Everybody is Motivated Until They're Not...
Most people who apply for jobs in the UN or other international organisations in my experience are highly ambitious and generally well-motivated people seeking to affect change in their world. As well as all the cool perks that come with such a career of course.
When you are young and at the beginning of your professional career – you have so much motivation (almost enough to make up for that lack of work experience, almost). However, nothing drains motivation faster than rejection emails and unsuccessful interviews. This is the reality for any competitive employment landscape out there and international organisations unfortunately are no exception. That’s why in this post we look at the best ways in which you can stay motivated during your job application process, and even after you get your UN job.
How to Stay Motivated
Motivation is an extremely important factor for success in building a career with international organisations. Now this may sound straightforward but, in my experience, – loss of motivation is one of the main reasons why people end up abandoning their international organisation career plans.
There are some simple ways to remain motivated during what may be a longer and more arduous journey than you initially expected. Just as important is remaining motivated when you have got a role in your preferred organisation. So, read on for all the tips you might find useful in your quest for an international career.
First and foremost, the most important thing to know and accept is that you cannot expect the first position you apply for to be the one you get (doesn’t mean you should put in any less effort though!). Now whilst I am sure this does happen for some lucky people out there, in the vast majority of cases, including mine, it takes many applications before you get that role you so desperately want.
Essentially it is a numbers game; and whilst I do not advocate for applying for any and all available jobs, I do stress the importance of patience and persistence when applying for jobs.
In the case of the UN in particular, it can often take months from the point at which a job offer is listed online to the point where a successful candidate is chosen. The main point here is to not have your heart set on every single position you apply for as it will inevitably lead to disappointment if you don’t get the position.
As the vast majority of these organisations unfortunately don’t inform you of a failed application, no response a few weeks after the application deadline can usually be considered a rejection. In my experience the best way to capitalise on this is to use an apply and forget methodology. Whereby you simply apply for positions and forget all about them until they offer an interview or further application steps are required on your part. The benefit of this in my mind is two-fold, firstly you can make the application process a regular thing – just part of your weekly or monthly routine (thereby becoming a true job application machine!).
Secondly, it allows you to deal with rejection more easily in my opinion, as ignorance is bliss and forgetting about an application for a job you didn’t get is a lot better for the ego. If you can’t forget the next best thing is to not expect to get a job (even if you think you’re the most perfect applicant and that the role was designed almost specifically for you – as this way you can avoid unnecessary disappointment and a potential loss of motivation).
This is an easy one to note, but as with most things it’s much easier said than done. As someone once told me, it’s like telling a person with asthma to just breathe normally.
Regardless, positivity is a key factor to staying motivated. Ok so I am not advocating for that manifesting trend out there (not that I know much about it), but I do strongly believe that a positive outlook is important for each and every application. As a motivated and positive applicant is more likely to reflect such an attitude in their application than someone who has lost all faith in humanity (trust me I’ve been there).
As doctors often tell their patients who are worrying about rare side-effects; think of yourself as part of the 99, not as the 1 in a hundred. If you are qualified and the quality of your applications is up to scratch then it is just a matter of time and sufficient applications before you get your role. From what I have seen, most people who want to work in the UN badly enough, end up getting a position there eventually.
Last but not least, a key factor in remaining motivated is to really solidify your resolve by understanding and clarifying why it is that you want to work in an international organisation in the first place. By actually thinking about it and maybe even jotting down your thoughts you may find that your reasons are relatively superficial or can be achieved outside such organisations and this may mean that your motivation wanes as a result, or you might have a reason that is very important to you personally, and with that reason you can remain focused on your goals no matter how long it may take to achieve.
Expectations Rarely Match Reality
Staying motivated isn’t just an issue before you get the job though. I have plenty of colleagues who lost motivation for building a UN career only after they got their first UN job. Think of it like this – have you ever planned for an incredible trip and subsequently were underwhelmed by the experience? How about a home cooked meal; has a well-meaning loved one ever made you a dinner which left you less than satisfied? Well unfortunately, in particular for those with overactive imaginations – and I speak from my personal experience – expectations rarely match reality. This is no less the case for a career in international organisations. This is why it is equally important to know how to stay motivated once you have the role.
Now, I am not necessarily suggesting that you will inevitably be disappointed or disillusioned with the reality of having your dream job – I am however noting that it is important to acknowledge that it will differ from what you might expect. Most of the people who apply for UN jobs for instance, tend to have an idealistic perception of the kind of work that they will be involved in and the impact they can have through that work. In order to not become jaded with your career choice it is therefore vital that you learn to accept reality for what it is; and perhaps more importantly, to remember why it is that you applied in the first place.
Don't Get Too Comfortable
Personally, the most important way in which I think you can remain motivated once you have made entry into the world of international organisations is by not becoming too comfortable. I have seen far too often that people once they have a relatively secure role, that they suddenly go into cruise control. They decide that they have achieved what it is that they wanted and that they should now just be comfortable and happy in their role.
I think this is profoundly the wrong mindset to be in; but that it is very easy to develop such a mindset – in particular if you really struggled to get the role in the first place. The UN in particular has amazing opportunities for career advancement and internal routes for progression but these are only usually for those who actively seek them out.
This is why I believe it is crucial to maintain a motivation for progress and not to just settle for what it is that you have achieved already. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. The benefits of this are numerous but mainly because by continually striving for bigger and better things you are continually improving yourself (and who wouldn’t want that). Now of course it is important as they say to enjoy the journey as well and not just focus on the destination – but my advice remains don’t stop the journey!