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Careers with the United Nations

On 3 December 2016, School of Diplomacy hosted a “How to…” session within the Career Series. The title for discussion was “Careers with the United Nations”. Three Diplomacy alumni speakers talked about their experience of finding a career at the United Nations: Camille Moro with Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, Cara Richardson with the Permanent Mission of the U.S. to the U.N. and Yousef Zeidan, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affair (OCHA). The opinions expressed by the speakers during their presentation were their personal views. 

Camille Moro, Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, class of 2014:

Camille shared that she came to the School of Diplomacy with the intention to be a part of the United Nations and every step she took brought her closer to her goal. Camille interned with the Permanent Mission of Malta to the UN and the Permanent Mission of Tonga to the UN during her studies at Seton Hall. Her first job was a Meeting and Conferencing assistance at the UN General Assembly. Recently, Camille works at the Permanent Mission of Italy to the UN.

Q: What is it like to work in your field?

Camille: Amazing and I love it. But I am biased, so you will have to discover for yourselves. Learn from my experience what you will. I can speak about working at the UN as a staffer, as well as working for a Mission. There are many similarities in experience, but there are also unique experiences. My favorite thing about working in the field, as well as working for a Mission is that every day is different, depending on what is going on in the World. I always feel very involved, there is never a dull moment. When I was with the Mission of Malta, I got to sit at the meetings on the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the meetings about terrorism or women’s rights. I also got to sit on a Security Council meeting. As a Meeting Servicing Assistant, my job was to provide services for Delegates. This could mean setting up a meeting, organizing documents, or even pouring them a glass of water.

Q: What skills are important to be successful at your job?

Camille: Pesky people skills working for a Mission or as a UN staffer. Either way, you are either a face of the UN that delegates can see and point to or you are a face of a country which everyone can see or point to. Customer service is one of the most important skills. One of the interview questions for that job was “Can you tell us a time when you were client-oriented?” It’s pretty much the old proverbial “The Customer is Always Right”. I have to be prepared to deal with all kinds of people and always smile and provide a service. A lot of diplomacy takes place outside the meeting room, which is why the people-skills are so incredibly important. Some happen at a reception or a formal dinner, so you will always have to be prepared. You are always on the job. Ability to multitask and stay calm under pressure. I know, as Diplomacy students who take 18 credits or take a special permission to take 21 credits. I know you can handle the multitasking and have things under control. Seton Hall is a great preparation for these skills.

Q: What are the things to consider as one ponders his/her potential career with the UN?

Camille: The UN is a giant bureaucracy. And things can be slow. Things can be stuck in these formal procedures and diplomatic protocols. If you want to see the more immediate results, I might want to encourage you to work for an NGO. They do more things on the ground. No one can take me away from the UN because no one loves the UN as much as me. It’s for you to decide what you want to do.

Camille suggested to learn about the UN memo language, formal procedures and diplomatic protocols.

Camille: you may enter the UN at the G level, which is “General services” or at the P level, which is “Professional”. P-level is more often used for people with Master’s degree. If you start at the G-level, as a staffer and work for a few consecutive years, you will have a chance to take a test to P-level. This step is important because many of the P-level positions are filled with people from within the UN Organization. If you are serious about a UN career, this could be a good option to use the G-level position as a “foot-in-the-door” position.

If anyone is concerned about the fact that G-level positions are used as staff to work for others, Camille shares that “G-staff makes the world go around.”

Camille: The application process is very long. There might be a long period before you get contacted for an interview.

Q: How do people get noticed or hired?

Camille: Internships and networking go completely hand-in-hand. You must use the resources that we have and the support that the University provides to you.

During Camille’s Junior year at Seton Hall, when she had to do her mandatory internship, she also had to travel to Italy and see her family. She asked Mr. Kristo if there were any internships in Italy and he was able to provide Camille with the list of the organizations in Italy to have her internship there. The following year, Camille communicated to Mr. Kristo that she wanted to have an internship at the UN. Mr. Kristo was able to provide established network with the Permanent Mission of Malta to Camille. Camille felt like she was chosen among all other candidates because of the connection that the School of Diplomacy has with the UN and because she had previous experience with the UN NGO the summer before.

Camille: Be social and meet people in casual setting. Attend after-hour receptions and use opportunities to talk to people. You have to give yourself a chance to be noticed. The best piece of advice that I got from my boss at Malta is to always go for small countries because they need personnel. This way, you will get a chance to do substantive tasks and have a chance to attend meetings as a delegate. When you work for a larger Mission, you might not have so much hands-on experience.

Camille suggested that one of the best ways to get involved with the UN is to participate in Model UN.

Even if you start with an entry-level job, you can feel a part of something bigger. “Got to walk before you can run”, says Camille.

Camille wrote a blog post “Alumni Advice-Thoughts on Leveraging Your UN Internship“.

Cara Richardson, Permanent Mission of United States to United Nations:

Cara works for Ambassador Samantha Power, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Samantha Power is also a part of the President Obama’s Cabinet at the NSC (National Security Council). Cara works as a special assistant to Ambassador Power in Washington, D.C. Despite being posted in D.C., Cara says that the UN plays an important role in her job. Cara shared that because she is posted in Washington, she has a unique capability and opportunity to interfere with the White House on regular basis. She explained that at the UN, Ambassador Power is implementing the US Foreign Policy. In DC, the Foreign Policies which she presents to the UN are sharped. Cara spends much of her time in the meeting rooms where the debates take place and the decisions are made regarding the issues that are then passed for the negotiations at the Security Council meetings.

Prior to becoming a student at Seton Hall, Cara worked in various professional capacities. Her work experience brought her to the School of Diplomacy where she wanted to study International Law and Human Rights. Cara remembered how she attended one of the events for prospective students and made a decision to study at Seton Hall.

Cara: The small family that this school is so important and it is such an advantage for all of you (prospective students) because you get to know each and every one of your classmates. You get to know your professors on such a personal and professional level. Take full advantage of it. Your professors are amazing and they really care about you. They want you to succeed.

Advice from Cara: Study a lot and get involved in University life. Networking is important. Develop your social skills.

Cara joined the International Law Society at Seton Hall. She wanted to meet other professionals who were in the field and worked on the similar issues. Cara found out that one of the professors at Seton Hall was working on the issues that she was highly interested in. She established connection with that professor, and their friendship still continues.

Cara: It means a lot and it is really good because you will make some mentors here.

Cara started an organization on campus called SAVE (Sexual Assault and Violence Education Awareness Team). Skills Cara acquired while being a part of that organization (writing business proposal, the ways to get funds, how to reach Student Government, how to persuade people to get what she needed, how to work successfully with others on the team) were very useful in her career.

Cara: Another skill that I learned at Seton Hall is how to take effective notes. Write down the things that professors are not saying. Sometimes, what they are not saying is actually more than they are feeding you. If your professors didn’t talk about something, write down questions and ask why they didn’t talk about it. You will get more out of what you are learning. It will be helpful when you enter the field of International Relations or Foreign Policy. Once you try to present your opinion on an issue, they (people) will use this on you and you will already be prepared for that.

Cara’s first internship was with the World Food Programme in Rome. Cara shares that the competition for that internship was great, but she applied anyway. It turned out, she got it out of many candidates who submitted their application. Cara said it turned out to be one of the best experiences she had ever had. When she finished it, she applied and was accepted for another internship, now with the Clinton Foundation as a Girls and Women’s intern in Not There Yet Project. Cara talked how passionate she was about the issues of women while she was a student at Seton Hall. She was able to apply her knowledge from her classes at Seton Hall and passion into her internship experience. For her senior thesis class at Seton Hall, Cara’s professor challenged her use actual statistical data and include Excel spread sheets in their thesis. Cara felt she was able to apply those skills in her career.

Cara: It was an amazing experience. That is where I landed my current job. I was asked to stay after my internship. I had to put off my Master’s Degree to do that, but I am glad I stayed.

Cara’s mentor noticed her outstanding job and suggested she would be best suited to work for the Government. Cara shared that she never considered working for Government prior to being asked to do so. She enjoyed working for non-profit organizations and having hands-on experience. She felt like NGOs have the ability to influence Government policies through activism. Cara’s mentor referred her to Ambassador Power’s Chief of Staff. Cara went through an interview process and was offered a job that she has right now. This process consisted of an interview with a group of staff members, a paper which Cara was asked to write at the interview on a topic provided by staff, and an interview with the Ambassador. Cara shared that the paper was supposed to show her potential employer how well her writing skills were and whether she was able to provide good arguments in her paper. In the matter of days, Cara was offered to write a paper on one of the three topics that were of high probability that they were unfamiliar to her. She chose a topic, did a research and wrote a paper which she submitted the following day. Shortly, Cara was offered her job.

Cara: I’ve been on so many interviews in my life, but one was the hardest interview I would’ve ever had.

Advice from Cara: You are not just being interviewed for a position. You are interviewing them to make sure that is the position you really want. You should be going to the interview with the mindset that even though it is a great job, but where do you want to see yourself in ten years. It is important to conceptualize that the jobs you take are going to lead you somewhere.

Cara knew she wanted to shape Foreign Policy. At the interview, she asked questions that were important for her in determining her career path: What kind of portfolio are you going to give me that I can start working on? Am I going to be able to do read-out calls? Am I going to be able to sit on meetings? Can you explain to me what a day in a job consist of? How many ups and down do you go through a day? What kind of personal life am I going to have? What are you expecting of me?

Cara: A lot of this was luck, but also a lot of hard work. I remember being a Seton Hall student, I didn’t go home a lot. I didn’t have a dorm room, I slept in my car. I looked like I haven’t slept in days. And I didn’t. This was because I wanted to get to where I am today. I didn’t know that that’s where I would be, but I wanted to land somewhere where I can make a difference, where my voice will be heard. And I couldn’t be any prouder of myself. Because I didn’t think I had it in me and I sold myself short. So, don’t sell yourself short.

Yousef Zeidan, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

Yousef started at Seton Hall in 2002 as a freshman at the School of Diplomacy. He took a “break” from being a student at some point of his time at Seton Hall to have a job. He then continued studying at the School of Diplomacy and finished his Master’s Degree by 2010. Currently, Yousef works for the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. OCHA provides humanitarian assistance across the world. Yousef focuses on Yemen. Recently, Yousef has been asked to join the Transition Team for the newly appointed Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

Advice from Yousef: You always have to be measured, but you always have to take the initiative. If you don’t take the initiative, it’s 100% out. No opportunity for you whether it’s asking somebody to have a coffee, asking somebody to have lunch. Your classmates, your colleagues. Whether you are interning or whether you are working there. You always have to take the initiative, but at measured level.

Yousef found his first internship while he was helping at the conference at the UN. He was able to network with people while he was volunteering his time at the UN. The connections while being there for a short period of time helped him get an internship within the UN.

Advice from Yousef: Always have a business card. You don’t have to put a logo on it. Just put your name, your phone number and your e-mail address. Something very professional, but also very measured.

Yousef’s first internship was at the United Nations Development Programme. He worked in a regional Bureau for Arab States. It wasn’t a mandatory internship. Yousef was able to have it on his own schedule, outside his classes. He remembers it was a basic internship, but it gave him a chance to get to know more people and establish connections that led him to his desired internship. Soon, Yousef was able to get an internship with the Palestinian Mission to the UN, which became his formal internship for his Diplomacy Program. He did it through Spring Semester and was asked to stay through the Summer as well. In the Fall, Yousef was asked whether he could stay for the Fall so he could help during the General Assembly. Yousef was concerned about being able to manage his class and internship schedule, but his Mission offered to work around his schedule and added a small stipend to cover his travel expenses. This experience, in Yousef’s opinion, build the foundation for his current career. During his Master’s Degree program, Yousef returned to the Palestinian Mission to the UN because he kept his connections with them through the years. Once he graduated with his Master’s Degree, he was offered a full-time position at the same Mission. Yousef worked at that position for about five years, mainly focused on the legal issues. He sat on many meetings with Ambassador Rice and Ambassador Power, the Palestinian Ambassador, as well as other Ambassadors to the UN.

Skills that are important: Note-taking, summarizing, being able to highlight key points, legal and analytical skills, know the basic framework of the UN system, know the International order and why there is one, know rules and procedures for UN meetings, have knowledge of protocols among diverse actors.

Advice from Yousef: diversify your network, diversify your skills.

Yousef: I am a son of the Immigrants. My parents scrambled some money for me to go to school because they wanted me to have something they did not have. And I took the opportunity. Yes, you make mistakes. Yes, you go the wrong path sometimes. But if you don’t learn from them (mistakes), that is when it is a failure. Failure is when you do not learn from your mistakes. But if you learn from them, and you shift yourself to do better, that is success itself. It is a circle.

On behalf of the Diplomacy students at Seton Hall University we thank you for sharing your stories with us. We look forward to watching where your career takes you next. Thank you and good luck!

-Vera Dimoplon

This guest post was written by Vera Dimoplon. Vera is a graduate student at the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Her specializations are in International Organizations, Global Negotiations and Conflict Management. Vera’s interests are the operation of international institutions in multilateral community and negotiations among multinational actors.

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