More than just an internship: working for United Nations

Information Service (UNIS) Vienna from A to Z
Whether during conferences, in the offices or at events you will always find United Nations interns working hard to help make the organization run smoothly.

If you are a student or recent graduate and would like to gain first-hand experience working for the United Nations, the internship programme might be a great option. You will be exposed to the everyday work of the organization, supporting professional staff to carry out their tasks and projects. This will help you to decide whether this kind of work is something for you in the future.

Abbreviations: United Nations professionals use many acronyms in their everyday life, so, while interning at the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, one learns very quickly the meaning of unknown words.

Building bridges: an important role of UNIS Vienna is to provide up-to-date information for its client countries (Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia) and therefore connect and bring people in these countries closer to UN and the UN closer to the public.

Ciné-ONU Vienna: every month the outreach unit of UNIS Vienna organizes a film screening on UN-related topics as part of the Europe-wide Cine-ONU initiative. We interns, together with UN professionals, are always there to make sure the screening runs smoothly and that our guests enjoy an interesting film and discussion.

Diplomacy: is an essential part of working in a multicultural UN environment, as one has to be aware and sensitive to different people. It is important to be able to find a common language with people coming from different cultural backgrounds.

Education: to be able to do an internship with the United Nations, you have to be enrolled in a Master’s or PhD programme or be a recent graduate (you can do an internship within 1 year after graduation). Before applying, it is recommended to do some research about what the UN Organization and the respective department is doing and try to connect it to your field of studies. In this way there is a mutual benefit: you enrich your studies with real-life working experience and the United Nations gets new and fresh insights from young people on the way the organization conducts everyday work.

Future: if you are wondering what could be the future career prospects after a UN internship, there is no concrete career path set, but the internship will certainly help shape your professional profile and build up your working experience. An internship is not a guarantee for a future UN career, but it will help you to get to know people inside the UN who have the opportunity to appreciate your work and might lead to further working opportunities in the future, either within the UN or with other international organizations, NGOS and academia.

Guided tours: there’s a general guided tour, a human rights tour or a UN Vienna art collection tour – these tours are offered by the UNIS Visitors Service to everybody who wants to learn more about the United Nations in Vienna, as well as organizing lecture programmes for university students.

History: in August 2014, the Vienna International Centre celebrated its 35 years anniversary. For the occasion, UNIS, with the city of Vienna, organized the celebrations together including an exhibition to highlight the mutually beneficial cooperation between international organizations and their host countries. There was also a special day of free guided tours on 15 August, which attracted more than 2,000 visitors.

Interns office: is run by interns for interns and provides networking opportunities, organizes forums and roundtable discussions on different topics for all interns at Vienna-based UN organizations.

Junior Professional Officers Programme (JPO): gives young professionals hands-on experience in multilateral technical co-operation and working at the UN. It is one of the best ways to gain an entry-level position within the UN system. JPOs are sponsored by their own national government, which funds their placement in one of a range of UN organizations.

Kebabs which can be eaten in the UN Cafeteria: which is one of the top three favourite places at UN Vienna where interns like to come together to share their experiences while having lunch and a friendly chat.

Learning, learning, learning: every hour, every day, all the time. The main purpose of the UN Internship is to give graduate students the possibility to gain an insight into the United Nation’s work and provide them with a unique learning experience in the multicultural and dynamic, often also very demanding, environment.

Multiculturalism and multilingualism: if you are lucky to work for the United Nations, you will be always surrounded with people from all over the world, speaking many different languages. It definitely broadens your horizons, teaches you how to understand and work together with different cultures and provides a unique opportunity to learn new languages and meet new friends.

Normal day routine: basically, there might not be such a thing as normal or routine day at United Nations. Working tasks may vary in different departments and at different organizations.

Official visits: and high-level events are important part of UNIS Vienna’s work. During the Secretary-General’s visit to the UN Vienna at the beginning of November 2014, UNIS was working hard to provide up-to-date information to the public and the press.

Photos and multimedia: being an intern at the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna also means dealing with photo and video material. During almost all the events which UNIS organizes, interns are there to take the best shots and film the most interesting moments. After editing, this material is published on the UNIS website, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts to be seen by a large audience around the world.

Queues for security check: to keep United Nations staff, interns and visitors safe there are strict security measures at the UN Headquarters in Vienna. Every morning, interns have to pass through security screening, together with delegates and other conference participants. This process sometimes takes a bit of time especially during busy periods when many conferences and meetings are taking place at the same time.

Research: while being an intern at the United Nations, you are very often asked to do scientific or general research on a wide variety of interesting topics (like sustainable development, climate change, the situation of refugees, etc.). While doing so, you learn a lot about various topics and become quite competent in a broad range of UN-related matters.

Shadowing Programme: for the third year in a row, UNIS Vienna gave university students from Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia the opportunity to “shadow” 50 UN Vienna staff members from different Vienna-based UN organizations for one day between 24 October and 24 November 2014. Together with professional staff, UNIS interns were intensively involved in providing administrative and communication support for making this programme a success. For students coming from Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Austrian provinces (Graz, Salzburg and Innsbruck), UNIS Vienna also organized Meet & Greet Sessions with the respective country’s Permanent Missions to the UN in Vienna. This was a great chance for Shadowing Programme participants to get a feeling of how diplomats from their countries work together with the United Nations.

Training: taking part in Staff development training, seminars and workshops is definitely beneficial to UN interns. From Arabic language classes to conflict management seminars and writing workshops, you can develop your professional skills in many ways.

Unpaid: United Nations internships are full-time and unpaid (except for a few agencies and programmes). However, if you see it as a precious investment for you (and it really is), then it is definitely worth going for it. There are opportunities available to seek funding from your respective government or university to sustain yourself financially during your internship.

Volunteers: One of the options to start a professional career with the United Nations is through the UN Volunteers programme. The UN strongly promotes the principles of volunteerism as a mean of public participation in making a positive change. To be eligible for a UN Volunteer assignment, you have to be at least 25 years old and have two or more years of professional experience. More information here: http://www.unv.org/

Wurst, Conchita: sang and called for tolerance at the UN Headquarters in Vienna together with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in November 2014. This important outreach event was also organized by the United Nations Information Service Vienna.

Xenofobia-free: United Nations is a working environment free from any kind of discrimination and intolerance. Every employee has to show a strong commitment to respect for diversity in every aspect of work.

YPP: or the Young Professional Programme is another opportunity to become a UN staff member and join the organization. You do not need any work experience, must be younger than 32, speak fluent English or French. One of the most important criteria- you have to be a national of a participating member state. For more information and updates please check the YPP website: https://careers.un.org/lbw/home.aspx?viewtype=NCE

Zig-zag: Vienna International Centre, the building complex that hosts the UN organizations in Vienna, has a very special structure of corridors, which follow “Zig-zag” patterns and are equal everywhere around the building, making it very easy to get lost.

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Khrystyna Kizyma

Khrystyna Kizyma is currently working as an intern with the outreach unit of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna. She is writing her PhD thesis on Journalism and Communication Sciences at the University of Vienna, holds a Master degree in Management, Communication & IT as well as a Master’s in International Business Management and a Bachelor of Journalism (majoring in International Press and Information). Before starting work with UNIS Vienna, Khrystyna did a traineeship in the European Commission in Brussels, worked for several international companies (Intace, Swarco, HTC) as well as for some Ukrainian newspapers.

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About Khrystyna Kizyma

Khrystyna Kizyma is currently working as an intern with the outreach unit of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna. She is writing her PhD thesis on Journalism and Communication Sciences at the University of Vienna, holds a Master degree in Management, Communication & IT as well as a Master’s in International Business Management and a Bachelor of Journalism (majoring in International Press and Information). Before starting work with UNIS Vienna, Khrystyna did a traineeship in the European Commission in Brussels, worked for several international companies (Intace, Swarco, HTC) as well as for some Ukrainian newspapers.

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