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My job as: Communications Officer - United Nations (International Development Sector)

  • 08-11-2010 2:20pm
    Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators Posts: 4,286 mod dory

    The main reason I'm writing this is in response to a thread in the leaving cert forum about Arts degrees and what one can do with them. I just want to show the diversity of where one can go with such a qualification.

    Occupation: Communications Officer, United Nations, Kosovo (also run a small NGO in India on the side)

    Qualifications held: BA in Media and Irish, MA in Development Studies

    Various language certificates

    Previous Jobs:
    Researcher for UNICEF, Director of an NGO, Irish teacher, primary school teacher in India, volunteered abroad in various education/children's projects in Peru, Nicaragua and India.

    Age bracket: Mid-20s (25 to be exact)

    Day In The Life:

    My job is a very desk based job. I work from 8.30 to 5.30 and have to attend many events in the evenings/weekends also. As Communications Officer my job is to go to these events, take photos, write articles and update the website.

    I'm also in charge of organizing some of these events to mark the different UN days.

    I make videos for YouTube, interview politicians etc.

    I also do some desktop publishing when making promotional material, brochures, booklets, manuals etc.

    Some UN agencies are very hands on, and spend time out in the field or in refugee camps. As Kosovo is a relatively developed country we don't have any of that. Nowadays the focus is on getting local community to run their own projects, which is better for them in the long run of course. So for us that means sitting in the office most of the time writing proposals to funders and reports then when the projects are done.The actual projects are carried out by local NGOs.

    I've noticed that those who don't have specific qualifications are generalists who spend their lives writing such reports, which is why I've decided to go back to train to be a teacher next year, so that I can get into educational development and get out of the office!!

    Working for the UN is not as cool as it may seem. The big important meetings are only for the very few at the top, and those who have got there have usually scarified a lot to get there. (very few are, or are still married).

    Personal Attributes: One thing you really need for this is a personality. And to be honest, it's where I fall down most. There is a LOT of networking to do to stay in the UN. Colleagues become your social circle and at important holidays become your family, so it's only natural that the boss is going to hire someone they're friends with, and not someone that sits at home making websites (that would be me :o).

    You need to be very pro-active, or a 'self-starter' as some might say. The one thing everyone I work with has in common is that we've all been working towards a career like this for a long time. Everyone who was hired with me last year had spent just about every summer volunteering, and volunteering during the college year too. To be honest, if it's not something you'd do anyway, and not just for the job later then you're not suited to the job. When I was in India they knew straight away which volunteers were there just to have it on their CV. And it was their reference I got that got me my first UN job, with UNICEF.

    Also on the whole pro-active thing, you need to be able to find your own internships/volunteering opportunities and learn some languages. We can all say we suck at languages, I said that myself once upon a time, but they're essential.

    Lists are always easy to read. So...

      Travel High job satisfaction Chance to learn languages Once you get up the ladder high salary (my boss gets €500k) Great job opportunities after Great networking opportunities (if you're able to do it! :) )

      Can get very lonely Weekends can be boring Working in an office is a bit of a let-down when you're expecting to be 'in the field' You have very little say in where you live. I asked for Viet Nam, I got Kosovo! High pressure once you get into management You need money to get started. For example, for the filming/editing/photo taking I do for my job, I have to provide all my own equipment. Plus volunteering abroad costs money too.

    General comments:

    In general, working for the UN hasn't been what I've expected. I wanted to work in the NGO sector, and I feel I should have stayed there! But the crazy thing was they wanted me to have had UN experience, so here I am sitting in my office getting the experience.

    Saying you work for the UN is as vague as saying you work in the public sector, there are so many jobs and opportunities. This is just my take on my job. I'm sure many other have different experiences.

    Any questions, just ask!


  • dory wrote: »
    The main reason I'm writing this is in response to a thread in the leaving cert forum about Arts degrees and what one can do with them. I just want to show the diversity of where one can go with such a qualification.
    Many thanks, dory, the more especially as that thread gets under my skin as well, and I have to keep restraining myself from going all hammertime on it! :D