Terry Saw – Getting to know UNICEF

Last Friday, Career Services organized a UNICEF site visit for interested Mailman students and of course, several PFMH students attended it. While I’m no longer a current student, I had always been intrigue with the idea of working for one of the UN agencies, particularly since I’ve had an interesting brush with UNHCR while I was working in refugee resettlement in Malaysia prior to coming to Mailman.

The event started out as all events should, with an introduction of the work that UNICEF does through a visually appealing video.

The visually appealing video – UNICEF: for every child

We were then welcomed formally by Eva Mennel, Director of Human Resources, followed by a series of talks by different UNICEF employees from different units or departments. Shanelle Hall, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF told us about their strategic plan, and Willibald Zeck gave us insight on what goes on in the world of the Maternal, Newborn and Adolescent Health. programme. Mark Waltham, the Senior Adviser for Education then gave an impassioned speech about the need for education in humanitarian and developing contexts (which we learned about in PFMH), and Geoff Wiffin, the Senior Advisor for Emergency Programme wrapped up the series of ‘Insight Talks’ with a story of how being in the right place at the right time provided him with the opportunity to work in emergency settings (which, as we all know, is exactly how you get involved in emergency work)!

The PFMH Team

After a brief coffee break, we were treated to a buffet of different strategies and tips on how to get a job with UNICEF. Finally, the reason almost 300 of us were gathered there on that cloudy day!

Jill Osborn, the Human Resources Manager (New Talent Unit), told us about the four ways to get into UNICEF. Check out each individual link to learn more!

He doesn’t seemed too convinced…

Additionally, she also mentioned that consultancies are some of the best ways to get into the UN, as they sometimes look for fresh graduates with little to no experience. After doing a few consultancies, and proving to them that you are good, you may be offered a full-time position.

Next up was Nina Segal, Human Resources Manager (Leadership Executive Support Unit) who mirrored Ms. Osborn’s thoughts and added that internships were also a good way to get into the door. She also said that 70% of UNICEF vacancies published on their website were filled by internal candidates, and 30% were from external ones. This was really helpful as it set expectations for those of us applying to UNICEF.

Another helpful ‘tip’ was that UN agencies, unlike most other NGOs and organizations, prefer CV’s/resume’s at least 2 pages and longer. So if you’re a fresh graduate with not much work experience, it’s time to rack up those internships/consultancies over the summer/winter breaks to fill out that resume! The same apparently goes to cover letters. For more tips on how to write for UN applications, check out this website!

She also mentioned that applications are usually run through a system which strictly screens CV/resume’s for minimum qualifications. So if they mentioned in the job description “5 years of related experience” and you only have 4 years and 11 months, then your application most likely won’t be entertained.

After her talk, the participants were free to visit individual booths where they could ask more questions about their areas of interests, and the event ended after that.

Maybe… someday…

Overall, it was an interesting experience. Personally, the highlight was that, when every session ended, each speaker was asked to tell the audience why they think UNICEF is a great place to work for. All of them mentioned the mission of the organization, and none mentioned the salary, or the benefits, or the prestige of working in a UN agency. It was as if their answers were scripted. Or maybe, the mission was the main draw which drew all these professionals from many different backgrounds to work and stay in the organization for many years. Perhaps, beneath all those glamorous associations that we associate with UN agencies, there really is something worth working for.