First-Week Takeaways from My Summer Experience at the United Nations
Working at the United Nations has truly been an amazing experience so far. At the United Nations, I am a Team Member for the Major Group for Children & Youth (MGCY), “the official civil society [and] young peoples’ constituency for Sustainable Development.” From just the atmosphere of working in such a highly-regarded place, to being around bright-minded individuals from all around the world, I have been able to start getting an understanding of the different processes that are always going on and what goes on in various meetings throughout the day. Below, I have listed four takeaways from my first week as a Team Member at the United Nations.
1. FIRST IMPRESSIONS: As I have been meeting various diplomats, there is absolutely no question that I always must be on my “A” game. Unlike a start-up, since there are thousands of people that work at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters, and thousands more who work for the UN remotely, I have been able to thoroughly impress many individuals just based on my demeanor. This is no jean-and-t-shirt-wearing-startup, so wearing business professional attire and being respectful as if you were going to meet high-level diplomats (which is in fact what occurs frequently) is a must. Before you start working for any organization, get an understanding of the nature of the organization you will be working for, and always “wear” your “A” game to make sure you leave people with a good impression of you.
2. WORK ETHIC: Having a good work ethic is important anywhere you go and with whatever you do: that’s a given; however, at an esteemed place such as the United Nations, people are doing so many things in parallel that it can get very tiring and cumbersome to keep up with it all. By going above and beyond implied expectations, I have not only been complimented by people at different levels; my “mentor” (one of the Team Members who has been with the MGCY for a much longer time than me) wants to get my name exposed to others within the UN, whether it be other NGOs (non-governmental organizations), diplomats, or ministers that represent missions from various nations (called Member States). The work ethic is a strong reflection of who I am, and I am confident that if I continue to go on the path I am taking, I will get a significant amount out of this summer experience: more than I can currently imagine.
3. NETWORKING: In less than a week, I have begun to network with my colleagues and everyone that I have met at the United Nations. At a place that is as global as the United Nations, it is foolish to just come to work and leave as soon as the day ends. Taking the time to meet and network with high-level individuals from other countries is one of the best ways to network. From my personal experience, there are truly very few better ways to network on a more global scale than at the UN. Granted, not everyone has this opportunity, but as being a part of an organization, if you can network with a diverse group of people, whether it be colleagues from other regions of the world or people in other departments/divisions, this is a great networking strategy.
4. EVEN WHEN NO ONE ELSE IS LOOKING, KEEP WORKING: From what I have personally observed and learned, many people who work from 9-to-5 tend to go to work and stop working after they leave for the day. There are definitely some opportunities where this is normal, and while I am not against or in support of this (in regards to this specific context), I always ask my colleagues if there is any work to do after hours, when I am not at work, when he is not at work, and sometimes during the weekends. In some work cultures, it is completely acceptable to work outside the conventional, 9-to-5 workday; in other cultures, your boss may want you to mentally recharge after work by getting away from everything work-related. Within the first week of working try to learn about the work culture and see how people in your organization go about their day. Because commutes between New York City and Boston, and given the international context of this experience, I know I will be working when he is not around, and occasionally on weekends as well.