“Getting the right job is all about finding the right opportunities”
People often ask me what is the best way to find a job at the UN. These days my answer is usually, online. We are fortunate enough that no matter where we are in the world, we can apply online for the majority of UN positions. UN secretariat organisations all have their vacancies announced on one centralised site. These positions are also available from Inspira where you complete your profile and submit your application. The specialised agencies have their own job portals via their website. Just look for the section on the site labelled careers/vacancies/jobs etc. To save yourself time you can use our website (internationalcareerfinder.com) which brings together jobs from various agencies and organisations, including the vast majority of UN positions.
Another way in which some people search for jobs is through LinkedIn. I have noticed that not all UN positions are advertised on there; though so be sure to check directly on the organisations website if you are unsure. In LinkedIn you may also have people in your network who share vacancies or announce upcoming positions that you may have otherwise missed or that have not yet been posted online.
Also, for positions such as JPOs or to work in other positions where you are seconded to the UN you need to keep an eye on the relevant government websites for any vacancies. For instance, if you are Ugandan and you wanted to work with the Ugandan mission to the UN, you would have to apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Uganda to get such a position not directly to the UN. The same principle applies for environmental and other representatives of governments who work primarily with the UN but for their own government.
Other positions are only available for certain candidates. For example, if you succeed in the YPP competitive process you have access to roles which can only be applied for by people who have passed the YPP. The same applies for consultancies and other jobs that are ‘filled from roster’, this requires you to have previously applied for and placed on a roster for that particular organisation. This can happen to candidates who interview well for a role but who have otherwise not been chosen, you are usually informed if you are on a roster so you would know if you are. There are also positions that are only available to internal staff, to find those you have to check the relevant intranet or check with your HR department to find out how to apply for such positions. Lastly, for completeness I will mention that some of the UN positions are not found or applied for by people but instead you have to be nominated for them. This only applies for Under Secretary General (USG) and higher positions and is usually quite a political and complex process.
Lastly, for those who are not aware, the UN also has a ‘volunteering’ programme called UN Volunteers (UNV). These positions, unlike internships, are paid. Whilst you do not get a salary you are given a stipend that is often quite generous. In my opinion this can be a great entry route into a UN career for those who are either ineligible to do an internship or who don’t want to do one etc. There are various contract types and the applications are all completed on the UNV website. You can create a profile and be placed in a pool of applicants from which organisations choose their preferred candidates based on their needs. Another option is to apply for special calls, this way you can apply for specific positions that you may be interested in, the UNV office handles the primary application filtering and then the short-listed candidates are interviewed directly by the hiring organisation. My only gripe with the UNV system is that the online application portal does not allow you to differentiate yourself enough in my opinion, with tight word limits and a lack of space to input information about yourself.
My advice for prospective UN employees is to have a list of organisations that you may be interested in working with at your disposal. Then using that list you can keep an eye out on them once a week or month depending on how often you would like to search and apply for jobs. For your reference here is the list of some of the organisations in acronym form that I used to use as a guide when looking for jobs (note that not all of them are UN organisations).
UNEP, UNEP-SCBD, UNEP-WCMC, UNDP, DESA, FAO, IFAD, WFP, WWF, IUCN, WBG, CMS, WCS, GIZ, CITES, IOM, UNICEF, UNOPS, FFI, ZSL