Getting a U.N. Internship

Posted on 05 June 2007 by Fixer

If you are not from Switzerland or from the European Union, finding an entry level job in Switzerland is extremely difficult. Recent graduates often pursue an internship before seeking employment.

The United Nations and international organizations in Geneva offer myriad internships and this is one of the ways young professionals and students can find work in Switzerland, without the problem of obtaining a work permit.

There are several ways students and young professionals can go about finding a UN internship. Below are some recommended steps. UN internships are generally unpaid and therefore this option — while an interesting way to parachute into work in Switzerland, experience the life, and perhaps look for more profitable employment— is not for everyone.

Consider the type of job you ultimately want to find and whether the given internship will fit in with your academic, professional or career internships in geneva switzerlandobjectives. And consider whether the internship will offer a realistic chance of leading to a job in an international organization in Switzerland.

A quick check of the different internet web sites of the UN organizations will inform you whether these programs or agencies are doing the sort of work which interests you. Consider emailing and even phoning people in or around the organization who might help you.

If you seek academic credit for your internship, you should look at a study-internship program. There are several such programs in Geneva and elsewhere that offer courses in combination with an internship.

Almost all the international organizations have internship programs and they each have their own application form,

process and timeline. You will need to check each organization’s web site for specific information and instructions.

Prepare your CV : consult books or online resources, or our tips (see prior postings) for examples of practices for CVs in Europe. Most applications are accepted by email, but you may actually have to write our some by hand and send them via regular mail.

The application process for the United Nations Headquarters Internship Programme differs from the other organizations within the U.N. system.

Most of the HR services of the international organizations in Geneva put all the applications of interns seeking a job into a database. The organization’s staff then check these databases if they want an intern.

This system, combined with the fact that many U.N. staff in Geneva don’t even know they can find a free intern this way, makes the following very important: follow up. After having you’re your application for employment as an intern at one of the international organizations in Geneva, follow it up with an email to someone working in the area, division or section where you seek to work. You might find the contact info of such a person by checking the website thoroughly or examining the names on reports published by the organization – try calling the organization if you have to. Ask they have seen your curriculum vitae and your application.

In your email, write that you know about their work, that you know the internship will be unpaid, and discuss your qualifications, and that you have sent your official internship application to their HR office.

They probably won’t realize that they need you until you contact them in this way.

internships at the United Nations in GenevaAn internship is usually 3-6 months. Once you start your internship you will be inside the structure, have physical access to the different organizations and you can start your search for a job, start networking, circulate your curriculum vitae among your new acquaintances, and begin consulting the job boards, meeting people within the organizations and looking for regular employment at one of the international organizations.

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