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How to get a job at the UN

The humanitarian field is expanding daily due to the volatile political atmosphere worldwide and the instability in most of the countries on various levels. In 1946, the United Nations started its functions with only 300 employees. Today, the population of the United Nations staff members has reached 44 thousands individuals.[1] The massive difference between the two numbers shows the amount of opportunities available for those who are qualified to serve the mission of the United Nations.

If getting employed by the United Nations is one of your career goals, this article should draw your attention to some important aspects to consider while submitting your job application.

The P11 Form: If you previously checked the United Nations available vacancies, you should be aware of the P11 Form. The United Nations recruitment system replaces the résumé with the P11 Form. The P11 Form is your chance to properly reflect your previous experience and your academic or professional backgrounds. Make sure that you dully fill the P11 Form and do not neglect any of its sections as this would result in disqualifying your application.

References: Supporting your job application with references is mandatory. Inside the P11 Form, you will be asked to nominate three professional/academic references. Try to always be ready with names of three references for your application. It is recommended to secure references from various backgrounds including university professors and previous employers. If you are requested to submit their contact details, it is preferable to provide their professional contact details; in particular their professional emails. While the U.N. job applications do not ask for the reference letter at the level of the application; but try do obtain a reference letter from your references since you will be requested to submit them at a later stage.

Statement of Interest (Motivation Letter): In the vast majority of the vacancies, the statement of interest should be submitted along with the P11 Form. Avoid duplicating your P11 Form in the statement of interest. In the statement of interest, you should write what you would gain from this job and what you would add to it. Of course, you can highlight your previous experience to support your qualifications; but try to present it differently. For example, you can mention your major achievements in your previous jobs or you can elaborate on the thesis of your Masters degree, if applicable and relevant to the vacancy.

Language Skills: “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way”; by Frank Smith. In the humanitarian field, the more languages you know, the more opportunities you will have. Moreover, good command of one of the tribal or local languages is a great advantage. In cases when local language is one of the job requirements, the competing pool for this particular vacancy is only limited to the lucky ones who speak this local language. Nowadays and with the mass movement of refugees and migrants, there is a pressing need for qualified native speakers to work with these populations. Examples of such languages are: Arabic, Turkish, Dari, Kurdish, various African languages including Swahili, Somali, Oromo, Tigrinya, Amharic, Dinka, Nuer, etc.

Previous Experience & Internships: Previous experience is a key element in your application to any job. In the humanitarian field, experience is particularly decisive because your job tasks might include making serious decisions that would directly affect people’s lives. Accordingly, do not hesitate to seize any opportunity to gain the professional experience. Many humanitarian employees started their career as interns and they are always proud to mention this fact. The earlier you start; the more experience you will gain at young age. You could even start at university time. Volunteerism has become global notion and many organizations are now working to foster its principles within youth; AIESEC is one example.

Online Courses: Our generation is really lucky. With the available technology tools and easy access to information, our excuses to remain uneducated have become very limited. I am certain that while I am writing this article, there are people around the globe gaining knowledge online that would not be available to our counterparts twenty years ago. Many websites and universities offer online courses; many of them are even for free. Adding these courses to your application will definitely boost your employment opportunities. In this regard, I recommend that you Google “UN free online courses” and benefit from the links available in the search results. In particular, check the online courses available on: UNITAR.org, UNPAN.org, and mandatory security online courses for UN staff.

UN Employment Schemes and Rosters: Securing your job as UN staff member might be quite challenging if you are still at the beginning of your career. Alternatively, there are multiple ways to join the UN. Many employment opportunities are available through various schemes including: United Nations Volunteers (UNV), Young Professionals Programme (YPP), and The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). Other employment rosters deploy staff to UN organizations such as: Norwegian Refugee Council’s Expert Deployment Capacity (NORCAP), ICMC – UNHCR Resettlement Deployment Scheme, the Danish Refugee Council Stand-By Roster, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) roster.

Make sure that you read the job announcement carefully before you apply, understand your tasks and conditions of service. Best of Luck!

Disclaimer: This article represents the views of the writer solely and does not represent any organization.

[1] Check: https://careers.un.org/lbw/home.aspx?viewtype=VD

About the author

Nayra is a young Egyptian International Law practitioner. She currently works for UNHCR, Cairo as Senior Refugee Status Determination (RSD) Assistant. She holds Diploma of International Law, Ain Shams University. Nayra developed passion for International Law since her university years. She acted as a team member of the first Egyptian team to qualify for the International Rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition by Oxford University in April 2013. Her team won the Regional Rounds of the competition in Qatar and she won “the Best Oralist in the Finals” award.