June 25, 2021 | Watch Video
Aruna Thanabalasingam, DMSPC, United Nations
Suzanne Shanahan, OICT, United Nations
Eva Jansen, Joan Ampah, and Salena Brown, UN Office of Human Resources
Julie Michele Weintraub, SAS, United Nations
Susan King, MONUSCO
Kim Kahnhauser Freeman, WFPG (Moderator)

WFPG hosted UN officials Aruna Thanabalasingam and Suzanne Shanahan and representatives from the UN's Office of Human Resources Joan Ampah, Salena Brown, and Eva Jansen for a discussion on mid-level careers and opportunities at the United Nations. The conversation covered the variety of UN careers, various entry points into the UN system, and provided guidance on the application process. Following this opening session, participants moved to interactive breakout sessions with the webinar speakers and UN colleagues Julie Michele Weintraub and Susan King where they could ask their own questions on the topics of recruitment and benefits, application tips and tailoring your application, assessments and interviews, and field vs. headquarter opportunities. This program was a part of WFPG's Build Your Career series, which provides programming to support women at all stages of their careers.
Video | Presentation | Speaker Bios

Key Takeaways

UN Entry Points
  • In addition to headquarter positions, there are many field service opportunities, general service opportunities, internships, volunteering, and consultancies through the UN.
  • These jobs are across nine networks and 47 job families. Read more about the job networks and the UN system. Learn more: UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDP, UN Women, UNOPS, FAO
  • Most job openings are for a specific position, but there are also "generic job openings", where are used to create rosters, i.e. pools, of candidates available for immediate selection across the UN: This is most common for field missions.
  • Consulting is another entry point. Consultancies usually last 4-6 months and are found at various UN duty stations or at any of the UN regional, country or project offices around the world. You can apply to open positions or subscribe to a consultancy roster
  • Professional and Higher Categories are recruited internationally. They also must have an advanced university degree or a first-level university degree and two additional years of qualifying experience.
  • National Professional Officers are recruited locally. They must have an advanced university degree or a first-level university degree and two additional years of qualifying experience.
Application Process and Application Tips
  • ALWAYS customize your application to fit each job. External candidates become more competitive if they can demonstrate soft skills relevant to the specific job opening.
  • Make sure you meet the minimum requirements. Check for language, experience, and education requirements.
  • Languages: Don't forget to include your native language! Check the applicable boxes or indicate it on your application to ensure that your application passes the initial system filters.
  • Make sure you check the box noting that you obtained your degree, in addition to listing it. This is also key to making sure your application passes the initial system filters. 
  • The timeline for the application process varies depending on the position. Short-term positions can be much shorter (2-3 months) whereas fixed term positions can take much longer.
  • Check out the UN careers website for more information on the application process, creating your job application, interviews, and competencies.
Other Advice
  • Networking can help you understand the UN system and career options, but unlike the private sector, it will not help you get a job--all applications go through a central process.
  • Internal and external applicants all apply online and compete with each other.
  • The UN offers competitive salaries and extensive benefits including six weeks of annual leave, parental leave, education grants, a dependent allowance, rental subsidies, pension benefits, and health insurance.
  • The US is currently underrepresented at the UN and US citizens are encouraged to apply for open positions.
Questions? Reach out to [email protected].

Thank you to our speakers!

Suzanne ShanahanSuzanne Shanahan is the Chief of the United Nations Enterprise Application Centre - Americas, in the Office of Information & Communications Technology at the United Nations. She oversees a global portfolio of large-scale complex enterprise systems to support UN mandates worldwide. Prior to this she spent 22 years in ICT supporting global UN peace operations where she managed the development, deployment, and support of systems and operations used in volatile peacekeeping field mission environments. The focus of her career and commitment to the UN has been an ongoing passion for using technology to achieve lasting peace, strive for equality and human rights and to achieve development in a sustainable way. She also serves as a Gender Focal point and a focal point for digital accessibility for persons with disabilities. 

Aruna ThanabalasingamAruna Thanabalasingam is Director of the Administrative Law Division of Human Resources in the United Nations' Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance. She has significant organizational development and human resources management experience from the private sector and UN system, and has led organizational change and strategic talent management initiatives for both. Ms. Thanabalasingam was with KPMG, Kenya; PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte Consulting in New York, and prior to the UN, she was Director, HR Consulting Practice at KPMG, East Africa. Since joining the UN, she has been with UNDP, UNICEF, and is now at the UN Secretariat. She holds an MA in Organization Psychology from Columbia University; a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Analysis from University of Lancaster, UK; and a BA in Policy-Making and Administration from University of Essex, UK. 

Joan AmpahJoan Ampah is currently serving as an Associate Human Resources Officer in the Staffing Diversity and Outreach Section of the United Nations' Office of Human Resources in New York. She is a successful candidate of the UN Young Professionals Program. During her long career within the UN, she has worked in various capacities in Management and Administration and has extensive experience in UN Benefits and Entitlements. She also served as a UN recruiter for many years. Joan is from Ghana and is a graduate from Baruch College, City University of New York with a degree in Human Resources Administration.

Salena BrownSalena Brown serves in the Staffing Diversity and Outreach Section in the UN's Office of Human Resources. She previously worked in the Learning, Leadership, and Organizational Development Section, where she designed and developed customized training to meet departments' operational requirements and staff development needs; and has served as a UNV Staff Counselor to the United Nations Missions in Monrovia, Liberia, providing mental health/stress management services for the community of UN Peacekeepers. Salena has a bachelor's degree from Baruch College in Computer Information systems, and a Master's from Alliance Graduate School of Counseling (Nyack College). She is originally from Jamaica.

Eva JansenEva Jansen is the team lead of the Outreach Section in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance in the UN headquarters. Previously, she has worked in the Department of General Assembly and Conference Affairs in Geneva, the UN Independent Investigation Commission in Lebanon, and the Office on Drugs and Crime as well as the United Nations Office in Vienna. She also has experience in the private and NGO sectors. Eva is from Austria but spent her early childhood in Saudi Arabia. She speaks German, English, French and some Arabic. She holds a bachelor's degree in Arabistics and a Master of Laws from the University of Vienna. She is married and has one son.

Julie WeintraubJulie Weintraub is a Human Resources Officer within the Special Assessments Section at the United Nations. In her current role, she manages the Young Professionals Programme–a global recruitment initiative to attract, assess, and select entry-level talent. Prior to joining the UN, Ms. Weintraub worked in both local and federal government–as an Assessment Specialist at the Port Authority of NY & NJ; and as a Lead Personnel Research Psychologist with the US Office of Personnel Management. She holds a BS in Psychology from the University of Maryland at College Park, and an MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Baruch College, CUNY. She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at Baruch College. 

Susan KingSusan King is a Human Resources Practitioner with over twenty years of experience in human resources management, administration, training and development. She currently serves at the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), where she contributes to recruitment for every level and provides workforce metrics, reports, and analysis to broaden senior leadership and management's understanding of the workforce and inform their decision-making. She has prior experience in both private and public organizations in South America and in the UN headquarters in New York. She holds a Ph.D. in Management with specialization in Human Resources Management.