How to be a “good” younger person at the UN

Obviously this is just my opinion and by good here, I mean, in a working context.

Now once you get inside the UN, paid or unpaid (mini rant: UN interns should be PAID IN CASH or at least loads of in-kind gifts if not), it does seem a bit glorious and special. It’s like: wow, there are actually interpreters here like in the Nicole Kidman movie. 😛 And dude, there are a lot of meetings with ppl in fancy dress….

And is that Kofi Annan’s face I see on the poster and seriously, Bill Gates was just here? WHAT?!!!

Yup it has a bit of “star” wow factor if you are into certain subjects and the leaders in these fields. But I also totally get it if you are not. (Was not a fan til I got here myself!)

OK but after a couple years on the policy pace, I can say, there are a few things one could do to stick around or do a good job while here.

THE LIST: HOW TO DO A JOB WELL DONE IN A FRONT-LINE UN JOB aka where you go to meetings and meet the ppl

1. Sadly, you must wear nice clothes ALL THE TIME. This might be easy for a European hottie but as a sweatpants lover, making sure that my clothes were extremely matchy and expensive-looking (not always pricy but you must look like it) was sometimes a pain. As GVA is small, the chance that you may see the ppl in the meetings in your off time is HIGH so dress accordingly. DRESS FOR SUCCESS rite?

2. Listen and learn and be the best, eager, smiley note-taker, report writer there ever was. Always find the resource materials. Take the extra binder of info and study those facts. Read all those articles written by specialists until they permeate your brain. You never know when that info will come in handy & trust me, it does.

3. Meet the people. Can you speak a smattering of Japanese? Konichiwa. Cathy desu. Travelled to Hungary? No reason not to share that info in small talk before the meetings get started. People living far from home love to talk about their countries. It is solidarity and learning all in one. And they will remember you.

4. Don’t be shy, obviously very related to #3. If you wanna meet someone, obvs don’t run them over but casually find a way to make it happen…through mutual aquaintances, through email, through whatever you feel comfortable with, but please be cool. Don’t be a stalker. I used to tell my boss who I would really like to meet and he tried to help. FIND A CONNECTION.

5. Be confident. You obvs have something great which is why you are working where you are. So know that and be ready to share your knowledge, concerns, opinions & overall awesomeness.

6. Share, share, share. Someone will be new to the working group or the meeting halls. If you see a puzzled face somewhere, offer to help if you can. If you know the shortcut to the cafeteria, take someone with you. Trust me, everyone wants a food n drink break and if that can be done quickly, well then, that’s much appreciated. And they will thank you.

7. Reconnect with people. If you’ve seen them once or talked to them a bit, why not start saying HI and a bit more each time? A coffee here, a shared photocopier moment there, things can bloom from these litte instances. I met one of my good friends in GVA at a labour migration meeting back in 2012. We had both recently arrived and were both under the age of 50 lol so we connected. And boom, we’re still friends today :)

8. Just ask. Diplomatic people are generally pretty nice in my opinion. Sure some are crazy busy and some are just, well a different type, but heyyyy low risks, low reward. BUT asking for smthg is a low risk yet can be VERY HIGH REWARD. I’ve had a lot of coffees in GVA and on the rarest occasion that might become a job, but in all instances, I have learned a lot and appreciated all the people’s generosity with their time.

I now feel like I keep repeating myself: get out there, be friendly, be smart, look good, ummmmmmm, what else?

9. Be strategic. Now this one is a bit of a goodie and a badie. It’s your introduction to politics kinda. I think you will learn to read bwtween the lines as part of the job, but if you pay attention to this aspect of the UN, you will be more knowledgeable, STRESSED, wise, and ANGRY as a result. But you might also like it.

OK so I am sure there are a million more tips out in the world of diplomacy. Any comments and disagreements?


UN tray: bringing the GOOD home from work with me 😛

Comments are closed.