Before I deep dive straight into Part 2 of my UN Saga, if you haven’t read Part 1, How I applied for a UN internship I highly recommend you do, as pre-reading.
So, Elmo PJs and stripy fluffy socks are my secret to getting into the UN…
Despite my attire, the Skype interview itself went splendidly. I had been given some prereading (a slide deck on the department and unit itself) and so I had studied the contents of this pack closely in the lead up to the interview.
If you ever happen to arrive in a similar position, these are my tips to smashing your UN interview:
- Explain why you have applied (this is your chance to show you care about the cause – make sure you list 3 overarching objectives to your application)
- Demonstrate your understanding of the department and how the unit of work fits into the scheme of things
- Discuss your educational qualifications (remember to highlight why you would benefit the unit’s purpose)
- Discuss your skills and experience (what makes you unique and how your experience in practice is exactly what they need – remember to really think and tailor your responses to them)
- Highlight any commendable projects you have been involved in (these can span from publications to events etc. link your name to anything that gives a ‘wow’ factor)
- Let your personality shine! Showcase what an incredible human being you are, not only are you a smart over-achiever, but you’re witty and fun (this makes a difference – trust me!)
My interview went for approx. 30—45mins and it was a breeze. I was prepared with examples and I had prepped hours beforehand with my bestie who had already been through the UN journey.
The most important advice that I can give, is that you show who you really are, be authentic. My Colombian boss had a sense of humour on him and I made him laugh several times – I think injecting some wit and personality can make a difference. Although, take this advice like a grain of salt as you need to test the waters here – personality dynamics are at play here, and you need to adapt your style to them (not the other way around). So suss out their style first, before dropping-in any humour ques and be wary that humour can be cultural specific!
Life Admin (You’ll need to get yourself organised!)
Post interview, I received a letter of offer within 2 days. They initially expected me to start and be on the other side of the world within 2 weeks; I had to do some negotiating with them to extend this timeframe to a month. I had a ton of life admin to organise in the lead up to my 7-month placement, among this never-ending list was: quitting my job; getting my course convenor to let me do end of semester exams early; telling my boyfriend that I’m going at all and making sure that he’ll be able to find a housemate to move in, to help cover rent and utilities.
And important to note, most UN Internships don’t pay you a cent for living expenses. If this is a concern, you could apply for the World Food Programme (WFP), as to my knowledge, their HQ based in Rome covers a monthly expense of circa. 700 Euros per month. Or simply ensure that you have adequate savings on you, before embarking on your placement.
I’d like to share some words of wisdom that I was only able to unearth once I had been working at UN HQ, as an insider. If working for the UN sounds like your calling in life (besides the interview tips I’ve just covered), I’d consider the following before applying for a UN Internship – to ensure smoother sailing all round:
- When you lodge your application (or even before), make sure you have started to save some cash flow – the more savings you can take with you the better *I ended up tutoring English for some extra cash whilst living abroad and that was an amazing cultural experience in itself, but I didn’t get to travel as much due to the fact that I was time poor and poor!
- If you know someone who knows someone in the UN you will have a better chance at getting a placement – most of the other interns in my rotation, had been linked in via acquaintances *The application portal is only referred to some of the time and word-of-mouth is a trusted route within networks
After a manic month of life admin, I had finally arrived and it was a(ah)mazing! See my article The UN: The Disneyland Workplace to experience it second-hand.