A Guided Path to an International Career

Working in international institutions, multilateral governmental bodies and non-profit organization is a dream for many. Despite how appealing the prospect of working in such places is, competition is tough, and the requirements needed to stand out are many and somehow discouraging. Throughout this article we will explore some of the key skills needed for different international institutions, and provide examples on how to better tailor your profile for the right organization.

Let’s start with the basics.

1. Academia

Regardless of what your specialty or job title is, you need to have the right academic titles. Most positions require at least a bachelor or a master degree in an internationally recognised institution, and years of experience. Making sure you meet said requirements is a mandatory first step - at least in most cases. If you have then attended conferences, training, panels, or have been awarded scholarships and prizes for your work and academic performance, that all gives you more credit. There is no such as things as too many when it comes to those extra-curricular.


2. Know your Niche

Finding out your interest research area early on, and digging right into that is something else here worth underlying. Based on the organization you wish to consider or the geographical area you intend to work in, being a real specialist in a topic can truly make the difference. Besides your profession or your titles, choosing to specialise in a niche subject you are passionate about can be a determining factor in your career opportunities and choices.


3. Build a profile

Building an international profile is - above all - crucial. Nowadays, there are many opportunities to both study and work abroad; so many that it is now considered a given. Hence, the sooner you start exploring these options, the better. Showcasing overseas experiences will definitely serve as an incredible booster, and having not only concrete practical experiences, but most importantly good networking skills will prove you are - in theory - cut out for a job in any multinational institution.

4. Learn languages

It would not be an international environment without diversity. Often overlooked especially by native English speakers, being multilingual is much more than a trend. While English - or French - are generally the most used working languages in such organizations, fluency in other idioms is very often required. Especially in departments or organizations whose focus is regional, knowledge of the local language(s) or even dialects is a must. If Esperanto may not get you anywhere, Spanish, Russian or Chinese are definitely in high request.


5. Pick up soft skills

While then basic computing, economic and writing skills are also considered a prerequisite, the list of soft skills that characterise successful individuals in international institutions is diverse and extensive. A few key examples are here included.

  • Cross-cultural Communication and Sensibility

  • Flexibility and Adaptability

  • Teamwork

  • Cognitive Flexibility

  • Emotional Intelligence

  • Socio-cultural interpersonal skills

  • Curiosity

  • Leadership

  • Calmness and ability to work under pressure


6. Own your specialty

One crucial final point is - again - your own expertise and specialty. Organizations will not only have different focus points and missions, but will also target specific positions and professions. The scope of some, such as the UN, may be so varied that all sorts of jobs openings could be available worldwide at some point in time. Others may be narrowed down to a geographical area (e.g. EU, ASEAN, SADC etc.) or may only deal with more specific topics (WHO, UNICEF, NATO, etc.), and thus concentrate on some - often very technical - issues rather than others. While the recommendations above generally apply to all, additional hard skills and tailored technical expertises need to therefore be carefully considered as well when looking at different career prospects.


7. Understand the system

The best way to truly understand how the system works in different sectors and geographical areas is browsing through each individual organization’s website. All institutions - big and small alike - now offer a “career” web page where all vacant positions and internships are periodically listed. Some may even post and advertise in other platforms (e.g. LinkedIn) or may provide information that helps you understand whether or not you could be a good fit for the organization. Exemplifying is the European Union career page - https://epso.europa.eu/why-eu-careers_en

Here, you can see all the current job openings available, read through detailed instructions about the application process, and even find tips and tricks for different career paths. Filling in the different application forms is very often a lengthy and tiresome process, but that is a mandatory step that cannot be avoided. So is creating a digital copy of your curriculum vitae - translated in the main working language of the organization - that highlights how the your experiences so far have made you the perfect candidate for that job.

More recently, organizations have also been relying on computer based numerical or psychometric tests at different stages of the application process. While there is no specific way to really prepare for them, it is never a bad idea to have a look at samples online, and make sure you fully understand the organization’s mission and what the job you wish to apply for entails. You may also want to take into consideration how far you are willing to relocate. This is a factor that may have quite a significant impact on your job search.


8. Familiarize with the hiring process

When it comes to international organizations, hiring personnel remotely, temporary freelancers or (experienced) consultants is also something gradually becoming more and more common. It essentially means that if you have already established your position or at least found your specialty, and are considered an expert at what you do, the odds of you getting hired - at least for short medium term projects/missions - are nowadays a lot better. Regardless of the field, basic - better if advanced - IT competences are however, in this case, more than a must as part of the job always requires dealing with digital content.

Even if you tick all the right boxes on paper, there is still no guarantee you will get the job. In the end of the day, it is up to you to figure out how to best sell your experiences and capabilities and portray yourself as the perfect candidate.

Have a look at some positions currently available around the world to get a better grasp of what this article outlines:

Receptionist (New Dheli) - G3 WHO

Education: Completion of secondary education
Desirable: Knowledge/training in use of Audio/Sound system operations. Knowledge/training in use of fire detection and suppression systems.
Essential: One to two years' experience as Receptionist-cum-telephone operator.
Desirable: Work experience in an international organization is an asset
Skills Good communication skills including voice modulation, Familiarity with the operation of electronic automatic switchboard, Awareness of security measures in an international organization, Ability to remain patient, courteous, tactful and discreet in dealing with and/or screening visitors and phone calls, alert at all times for potential intrusions into the building, Computer knowledge for routine administrative work, Ability to identify and remember faces and names and deal with people from different cultures.
Language skills: Expert knowledge of English. Expert knowledge of Hindi
Other Skills (IT): Proficiency in the use of modern office software packages such as MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.) and standard office equipment. Good working knowledge of GSM (or other Oracle-based ERP systems) is desirable.
WHO Competencies Teamwork, Respecting and promoting individual and cultural differences, Communication

 Fundraising Specialist (Panama) - P3 UNICEF

Education: Advanced university degree in relevant field. A first-level university degree in combination with qualifying experience may be accepted in lieu of an advanced university degree.
Experience: At least 5 years' hands-on experience of TM fundraising, preferably in the LAC Region and across diverse markets, including: Training fundraisers; Budgeting, Performance management and pay schemes; Preparing materials & scripts; Analyzing & reporting on donor recruitment including long term attrition; Quality control and risk management. Experience of negotiating contracts and enforcing contractual terms with TM agencies, preferably across diverse markets. It would be an advantage if the person had gained the above experience in both agency and charity environments. Experience of integrated multi-channel fundraising would be an advantage.
Language Requirements: Fluency in Spanish and English is required. Knowledge of Portuguese would also be an advantage.
UNICEF Core Values: Diversity and Inclusion, Integrity, Commitment
UNICEF Core Competencies: Communication (III), Drive for Results (III), Working with People (II)
Person Profile:
-        Proven ability to coordinate complex, multi-million dollar programs and work with senior level management.
-        Thorough and current knowledge of Telemarketing trends across multiple markets.
-        Demonstrated ability to work in a multi-cultural environment, and to establish harmonious and effective working relationships both within and outside the organization.
-        Demonstrated ability to devise, plan, develop and implement strategies and projects.
-        Proven ability to deliver to targets and demonstrated experience of results-based management.
-        Demonstrated ability to innovate and communicate ideas effectively.
-        Proven ability to work under pressure and to manage multiple priorities.
-        Strong analytical, negotiating and communication skills.
-        Strong presentation skills

Programme Officer (Beijing) -  SB4 UNDP

Core Values: Respect for Diversity, Integrity, Professionalism
Core Competencies: Awareness and Sensitivity Regarding Gender Issues, Accountability, Creative Problem Solving, Effective Communication, Inclusive Collaboration, Stakeholder Engagement, Leading by Example
Functional Competencies Programme formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation skills, Knowledge of Results Based Management, Ability to gather and interpret data, reach logical conclusions and present findings, Good analytical skills, Good knowledge of rural development issues in China
Required Skills and Experience
Education and certifications Master's degree or equivalent in social sciences, human rights, gender/ women's studies, international development, or a related field is required. A first-level university degree in combination with two additional years of qualifying experience may be accepted in lieu of the advanced university degree.
         - At least 2 years of relevant work experience in development programme/project implementation, coordination, monitoring and evaluation, donor reporting and capacity building;
         - Experience in implementing a youth program and/or school-based intervention is an asset;
         - Experience coordinating and liaising with government agencies and/or donors is an asset.
Language Requirements:
         - Fluency in English with excellent writing and research skills
         - Knowledge of the other UN official working language is an asset
         - Full fluency in Chinese is a requirement. 

Chief of Mission (Baku), P3 IOM


Required Qualifications and Experience:
• Master’s degree in Political or Social Sciences,   Law, International Relations or a related field
from an accredited academic institution with five   years of relevant professional experience; or
• University degree in the above fields with seven   years of relevant professional experience.
• Experience in humanitarian programmes for migrants   and capacity-building activities;
• Experience in liaising with governmental and   diplomatic authorities as well as with national and
international institutions;
• Familiarity with financial and business   administration;
• Sound and proven understanding of internal and   international migration issues in Azerbaijan,
the region and related issues;
• Knowledge of the region is an advantage.
Languages: Fluency in English is required. Working knowledge of   Azerbaijani, Turkish and Russian is an
Desirable Competencies:
• Accountability – takes responsibility for action   and manages constructive criticisms;
• Client Orientation – works effectively well with   client and stakeholders;
• Continuous Learning – promotes continuous learning   for self and others;
• Communication – listens and communicates clearly,   adapting delivery to the audience;
• Creativity and Initiative – actively seeks new ways   of improving programmes or services;
• Leadership and Negotiation – develops effective   partnerships with internal and external
• Performance Management – identify ways and   implement actions to improve performance of
self and others;
• Planning and Organizing - plans work, anticipates   risks, and sets goals within area of
• Professionalism - displays mastery of subject   matter;
• Teamwork – contributes to a collegial team   environment; incorporates gender related needs,
perspectives, concerns and promotes equal gender participation;
• Technological Awareness - displays awareness of   relevant technological solutions;
• Resource Mobilization - works with internal and   external stakeholders to meet resource needs
of IOM.