Debunked: 4 myths about working for the United Nations

The United Nations headquarters. Devex debunks the myths surrounding hiring at the U.N. Photo by: JasonParis / CC BY

With 16 specialist agencies, an additional 108 agencies under these and more than 55,000 employees globally, the United Nations System is a dominant force in international development. But for many professionals, working at the United Nations is a career aspiration that often feels out of reach.

Here are four myths about working for the United Nations, along with the truth.

1. Once you join the United Nations, you are there for life

While it’s true many professionals spend the entirety of their career within the U.N. System, that isn’t the only career path available. In fact, human resources leaders from many of the leading agencies encourage their staff to get outside experiences. It’s becoming more common for a U.N. employee to spend three to five years on the job and then move on to a position in the private sector or with a government agency or nongovernmental organization. Many U.N. leaders support their staff’s career development even if it means getting experiences somewhere else. They also welcome former U.N. employees back to infuse new ideas and approaches into their work. Adapting a more revolving-door policy is one way the United Nations is trying to spur innovation and develop new skills within the agencies.

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About the author

  • Warren kate 1

    Kate Warren

    Kate Warren is Executive Vice President and resident talent and careers guru at Devex. With 15 years of global development recruitment experience advising international NGOs, consulting firms, and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.