Thought you’d missed the Faststream boat? Not quite March 4, 2013Posted by gemmaludgate in : Government, The Careers Group Blogs, politics , add a comment
Now here’s another useful post from Gemma Ludgate, my colleague who works at King’s College, London. While I’m on the subject of Parliament I’m also going to flag up a list of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups which I posted on our Facebook site. Here is the direct link
Did you know that the Houses of Parliament have their own fast stream process?
Working in either House of Parliament is a fascinating career for anyone interested in the constitution, politics and public policy. Careers may appeal to those whose interests are divided between the academic and the practical, and who enjoy being close to the parliamentary process without to engage in the cut and thrust of politics themselves. Essential qualities for all these posts include an interest in current affairs, the capacity to work as a member of a team and the ability to produce information which is clear and accurate and advice which is persuasive, both in writing and orally, when under pressure. In both Houses political impartiality is essential to ensure the confidence of Members of Parliament of all parties. The capacity to lead and manage projects and teams is becoming increasingly important to those pursuing a career in either House.
Fast Streamers are employees of one or other House, not Civil Servants, and serve Parliament, not the Government of the day, although conditions of service and the grading structure are linked to, and kept broadly in line with, the Civil Service. In recent years two or three vacancies for Fast Streamers have arisen in each House annually. Fast Streamers can expect to serve in a variety of roles across either House from supporting Select Committees to involvement in the Houses’ administration.
Jobonline link here
Africa Governance Initiative – a Graduate Scheme February 22, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : Government, Graduate recruitment, development consultancies, international development, politics , add a comment
I was delighted to hear from Jo Evans. I first met Jo when she was involved with putting on the Oxford Forum for International Development (OxFID) while she was a student at Oxford University. She is now the second graduate to take part in AGI’s graduate development programme, and part of her role is to help recruit her replacement. I spoke to her about AGI, about the scheme and, along the way, picked up some useful tips for those considering the sector.
Firstly, Jo, what is the AGI? AGI was established in 2008 by Tony Blair and is one of the three charitable foundations that he set up after leaving office. Essentially it’s a not-for-profit concerned with improving governance in Africa through providing practical support to African leaders and their governments to help them deliver on their own priorities. We work at the centre of government, with Presidents and their priority ministries and all of our teams are embedded in the offices of our counterparts. We support them by giving practical advice on how to get things done and to deliver policies effectively for their people, which as you can imagine is hard in any government, let alone in developing countries where capacity can be low and the challenges are so great. Because AGI works with the leadership of countries, we have an explicitly ‘top down’ approach to bringing about change, which makes AGI different from a lot of other organisations in the sector that may be more focused on the grass roots, or on a combination of approaches.
How do you measure success? When the governments we work with plan and implement a programme that increases the productivity of small farms, creates new jobs, or connects two cities for the first time with a paved highway, the credit is all theirs; but if we can identify in that our contribution to the development of the skills and systems that enabled it to happen, then we know we’re making a difference. A more basic measure of our success is the growing number of countries that we work with; starting with Rwanda back in 2008, we now work with seven African governments, with more likely to follow in the future. Another great measure is the ongoing endorsement we receive from our partner governments for the work we are doing – a number of the Presidents we support have publicly complemented the support that AGI gives them and their teams, and some have even recommended our work to the leaders of other African countries. A typical example of how we have tangible impact can be seen in our work to support the government of Sierra Leone to launch free maternal and infant healthcare. This has immediate, real-world results – the number of children in hospital dying of malaria has fallen by 80%– but through the process we have also helped to put in place the long-term systems that will enable the government to deliver large healthcare reforms in the future.
What inspired you to work in this sector? Well, I have been engaged with development for about 5 years, ever since attending the student organised OxFID (Oxford Forum for International Development) conference. In fact I came along to one of The Careers Group days on ‘Getting Into International Development’. I had previously worked for about 4 years in the arts sector but decided that I wanted to dedicate myself to working on poverty reduction. I undertook an undergraduate degree as a mature student at Oxford, and while I was there I got involved in running OxFID 2010. Throughout my degree, I also interned and worked in the sector. I became interested in this ‘top down’ approach after spending some time in Pakistan where I observed the efforts of aid organisations in helping the country deal with the terrible floods that occurred in 2010 and 2011. They were doing great work – and saving lives – but it was clear that they were substituting for the proper role that the government of the country should have been taking in protecting its people and preparing them for disasters. So I found myself wanting to work to help governments deliver for their people. So when I saw the AGI graduate development scheme being advertised I was very keen to get recruited, and of course, the chance to spend time in Africa working on one of our projects was very exciting.
How does AGI’s Graduate Development Scheme fit in? Well the scheme aims to provide professional experience and personal development to someone who can become a leader in the international sector. At the same time the graduate Programmes Officer will make a practical and important contribution to our work in a number of ways. They will get exposure to many of the different functions involved in running a small dynamic NGO and will get involved in a whole range of our activities. Broadly speaking, the scheme is split into 3 sections.
During the first year of the scheme, the focus is mainly on operations. We are a fast paced and ever-changing organisation, so the new graduate may work on different areas to me, but to give a sense of my experience, I’ve been working on:
• Supporting our Recruitment: The organisation depends on recruiting high calibre people and running this not only links the graduate up with many different parts of the organisation, but also offers them a great chance to understand how organisations think about recruiting people. I’ve found this invaluable for thinking about my future approach to applying for jobs, and about the kinds of skills I want to build.
• People management: In addition AGI regularly recruits interns and I am responsible for line managing them. Again we think this is a key skill that the graduate will need to be able to develop their career in the longer term.
• Event Management: Every 6 months we hold big internal events which bring all of our staff together for cross organisation learning and training. I work closely with the Senior Mangement Team to design, plan and deliver these events which have built on my event and project management skills. At the same time it’s a great chance to meet and spend time with all of the people across our organisation who I think are extraordinarily talented and interesting. You can learn a lot from being around people who are dynamic and full of ideas.
• Research: During my time here I have had to deliver research in lots of different areas. The topics change all the time but examples could include researching for a briefing paper on the background of a leader who has expressed an interest in working with us, or researching an issue around agriculture that a partner government wants to focus on.
In the 2nd phase, the graduate will spend time working on a distinct project in one of our Africa programmes. This is a great opportunity to understand first-hand the challenges that our governments face and to develop the competencies set out in the job advert around influencing, coaching and delivering change through others, and building and maintaining strong relationships.
In the final year of the programme, the graduate’s work will be much more focused on supporting the projects, working alongside the Director of Projects and Performance. This work will also include working on our monitoring and evaluation processes. This will be invaluable for anyone who wants to work in international development in the future as effective reporting to donors and constant self evaluation to ensure that you have positive impact is a hugely important part of any development work.
What are you looking for in candidates? Well the job specification sets out the key skills and competencies we’ll be looking for, but in addition to this I can say the following.
The work focuses on international development, governance and public policy. Applicants will need to have a track record and an interest in at least one of these – or even all of them! Realistically we would expect these interests to have been demonstrated in a practical way. In my case I was interested in development and could point to my experience with OXFID as well as my work experience and internships with Christian Aid and Oxfam. One thing my recruitment experience with AGI has given me is an awareness of how often people claim a passion for something like international development without having any tangible evidence of engagement with it.
We hope candidates aren’t put off by the list of competencies we look for. For example we look for ‘Strategic Planning’ and ‘Leadership’, which it isn’t really fair to expect a graduate to have. What we are looking for is the potential to develop these – we don’t expect people to have already done it at a professional level. Even having run a student society or delivered an event could provide exactly the right evidence we need for a particular competency.
We are really looking for the scheme to develop potential, so people who have already had significant training or previous professional experience in the sector might find the programme wouldn’t be able to benefit them. On the other hand we want to encourage people that might not fit the ‘standard’ graduate profile to apply – mature students (like me!) can apply, non-traditional students can apply and both recent undergraduate and masters students can apply. As long as you have the capacity to benefit from the programme and the potential to become a future leader, then we’re interested in hearing from you.
Full details of the scheme, as well as occasional internships, are available on AGI’s careers page – http://www.africagovernance.org/africa/pages/careers
The deadline for receiving initial applications is March 15th 2013
Africa Governance Initiative
The UpRising Leadership Programme February 6, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : Government, internships, journalism, politics , 1 comment so far
The UpRising Leadership Programme is enabling 19-25 year olds to change their communities for the better as well as giving their CVs an edge. We spoke to Queen Mary and UpRising alumnus and Fellow, Eshaan Akbar about the impact UpRising made on him.
How did you hear about UpRising? I came across their leaflet during a brief internship for MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali. The internship was part of a process for me moving from the banking career I had gone into after my Queen Mary degree in economics,finance and management, into a more public policy oriented role. What impressed me about the programme – which Rushanara had helped create as part of The Young Foundation – was the way it combined a curriculum of support with a practical project which made a real difference in the communities participants wanted to engage with. I was particularly interested in the political context in which community change can happen and I was impressed by the fact that all three party leaders are patrons of the UpRising programme.
So what are the main elements of the programme? Well the web site gives the best summary but there are learning sessions, mentoring and networking events and a community project. The learning sessions include ‘inside view’ visits to key organisations such as parliament and the BBC, a leadership retreat (this was two days in Roffey Park – fantastic fun and transformational). The programme really helps you create far reaching networks of in myriad industries you simply aren’t aware of normally. In my banking career I had a network of high net worth celebrities who were my clients, but what I developed through UpRising was a network of purposeful and powerful individuals – powerful in the sense that they were people who were able to get things done.
What were the highlights of the programme for you? Well I was sufficiently impressed by the programme as a whole to continue to be involved as one of the selected ‘Fellows’. The programme had a really big impact. Firstly in introducing me to the whole arena of journalism. This came about from a visit to the offices of The Guardian. We were introduced to the ‘Comment Is Free’ editor who agreed to consider a piece I wrote. They then printed it which gave me the confidence to shape my UpRising project around the written word but also to develop a portfolio of articles published in newspapers like The Times, The Observer as well as The Guardian on issues like racism, economics and social issues. I’m due to do a placement at Sky News shortly and ITV news after that.
Other highlights of the programme included getting a talk on effective public speaking by Tony Blair’s speechwriter and having a roundtable discussion in The Cabinet Meeting Room with Nick Clegg The ‘Retreat’ at Roffey Park was brilliant. This centre normally charges corporate clients thousands of pounds for the weekend retreat and we got it for free. What it gave us was a brilliant developmental weekend that was both great fun and a foundation to our practical programmes – a key part of the UpRising experience. In my case I and a team of UpRisers had a project that was founded on using the power of the written word to help young people communicate issues of concern to them. The project had a strong after life and developed into the You Press initiative http://weareyoupress.blogspot.co.uk/, taken on by other members of the programme
Is the programme hard to get on? Well, it is competitive but, on the other hand it is expanding to other cities in the UK. What they principally look for is passion and a commitment to making a difference in local communities. Just as they provide the networks for participants, it is up to participants to use these networks to better their own communities.
Careers and internships in European Institutions May 10, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : European Union Careers, Government, Graduate recruitment, internships, politics, work abroad , add a comment
Careers Colleagues of mine from SOAS and Queen Mary’s College went on a recent ‘EU’ Careers day organised by the European Personnel Selection Office. University careers advisers are being targeted in this way to help increase the number of British graduates consider careers in the European institutions. Here are a few key points from the day covering: work experience with MEPS; working in the European Parliament; The role of the ECs UK representation office; internships in the European Institutions and the launching of the new European Banking Authority based in London.
- Socialist & Democrats in Europe (SDE). A representative from this organisation was at the event. The SDE represents Labour parties across Europe. He talked about how MEPs offer great work experience. MEPs are heavily involved in reviewing legislation generated by the European Commission and, consequently, their interns spend a high proportion of their time drafting and researching legislation. More so than interns with UK MPs On the down side parliament closes during the summer months which makes it difficult to get work experience. The rest of the year offers more interesting possibilities. The SDE themselves also offer internships – and w4mp.org was cited – as ever – as the web site to check.
- European Parliament, Administrator Route
Work for the European Parliament as an ‘Administrator’ (this is the catch all phrase for people working for the EP who are not MEPs), you need Mother Tongue in English, French or German and a second EU language
For 1st promotion in 2/3 years, also need a 3rd working language. This poses challenges for UK recruits and UK nationals are vastly underrepresented in EU.
Many British personnel are retiring and more British nationals are needed to replace them.
Since the enlargement process, English is succeeding French as the Lingua Franca, and there is a demand for native speakers who can write high standards of English (this point was reiterated throughout the day for both European Parliament and the European Commission).
They welcome applications from immediate graduates, but having some post-study work experience is much preferred. A typical profile of an applicant to the graduate route would be a good degree, possibly a Masters in European Studies, 2 to 3 years working in civil service/law firm/management consultant or other.
As a Desk Officer (typical entry level role for a graduate) may spend time working with the nominated MEP responsible for reviewing legislation (called a Rapporteur) by sitting on Committee and liaising with the MEP on drafts, or content. Typically a British Desk Officer would be nominated if the Rapporteur is a British MEP.
*European Commission: Representation in the United Kingdom (and some tips for applying to the EU institutions)
The EC Representation in the UK is a little like an Embassy representing the EC in the UK. It’s about explaining the EU to UK audiences such as the Press, Trade organisations, Chambers of Commerce, Civil Servants and the general public. A Political section of the Representation deal with different parties and groups. It’s also about explaining the UK to the EU.
More good news for Law and Economics students – these backgrounds are very popular amongst EC staff. There is always a need for lawyers, and if someone trained as a barrister/solicitor in the UK and then came into Brussels it would be very highly regarded. Equally some law firms like people who’ve had experience working in the EU before applying for lawyer jobs.
More autonomy in the EC civil service than in the UK. You’re encouraged and expected to move on, and around.
In your application, demonstrate that you strong extra curricular activities and participated in clubs/societies as a leader. Get an internship if you can. Or get involved in European Politics, or meet your MEP.
- European Union Interns/Traineeships
- Each EU institution has its own traineeship recruitment and selection process. Two entry deadlines each year in March and July
- Applications on line – includes questions about academics, work experience, languages and a motivation section
- Traineeship/stage office do an initial sift, and candidates are put onto the “blue book”. Institutions then select which candidate they would like to take on. Some will do a telephone interview .
- In the motivation section, candidates often forget to sell the skills they would offer the Institution and instead focus on talking about what they know about the institution.
- During the five month learning experience ensure you sit with manager and establish with them what you want out of this time.
- At each deadline there are between 6500 and 7500 applicants. And they take on 650.
- A good idea to have some work experience before applying to the traineeships. Make sure this stands out in your application.
- Have to have finished degree before applying.
- EC internships are available to people from outside the EU, but follow-on jobs are not.
- It’s good to have languages to apply, but English is needed more and more.
- European Banking Authority, City of London
A new office (started Jan 1st 2011) with a current staff of 35 that looks set to expand to over 150 in a year’s time.
Double remit of writing banking legislation and oversight with three core parts: Bank Regulation, Oversight Authority, and Operations.
They are currently growing organically and offering opportunities as and when the need arises. They are currently recruiting at all levels – opportunities on their website and EPSO.
Standard need to be EU citizen and speak two languages, with English as the clear working language.
As the organisation is in the City of London and newly-emerging, this organisation offers strong developmental opportunities in an important area.
FCO Internships 2011 (women only) March 28, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Careers Advice, Government, careers, internships, politics, work experience , add a comment
Marissa Bell is a third year Geography student. Last year she did an internship programme with the FCO called the ‘Partner University Placement Scheme’ (known as PUPS – details at www.partneruniversities.co.uk). The scheme is being advertised again for the summer of 2011 (female, penultimate year undergraduates only and closing date 6 April) and we talked to her about her experience
How difficult was it to secure the placement? Well the first stage was a fairly thorough, competency based, application form – a bit like a graduate recruitment application. After that I had to take online aptitude tests and finally, after security vetting, I was offered the position. I was delighted there wasn’t an interview as I was on holiday in the States. In fact I completed the application form when I was recovering from jet lag after arriving in the USA.
What is the placement for? The PUPS scheme is to encourage under-represented groups to apply for the Fast Stream and hopefully end up in the diplomatic stream but other government departments as well.
What did you expect from the programme? Naively I thought I could progress from the scheme to be considered for direct recruitment after the programme but I soon realised that it was really a good preparation for the Fast Stream which I would still have to go through.
What did you do on the placement? I was in the ‘Protocol Directorate’ which looks after overseas diplomatic missions in the UK, they deal with overseas visits by foreign heads of state and even Royal Weddings! The kind of things I did included administration. This meant drafting letters to embassies and other diplomatic missions about things such as diplomatic immunity and rights to stay for diplomat’s children. I dealt with the database registration of new mission staff and issuing ID cards for them. I also spend a day with the visits section of the Directorate which meant I accompanied the Secretary General of OECD on a UK visit. This was great – I was driven around to Treasury, Parliament and 11 Downing Street and we were greeted by David Cameron!
Then there was preparation for the Fast Stream. This involved interview training, a review of the competencies needed and a chance to do a group presentation to a board of FCO directors.
What was it like? Incredibly enlightening. It shattered some preconceptions. For example, I wasn’t actually surrounded by middle class white men. There was a really diverse range of people. Different cultures, ethnic backgrounds. People were incredibly friendly as well. I thought they would be distant and intimidating but it wasn’t like that. I felt very welcomed and supported.
What did you learn? Well I realised that there was a high level of cooperation between the FCO and diplomatic missions. This was also true of the different departments of the FCO as well. Lots of support and sharing of information.
Did it make you want to apply to the Fast Stream? Yes. It made me feel I would be able to fit in there and that it was a supportive and friendly environment. I also realised it would be a challenging place to work, considering the range of things they have to deal with – everything from the drugs trade to climate change. It made me a better candidate because I had greater awareness of the FCO culture and the range of issues they deal with. The preparation also helped me realise what I needed to focus on in my application.
What advice would you give to applicants? Make sure you get your application checked early – don’t forget you only have a two week window to apply in. The Careers Service is the obvious place for this. Check the recruitment process and if they are still using aptitude tests then make sure you practice because it made a difference for me. If you are successful make the most of your time there. For example I was able to secure another internship with the British Embassy in Zagreb by being proactive and getting advice and support from your FCO colleagues. They encouraged me to write to the Ambassador directly – I was impressed when he wrote back within an hour
Opportunities in Parliament March 16, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Government, internships, politics , add a comment
One of my colleagues visited an FCO assessment centre event and did a useful bit of networking by coming back with the business card of someone who works for the Journal Office in the House of Commons. I’m meeting the gentleman soon but in the meantime he has provided some useful links.
* Graduate Fast Stream brochure for Careers in Parliament: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/jobs/faststream.pdf
* A link to a ‘sandwich student’ page: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/offices/commons/commonshro/hofc-ssp/ Sandwich placements are not a common feature of courses at traditional universities such as King’s College but others may find this a useful lead.
* Exciting news about some proposed ‘Speaker’s internships’: http://www.epolitix.com/policy/parliament/parliament-article/newsarticle/parliamentary-intern-scheme-to-widen-access-to-politics/
* The Parliamentary Jobs gateway is at: http://www.parliament.uk/about/working/
* The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) may have suitable postgrad fellowship placements: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/offices/bicameral/post/about6/
* Currently (March 2011) 193 vacancies listed on the unofficial site for Members’ staff: www.w4mp.org
* External mentoring. Opportunities with the National Mentoring Consortium http://www.uel.ac.uk/nmc/ in reaching out to ethnic minority under-graduates and students with disability and dyslexia.
Eventually, I’ll make sure all of these opportunities and links are made available via careerstagged.co.uk using the search term ‘parliament’
You may also be interested in another article about someone working in parliament at http://www.careers.lon.ac.uk/blog/development/index.php/2009/11/03/policy-work-in-the-uk-parliament/
The low down on United Nations Careers March 11, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Government, Graduate recruitment, UN, international development, internships, politics , add a comment
Rebecca Hunter, a student at King’s College London attended a UN careers event which the college model UN organisation put together. She has written up a piece for the student paper ‘Roar’ and has kindly given permission for us to post it here as well.
“The week of February 28th was all about exploring media-related careers. After a long week submersed in how to’s on journalism, film, TV, and media law, though, I needed a break. To mix it up, I attended a surprisingly insightful, panel-style career planning event hosted by the KCL Model United Nations society. Here are the panelists’ credentials as provided on the Model United Nations event page:
Dr. Leila Simona Talani worked as an Associate Expert on immigration issues at the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention in Cairo.
Ms. Gabriella Trudi worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross and shared her considerable experience about careers in NGO’s.
Mark Bassett worked at the World Bank and is now a consultant, with Bupa International Markets Division as one of his clients.
Tim Kellow is a Peace and Security Programme Officer at the United Nations Association of the UK.
Now, I am not your typical UN applicant. I don’t dream of working off grid in Bosnia, like panelist Gabrielle Trudi; my career aspirations were not shaped by one film on the Rwandan genocide, like panelist Tim Kellow; and leaving a good role in the public/private sector to work for the UN, like panelist Mark Bassett did, leaves me dumbfounded. However, I did find this presentation highly insightful and chalked with wisdom for people who are passionate about pursuing UN-related careers ranging from working with the General Assembly or a UN field mission to less directly related careers, like working for a UN-related think tank or NGO. (But trust me, the word ‘pursuing’ was not placed there haphazardly. You need to be prepared to put in some serious work to procure one of these highly competitive positions.). The panel was most insightful, though, because it gave potential UN employees a glimpse of the UN as an employer—not just a purveyor of global diplomacy. The panelists successfully discussed the difficulties of securing and maintaining a desirable post within the UN, as well as what they each had learned after years of experience on the UN-related careers path. My only criticism of the event is that they ran out of time for questions at the end. A longer Q & A period would have definitely enhanced the impact of this event.
Without further ado, here are the top 3 insights I gleaned from this event:
1. What is the toughest thing about having a UN-related career? ‘Starting it’ – Trudi ‘Landing your first job in the industry’ – Kellow
2. What does it take to join up? ‘Knowledge, skills, and character.’ – Bassett, ‘Internships are the way in.’ – Kellow, ‘Resilience and adaptability’ – Trudi (on skills essential to field work)
3. What should I do if I want to pursue a UN-related career? ‘Apply to the UN’s Junior Professional Officer Program or the Associate Experts Program.’ – Talani ; ‘Become an expert in your field of interest and the UN will seek you out and make room for your skill set.’ – Bassett; ‘Prove yourself in the field and you may be recruited by the UN for your knowledge of the region’ –Trudi ; ‘Get into the industry with a job/internship then use the connections you gain to get to where you want to be’ — Kellow
For more information about the KCL Model UN society, head to KCLMUN.org
For more information about careers with the United Nations, check out: www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/internships.htm”
Thanks to Rebecca for letting us publish this. I’d just add one more link careerstagged.co.uk search on United Nations for heaps of useful links
EU Careers Month January 26, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : European Union Careers, Government , add a comment
A Foreign Office initiative called EU Careers Month coincides perfectly with our careers event at King’s College London called, ‘Careers in the EU institutions’. Our event will be happening on Monday 28th February 17.30 to 19.00 hours in The Great Hall. No need to book, just turn up – though you will need to be a King’s student or alumnus.
The event will be hosted by the EU careers ambassador from King’s College, James McIlwraith. This is a grand sounding title but James has been tasked by the European personnel selection office to raise awareness of European opportunities amongst King’s students. James will be joined by the Head of the European Fast Stream, Margaret Prythergch, as well EU representatives in the UK. The event will cover careers in the EU institutions, internships, careers for linguists, the European FastStream, application tips and a chance to meet some recent recruits.
Meanwhile The Foreign Office’s EU Careers Month is to be launched on Monday 7 February. As part of their campaign they have produced a website containing all you need to know about a career in the EU. The site will contain helpful information for students, including ‘day in the life of’ films, case studies, top tips, competitions and the opportunity to ask for expert advice. Please note the link only goes live on 00:01 hours on the 7 February. www.telegraph.co.uk/eucareers
European Union Careers November 11, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : European Union Careers, Government , add a comment
The key web sites for careers in the European Union are
www.facebook.com – EU Careers
You might also read an earlier post with some useful links http://bit.ly/cpEfnv
Interning at the UNHCR in Geneva October 3, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : Government, UN, international development, internships , 1 comment so far
Marieke Van Buuren completed an MA at King’s College London’s War Studies department. After this she took a policy internship with the UNHCR in Geneva. Subsequently she has taken another internship with the International Labour Organisation. We spoke to her about how she got the UNHCR internship and what tips she has for current students.
HOW DID YOU GET THE INTERNSHIP? When I was thinking of applying for an UNHCR internship I saw an ad on the website for an internship with the Policy Development and Evaluation Service (PDES) in Geneva http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/search?page=search&docid=3e76f9e85&query=pdes. When I applied there were no positions available at PDES, but the person who received my application said she would pass it around other departments. I followed up with an email. After a few weeks of emailing, eventually someone from the Africa Bureau contacted me for an interview.
Most UNHCR internships are not advertised. You can apply to a roster online (http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c49d.html), however people rarely refer to it when recruiting interns. When I was at UNHCR, there were about 30 interns, only one of which had been recruited through the roster.
WHY DO YOU THINK YOU WERE SELECTED? I think for a large part it was due to persistence and being at the right place at the right time. The UNHCR usually has a large pool of interns, and many departments often need interns. Networking seems to be essential in finding a place. In my case, I was lucky someone took the time to pass my CV around, although I do think keeping in touch and being persistent in emailing helped.
Apart from these general comments, I do think my degree background showed my interest in the UNHCR and refugee issues in general. I wrote both my BSc and MA thesis on protracted refugee situations. I did not have a background in the subject I ended up working on (climate change). However I did do research on resources and conflict, and provided a link between climate change and the consequences for refugees. Furthermore I ended up working on many conflict related issues and my MA in Conflict, Security and Development was very useful in this regard.
WHAT DID THE INTERNSHIP INVOLVE? I worked for the Policy Unit of the Africa Bureau. As I mentioned, my main task was working on climate change. I researched and wrote a paper for offices in the field. This involved both desk-based research and interviewing relevant experts in other departments.
After a few weeks I became involved with other projects of the policy unit. I assisted with conflict analysis for UNHCR’s contribution to the Peace Building Commission and did work on statistics and donor publications for the External Relations Officer. During the period I was there I was also able to attend and assist with the annual Africa Bureau meeting, during which the representatives in the field come to Geneva to attend a week of seminars and discussions. It was quite easy to get involved with these other projects. People are usually available for a quick coffee to discuss what they’re working on, and they often welcome some assistance. My supervisor was also very good in introducing me to people working on projects I might be interested in.
WHAT WAS THE BEST THING ABOUT IT? The best thing about the internship was the opportunity to get an insight into how the organisation works and what the current issues in the sector are. Because the UNHCR in Geneva is so large there were always interesting meetings and debates from other departments. After writing on the UNHCR in my thesis, it was great to experience first hand what I had been researching.
WHAT WAS THE WORST THING ABOUT IT? The internship is not paid. Apart from the ILO, no UN organisations offer remunerated internships. Although I would definitely recommend this internship, you do need sufficient funds. The cost of living in Geneva is very high (probably even higher than London).
HOW HAS IT AFFECTED YOUR CAREER THINKING? One of the reasons I wanted to do an internship with the UNHCR was to see what it would be like working for such a large intergovernmental organisation. Now that I have experienced working for the UN as well as small NGO’s, I’ve developed a better insight into the possibilities and pros and cons of working with these types of organisations.
WHAT WOULD YOUR TIPS BE FOR OTHER STUDENTS? In general, and especially for the UN, I would recommend sending out a ‘cold call’ application. Try to find an email address of someone working for the organisation, and try to do some networking. All the internships I have done were not advertised. Furthermore, most advertised UN internship vacancies state they only accept students. However, among the interns at the UNHCR there were both students and graduates (some previous interns had even been professionals looking for a career switch). So do not be deterred by this when sending out a general application.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU FEEL OUR READERS SHOULD KNOW? With the UNHCR there is officially no opportunity for the internship to develop into a paid position. Interns have to wait for six months after their internship ends before they can apply at the UNHCR.