Event Report: Careers at International Organizations
Updated: Nov 8, 2020
September 26, 2020 – WomEnpowered International held the first event of the new Career Insights Series, a campaign designed to provide rising graduates and young professionals with access to proven professionals across a wide selection of industries and specializations. We hope to equip our members and event attendees with deep insights into different career paths, tools for job applications and career progression, and authentic reflections on what it means to step into your own potential, both in terms of professional goals and lifelong vocation.
Our Career Insights Series is also a platform for exploring the kinds of barriers, challenges, and frustrations that can face women at different stages of their careers and family life. Our goal is to give our members a safe space to ask questions and share concerns with real professionals, who are committed to women’s empowerment. At WomEnpowered, we want all of our members to be able to cultivate the knowledge and self-awareness they need to embrace their passions and build the futures they want for themselves.
We were pleased to see huge interest in this event, with the number of registrants far exceeding original targets. We hope you will continue to join us throughout our Career Insights Series! Watch for updates on our Facebook Page.
Watch the full presentation here:
In our Career Insights: International Organizations event, we invited a diverse international panel of IO professionals from around the world – Colombia, France, Japan, and the United States – and at different stages in their careers to share their experiences and answer questions. Combined, the panelists have experience working with more than 10 International Organizations in over 20 different countries, giving them the ability to speak to a wide selection of situations.
Laura Galindo-Romero CDEP Artificial Intelligence Team, OECD, France
Lauren Power Research Fellow & Graduate Student, University of Tokyo, Japan 2020 USA Head Delegate, Y20 Engagement Group, G20 Summit, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Laurence Ravat Deputy Head of Human Resources, Bank of International Settlements, Switzerland
Miki Yoshimura Director of SDG Partners, Inc. Tokyo, Japan
Questions to the panelists included a professional focus, a personal focus, and a focus on women’s empowerment within IOs. A broad range of insights were shared about the application process, the contractual obligations and options, and structural mechanisms to consider when choosing which International Organization to apply to. Panelists with children and significant others also shared their experiences of international relocation with their families, and equally important point for many to think about when pursuing international careers.
Key Insights from Panelists:
Working in IOs offers an unprecedented opportunity for international engagement on key issues shaping the world today. You can work with people from all over the world and achieve incredible personal and professional growth.
When applying for IOs, it is important to have passion about and good working knowledge of the area of the organization in which you want to work (e.g. read recent publications, watch presentations from leaders, etc.). You should be prepared to write and speak to these points during the screening process when you apply for jobs at IOs.
You should also learn a bit about the organizational structure of your target IOs. Is it membership based? Which countries are members? Are you a citizen of a member country or a non-member country? Your nationality may affect whether or not you can be recruited for certain positions.
Investigate the timelines for Internships, JPO positions, and other job offers well in advance. At times it can take up to 6 months to complete the recruitment process for IOs, and there may be stipulations that you need to keep in mind (e.g. you must be enrolled in a university degree program for the duration of your internship, etc.).
Recruiters want to see that you have proven technical skills that are pertinent for your specific job (e.g. statistics, professional drafting experience in the working languages, econometrics, etc.), but other skills also matter. Transversal skills such as communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity are highly valued for enabling flexibility and adaptability amongst employees. Interpersonal skills and the candidate’s suitability to fit in with their team culture is also part of the evaluation.
IO recruiters are not only interested in what you have done, they care about your future potential too. In addition, the reason you want to work at the IO matters – How does your interest in working at an IO fit with your previous work/study experience? How does it fit with you future aspirations? Be ready to share your story when you apply!
Achieving longer-term employment contracts or Official contracts can be challenging at IOs because these positions are highly competitive and rarely become available. It is much more common to have internal mobility (within the same IO) or external mobility (outside of your IO) in your career when you work for IOs. This means that you can enter IOs at various stages in your career. You can exit, work in the private sector or government, or go back to university to earn another degree, and then later re-enter IOs too.
An important consideration for anyone interested in working at IOs is NETWORK! Find the official job boards for the IOs you are interested in. Sign up for job alerts – this will help you quickly find out when new jobs are posted. However, keep in mind that many jobs are never publicly published and rely on private networking. Follow the key leaders on social media. Attend events and read reports as much as you can. Try to get to know people working in IOs. Once you can build your network and get your name known within the appropriate circles, then it may become easier to find out about unpublished jobs.
International mobility is a perk of working for IOs. It is exciting and life-changing to be able to live and work abroad! The IO you work for and the type of work you do will determine the kinds of locations that you may be offered as duty stations. It can be challenging to relocate internationally when you have a family, especially if your duty station is in a developing country.
IOs can offer their employees generous support in terms of benefits and compensation, but more junior employees or consultants may not be given much relocation support for their partner or children. It can be difficult for partners to find meaningful employment in a new country, or even just to adapt to a new way of living.
When children are young, it can be easier to relocate with them. After they enter school, it can be more challenging. There are many materials online that explore how to raise children in an intercultural context – there can be many benefits!
For a young woman, working in an IO abroad may provide greater independence and faster career progression than working in a traditional Japanese company. Young Japanese women interested in prioritizing their careers should consider this point.
The friendships and networks that you can build while working at IOs are truly remarkable. They can help you find meaningful work throughout your life.
IOs tend to take great care in hiring for gender and national diversity at all levels of the organization. This commitment to diversity and inclusion is very apparent in the employee experience.
Employee groups within IOs will most definitely include specific outreach for women.
Staff Services at certain IOs may include support for family or trailing spouses, which is a huge perk.
The level of commitment to women’s empowerment is striking and perhaps unique to IOs at this point in time.
Advice from Panelists
“I came across a quote recently: ’Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.’ And it is really true that as long as you follow your passion, I think you can be happy. So, don’t [make] your goal to be part of an organization… that’s not a passion, right? A passion is something that you can realize [in] your day-to-day work. So, find your passion and follow it. And if it is to solve a global problem, then working at an international organization might be one opportunity. But there are also other outlets as well, so just be true to yourself.”
- Miki Yoshimura
“If you are a young woman and you are looking at international organizations for a career, just do a bit of… boost your confidence. Be self-confident about who you are, and don’t put yourself down when you are interview by highlighting your weaknesses or all the things that you have not done. If you have a chance to go to an interview, rehearse a bit with someone who is confident and try to get some advice on how to present yourself positively and bringing forward all your skills and competencies. Very often, as a recruiter, I see young candidates – and in particular, young women – who are not so self-confident and that can impact a bit their interview performance.”
- Laurence Ravat
“I think that, as you approach this question about whether or not to work at an IO, you should feel comfortable being nervous because it is quite an adventure. It can be a bit of a risk. You might try it and you might decide [that it] isn’t working for [you]. I want to copy Miki and share a quote that I love which is: ‘Success is moving from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.’ You should not feel afraid to try something new. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay because you learned something. As long as you keep your passion and enthusiasm, you should just try what you have the chance to try. I believe this is good advice, especially for young professionals.”
- Lauren Power
“I think every human interaction – every single interaction we have – is a permanent interview. So, in that case, be always truthful to yourself and always be who you are. Never apologize for who you are. If you are a really good person with a passion to tackle a global problem – it doesn’t have to be global, it can be local – just follow that and lead by example. All throughout your career, but that agent of change. You are your own story. You are always tailoring your own story. Let your story speak for you, and that story will definitely lead you places. One day that story can help inspire others… and others… and others. We can all change the world by sharing our stories, inspiring others, and doing good.”
Join us for our next Career Insights event!
Details coming soon...