How to Get Started with the United Nations

No matter what you hope to do for the world, you can virtually do it all with the United Nations. You can help women get better representation in the workforce; study diseases that strike transnationally and help contain them; help secure the education of refugee children; or provide logistics and administrative services to make all of the above take place. Jobs at the United Nations take on many different shapes, and the UN is able to accomplish so many things due to the fact that it has so many facets in its job force. For those who are just trying to understand and get their foot in the door at the United Nations, the organization, with all of its facets, can be hard to understand.

The Basics of the United Nations

The main organizations, or “organs,” as they are commonly called, are the Economic and Social Council, the Security Council, the General Assembly, the International Court of Justice, the Trusteeship Council and the UN Secretariat. There are also 40 additional programs at the United Nations that include specialized agencies, along with 28 other peace operations. All of these together are known as the “UN Family.”

The UN Secretariat has around 32,000 employees across the globe, with thousands of other people employed by the United Nations in a variety of positions. This includes finance, security, trade experts, aid workers, emergency relief staff, lawyers, international development staff, communication officers, translators, human resources staff, IT, agriculture, business, economics, environment workers and more.

So how do you get started? It is important to focus on UN job openings that fit your status of residency. Items such as GS, or General Service, and NO, or National Officer, are for those who have been locally recruited only. The category of “Professional” contracts are available for international applicants and often include educational assistance and housing. Many jobs, no matter the sort, will start off as a contract job opposed to a faculty job. This includes both consultant and temporary positions as well.

In order to get your foot in the door, you could always volunteer in the United Nations Volunteers sector. Volunteers are given medical insurance and a living allowance, along with 6-12 month contracts that are renewable. With both international and national volunteer positions available, the minimum age for these volunteer positions is 25.

You can also go in through entry-level positions offered by UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR and UNEP as a Junior Professional Officer. These jobs come with nationality and age requirements along with the requirement that candidates have work experience in a similar field. While eligibility changes with each agency, one thread is common: you must not be over 35 years old.

There are different levels for different positions, such as junior, mid-career and senior positions. P2 level careers are for junior professionals that boast a minimum of two years of experience. Mid-career jobs fall into the P3 and P4 categories while D1, D2 and P5 positions are for “senior” professionals with 10-20 years of experience.

Whatever sounds like it may be best for you, check out the online database. The online database for the United Nations posts job openings for all categories when they become available. Do your research and keep your resume updated for when these postings become available.

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