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Alumni Advice – Thoughts on leveraging your UN internship

NOTE: This guest post was written by Camille Moro, an alumna of the Diplomacy School’s class of 2014. She wishes to focus her career on international development efforts. During her time at Seton Hall, she interned at the international NGO Terre des Hommes’ Italian headquarters in the child sponsorship program, and the Permanent Mission of Malta to the United Nations, working mostly on matters of the Second Committee and Sustainable Development Goals. Following graduation, she interned with the Permanent Mission of Tonga, where she focused on advancing the Sustainable Development Goals from the perspective of Small Island Developing States and their special needs. Camille has studied in Croatia and France, and speaks Italian, French, and Spanish. She is currently working as a Meeting Servicing Assistant at the United Nations.


It’s a dream we don’t always dare to actually dream, because those pesky voices on all sides are telling us how impossibly tough it is out there. Seriously! I’ve even been in an intern information session run by the UN itself, which spent a soul-crushing afternoon telling us that there is no intern to employment pipeline. This is mostly because posts at our experience level open up once every never, but also because the UN only counts our intern experience as half of the actual time we put in, since the rest is supposedly purely academic. What can we do but abandon all hope? I am here to tell you that despite the overwhelming odds, you should not! While there is definitely no one-size-fits-all approach, or any clear-cut guaranteed path, there are ways you can leverage your UN internship to get closer to that goal of a real job. And so, I give you my humble two cents. In job hunting as in real estate, there are three important things to keep in mind above all: network, network, network!

  1. Network. As a student, I absolutely did not give the importance of networking its due consideration. Of course, I knew it had to be good to meet people in the field, but surely the main focus should be on building a strong resume. That’s what they will be looking at anyway… right? I hate to be the one to tell you, but: wrong. Most of the time, it doesn’t even make it to anyone’s desk. Having spent four years in the diplomacy school among its many ambitious and talented students, I have all the confidence in the world that your resume is looking really good. You’ve got that part down. Now, it’s time to do some legwork to make sure someone sees it.
  2. Network. I know how cringe-worthy the sound of that word is. It can be daunting to even begin to think about approaching accomplished people to then say…what exactly? I have good news, though! It doesn’t have to be that miserable. I know because I happened upon a better way after months of doing it the wrong way.

The difficult way:  During my first internship, this mainly entailed using a break in the meeting to walk over to whoever was sitting behind the US placard and do a little “Hi I’m an intern” spiel. This is not effective. It’s not that people don’t want to help us find our way, it’s just that they’ve got plenty with their own lives and work to deal with. And sadly, motivated young people like us are not exactly a rare commodity, hence we struggle to find a job in the first place. Needless to say, my follow-up emails with a “this is my resume, let me know if you hear of anything that seems to suit me” yielded absolutely nothing. Now, this does not mean that you should never take this approach. You can feel free to attempt it as you deem fit, as long as your expectations are in check. When I used it with a delegate from Italy, she was kind enough to invite me to the Mission for coffee and a discussion about my career goals. I didn’t get a job out of it, but I did get my thrill for the day and a packet about finding a UN job written by Harvard.

A better way:  Now that we’ve gone over the hard way, I can share the secret. I’m about to give you the key to the universe, so please listen up: it doesn’t have to be all business, all the time! It can happen at any point. Days get long, and I know it’s tempting to go home and curl up in front of Seinfeld. Resist the urge. Go to that happy hour, accept the invitation to that reception, stay a little later in the Delegates Lounge. You can always drink some extra coffee in the morning, but you can’t get an opportunity back. Maybe that person you’re looking for is standing at the bar waiting for their drink just like you (Under 21? Same thing at a café counter waiting for a coffee). Remember, you never know when your golden ticket might be in the room, so make sure you’re there to meet them. In these more casual settings, conversation flows more easily and a lot of the pressure magically disappears. Now, you don’t even have to awkwardly say “hi, I’m an intern.” You can just say “how ‘bout them San Antonio Spurs!” This kind of atmosphere fosters much more genuine interactions, which tend to end up being much more productive than the forced method we fret over.

  1. Network. Remember to continue to pursue your non-work related interests, hang out, and make friends. In other words, live your life and never underestimate the power of your very own peers. Not everyone you network with has to be someone you see as powerful. Just like you, your friends have a network of people they can call upon. This is how it all came together for me. My main interests include all things Italian. I wasn’t thinking about the job search at the moment I heard my golden ticket speaking Italian in the cafeteria. (Better to eat in the cafeteria among all the insiders instead of going to an outside restaurant!) I just wanted to meet him and chat. He was no one important in the traditional sense, only a temporary staffer who didn’t even like the UN. The thing is, the traditional sense of “important” is completely irrelevant. I had been through the “hi I’m an intern.” I had used my grounds pass to drag myself out to all the parties, meet ambassadors, have coffee, and salsa dance with all these “important” people I imagined would be the ones to help me start my life. But of all the people I met and tried to establish myself with, guess who knew a guy who knew a guy and ultimately landed me here?

To be clear, it was still a long and stressful process. As usual, even with my foot in the door I had to put together tedious applications, go through interviews, and bite my nails. But it was because I was armed with these connections to supplement my resume that I managed to make it to the top of the pile. Have I mentioned you should network? I wish I could guarantee that it will all work out, or had some power to hook you up with the job of your dreams. But since I can’t and don’t, you have just read my best attempt at helping you give yourself your best shot. There’s no harm in trying to beat the scary odds! People win the powerball lottery, after all. You could, too.


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