International Organisations are a popular destination for LSE graduates. For many, the opportunity to work alongside experts across the world addressing global and regional problems is an enticing prospect. However, when it comes to getting a job in this area, it can sometimes seem a daunting task to know where to begin.
Where can you work?
If you’re considering working in an International Organisation, one of the first steps is to identify the area(s) in which you wish to work. There are four key types of organisations to consider:
- UN organisations – including the UN Secretariat, UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), World Health Organisation (WHO), UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
- Global and regional political and economic groups –including European Union Institutions, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), NATO, The Commonwealth Secretariat and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
- Global and regional interest groups – such as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), International Whaling Commission and International Coffee Organisation.
- International Financial Institutions – such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), African Development Bank (AfDB), The Development Bank of Latin America) (CAF), Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
It’s important that you research and fully understand the mandate of the organisation(s) that you are interested in and applying to. You will need to be able to articulate why you are interested in this particular field and/or organisation.
What’s the recruitment process like?
It is important to note that across the sector there are few graduate programmes. Most entry level positions require a minimum of a master’s degree, two years’ relevant professional experience and specific language skills. There are exceptions, such as the OECD’s two-year Young Associate Programme.
For many LSE graduates, a role in an international organisation is part of their long-term career goal rather than an immediate LSE destination. Many people enter the sector after working in another sector first. This should not put you off. Rather, if you’re set on pursuing this career, you should be prepared to take a longer-term view and be prepared to move around in the early stages of your career. You will likely have to build a portfolio of relevant experiences, consisting of internships and short-term contracts, before gaining a more permanent role. Many roles require up to five years previous experience.
Do not rule out gaining private sector experience first. Often it is just as valuable when seeking out employment further down the line. You can transfer the experience, knowledge and skills from the private sector into a role in an International Organisation.
Are there any internships?
If you are seeking experience in a Development Bank or International Organisation, there are some internships available. The schemes run by the World Bank and the OECD are fairly representative of advertised, structured programmes. They run twice a year, and there are two applications cycles open to graduates enrolled on relevant master’s programmes. Some schemes, for example NATO, are open to students who have not yet completed their undergraduate studies.
These schemes are highly competitive. You will need to be prepared to look for other ways to gain experience. In fact, many internship opportunities are not widely advertised and/or come about on an ad hoc basis. To go about finding these, you will need to utilise your network.
Why is networking so important?
Networking is useful, whichever career sector you’re interested in. For international organisations and development banks it is even more so. It’s important for three main reasons:
- To strengthen your understanding of international organisations and development banks; you need to identify the organisation that is right for you and understand the bigger picture. Talking to professionals working in the area you’re interested in is a great way to expand your knowledge.
- Networking may help you secure a job; as mentioned, getting into an international organisation can be challenging as a lot of roles are not advertised, and internships opportunities arise on an ad hoc basis. By having a strong network, you’ll have the best possible chance of hearing about these opportunities and get advice on your applications.
- Networking is an incredibly important skill that will be vital to your professional life now and in the future. To reiterate, in the early stage of your career, you will need to be prepared to work short-term contracts and internships at different organisations before you land a more permanent role. Through networking you will find mentors who will help you navigate your career journey. In short being a confident networker will be crucial to your early and future successes.
Making the most of your time at LSE
Make sure you leverage the LSE alumni community, attending events such as LSE’s International Organisations Week and participating in Discover ID. Reach out to alumni on LinkedIn. Get involved in the relevant student societies. Use the opportunities available to you to meet and talk to as many people as possible. When you’re building your network and writing applications, you are going to need to draw on your experiences as a student to maximise your chances of success.
All in all…
When it comes to working in a Development Bank or International Organisation, you should not expect a linear career progression, sometimes career movements may be lateral, especially in the early years. You may be asked to move countries and be based out in the field. You may have to take on a number of short-term projects.
There is not one way to ‘get in’ to this sector. Rather, you should learn strong soft and generic skills, build a strong network, and be prepared to seize opportunities as they arise.
If you’d like to speak with a Careers Consultant further on the subject, please book an appointment on CareerHub. Below are links to our sector pages on our website and upcoming events. We look forward to seeing you soon!
Useful links and upcoming events