As I mentioned last week, the staff of the Office of Career Services starts working with students almost as soon as they arrive. While OCS initially takes the lead in kicking off the career exploration/job hunt process with each entering class, the relationship between OCS and individual students is best described as a partnership. Students need to have a clear sense of their general direction — a realistic starting point to get things moving. An early stage in the process is meeting with the staff member who serves as the “career coach” for the student’s preferred sector.
Today’s blog is the first of four reflections from the career coaches on their suggestions for students, based on their experience in that sector. First up is the career coach for the International Organization sector.
Fletcher graduates have a long tradition of pursuing work in the International Organization (IO) sector, either directly after graduating or, often, down the line after gaining experience in a targeted field. If you are interested in working for an IO, obtaining a summer internship with your target organization is the best “foot in the door.”
I recommend starting the internship search early as competition is fierce. In the fall semester, the OCS hosts “sector weeks.” During the IO sector week in September, we offered information sessions at which we provided general overviews of recruitment channels, including the timeframe for pursuing an internship, recruitment programs for full-time employment, the skills necessary to enter the field, as well as the organizations that have hosted Fletcher interns in the past. In addition, representatives from IOs visit campus to explain their recruitment processes in greater detail. (During IO sector week, students heard from the World Bank and UNDP.) The information provided in these sessions is a great starting point for your search.
Identifying contacts and beginning to build your professional network are also very important parts of the internship search process. While most IOs have formal internship programs, a majority of Fletcher students identify their IO internship through personal contact with a hiring manager working in their area of interest. To help you with your search, OCS maintains an internship database, through which you can learn about past internships and then contact students who had an interesting experience in order to learn more. We also maintain contacts and job/internship postings in Fletcher Career Central, our online database. And, the New York and Washington, DC career trips are fantastic opportunities to connect with alumni working in the field, both through formal information sessions and through independently organized informational interviews.
In the summer of 2010, students who employed this strategy found internships with OECD, IOM, the United Nations Secretariat, UNDP, UNESCAP, UNRWA, UNHCR, UNCDF, and UNESCO. (If you don’t know these acronyms, I recommend that you start researching now, as acronyms are a common part of the IO lexicon.) In addition to doing excellent work, these students learned how their organization functions, what types of positions are commonly available, and the culture of the organization. They were also able to make an objective assessment of the skills they need strengthen to be competitive candidates for full-time employment within the IO.
When it comes to full-time employment, the ability to draw upon the networks developed during the internship is crucial to success. Often, IOs hire short-term consultants for a specific project or task and these opportunities are rarely published. One must have an “inside” contact to help. Short-term contracts are the most common entry point for Fletcher graduates. Seven 2010 graduates obtained short-term contracts with the World Bank in Washington, DC after graduation, for example.
Once you are at Fletcher, you will have the opportunity to meet with alumni, faculty, staff, and students who bring knowledge of these areas, based on their experiences, to help you with your career goals. While an IO career is challenging to break into, Fletcher alumni who have found their way into an IO have been very satisfied with the experience, and we look forward to working with you to help you meet your career goals!