursuit and have a nice CV.

Good Timing

At the end of the day, the competition that you are going to deal with while attemping to get a job at the United Nations will be intense and fierce. Even if you have a perfect background and CV, the chances are that another person is going to have these things as well. Really, it comes down to being prepared and having luck and good timing. Your CV will end up where it is supposed to when it is supposed to.

One final piece of advice: networking works. You want to apply to all of the United Nations internships and pursue them and follow up on your applications aggressively. You want to call people such as those in HR or are in charge of hiring interns.

Getting a job at the United Nations is something that many people who want to better the world aim to do at some point in their life, but it comes down to more than just a desire to spread happiness and wellbeing around the world. Get all of your ducks in a row, be sure that you have the necessary qualifications and apply. Do everything right, try your hardest and take initiative. Eventually, you will end up where you are meant to be.


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Global Peace Careers is a website dedicated to career related information in the sectors humanitarian aid and action, international development, peace and conflict studies, negotiation, conflict resolution, diplomacy and international law. On our website we collect and distribute information about entry level jobs, paid internships, affordable master degrees, free online courses and other opportunities.

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