Working for the UN

🌐 UN Purposes — A brief refresher

The purposes of the United Nations (UN), as stated in its founding charter, are to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to cooperate in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and to be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these ends.

🌐 UN Ecosystem — Bigger than we think!

The six principal organs of the UN are the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice, and Secretariat. The entire UN ecosystem, however, is much larger, encompassing 15 agencies and several programmes and bodies, including the UN Secretariat, the UN programmes and funds, such as the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the specialized agencies.

Here’s a look at the UN System Chart (click to enlarge)

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🌐 UN Internship & Job Opportunities

According to the International Organization Careers page (a State Department resource), most professional posts in the UN and other international organizations (IOs) require several years of experience and advanced degrees; however, there are a few programs in place to help highly qualified students and young professionals get their foot in the door. These include various internships, junior professional officer positions, and young professionals programs.

If you’re a first-year, sophomore, or junior, you may look at UN internships and think, “Wow — that requires much more in the way of experience and education than what I have to offer.” And that’s okay! At this point, it may be most helpful to read about what different UN agencies and affiliated organizations are doing, with the goal of exploring opportunities that may fit your interests in the future. You could also try reaching out to Tufts alumni for advice; for example, search The Herd (our student-alumni flash mentoring database) for alumni working in International Affairs. Can you schedule career conversations with a few people whose backgrounds look interesting?

A related recommendation from the State Department: If your background does not fit the ideal description for the programs listed above, consider gaining field experience by working for a relevant non-governmental organization, non-profit, or applying to volunteer with the Peace Corps.  You will gain technical and language skills, along with international experience, that will make your application for a position with an IO more competitive.

Make a Government/Law/International Affairs Career Advising Appointment to Continue the Brainstorming Process

By Susannah Krenn
Susannah Krenn Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing / Career Advisor