I Want to Work for … an International Organisation
You need to plan this career on a long-term basis: there are few opportunities for new graduates to work in this field other than as an intern or volunteer. Experience, built up in this way or through other public or private sector employers is essential. It is also useful to have lived, worked or studied internationally and to have a knowledge of other languages.
An “international organisation” may be “inter-governmental”, such as the UN or EU, or “non-governmental”, such as a charity or campaigning organisation.
- Inter-Governmental Organisations
- NGOs offering internships
- Useful Links
The European institutions employ around 50,000 staff (about 10% of the size of the British Civil Service). About 80% of these are based in Brussels or Luxembourg – many of the others are based in EU offices in member states and delegations in non-EU countries.
There are opportunities for recent graduates as Administrators, Linguists, Assistants and specialists (such as scientists and engineers).
British citizens make up 12% of the EU's population, but only 5% of the employees in EU institutions, giving good opportunities for UK candidates who meet the skills and second language requirements for these posts.Recruitment generally takes place on an annual basis and is similar to that of the Civil Service. For an outline of EU career opportunities and the selection process see:
- European Civil Service website http://ec.europa.eu/civil_service/job/index_en.htm
- European Personnel Selection Office http://europa.eu/epso/discover/index_en.htm
Candidates for all vacancies must be competent at least two EU languages (A-level equivalent or above) although English and French are the two main working languages of the institutions. See http://europa.eu/epso/apply/contact/details/hotfaq4_en.htm for full details of language requirements.
PROFILE: Administrator - European Union
INVOLVES: Developing & implementing EU policies, involving research, drafting, negotiation, project management, budgeting, and people management.
The best way for recent graduates to get experience in an EU institution is through a traineeship (still often referred to by the French term, stage). Trainees (or stagiaires) are recruited twice-annually for paid or unpaid work experience placements of 5 months.
- Formerly known as ‘stages’ the English word now seems to be more used.
- Institutions recruit separately for these – there are traineeships in the Commission Parliament, Court etc.
- Deadlines are in March and September for a start date 6 months later.
- Applicants must have their degree – final-year students cannot apply.
- If you are a current postgraduate student, you can apply before you have completed this second degree as you already have your undergraduate degree
- Paid traineeships offer €1000 a month plus travel reimbursement.
- There may also be informal traineeships with the representation offices.
Traineeshipsare available at a number of EU institutions, principally at those listed below:
- The European Commission http://ec.europa.eu/stages/index_en.htm
- The Council of Europe www.consilium.europa.eu/contacts/traineeships-office?lang=en
- The European Parliament – information on traineeships and study visits www.europarl.europa.eu/parliament/public/staticDisplay.do?language=EN&id=147
- The European Court of Justice http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/jcms/Jo2_10338/informations-generales
- The Directorate-General for Translation http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/translation/workwithus/trainee/index_en.htm
Career opportunities with other EU institutions
- The Directorate-General for Interpretation http://scic.ec.europa.eu/europa/jcms/j_8/home
- Lawyer-linguists at the Court of Justice http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2009-03/brochure_en.pdf
An outline of the recruitment process for recent graduates
There are three “Big Recruitments” held each year:
- Spring: Administrators – policy work, law, economics, etc
- Summer: Translators and interpreters
- Winter: Support roles, mostly non-graduate, including finance, secretarial, communication
Final-year students – in any subject – who are EU citizens are eligible to apply for these competitions. The recruitment process takes 7-9 months.
Recruitment is competency-based, using the following:
- Delivering Quality & Results
- Learning & Development
- Working with Others
- Candidates must also offer at least 2 EU languages. Their first language can be any one of the official languages, but the second has to be English, French or German.
There are no minimum academic requirements.
All candidates who apply for the graduate programmes take a computer-based battery of numerical, verbal and abstract (=diagrammatic) reasoning tests. These are taken at any one of the EUs 40-odd test centres – candidates can choose the most convenient and don’t have to take them in their home country.
This stage of selection also involves a “situational judgement” test, which is taken in your second language.
The tests are followed by an assessment centre which includes:
- A case study on the field in question – a two-hour policy exercise using a large quantity of information. The test is of skills, not knowledge and all the material provided is fictional.
- An oral presentation – 20 minutes preparation, a 10-15 minute presentation with questions to follow. Previous knowledge is not assumed.
- A structured interview “about you” – you are expected to give competency examples.
- A group exercise involving discussion, negotiation and reaching a compromise. This is also taken in a candidate’s second language.
- Practical language tests
Most of the assessment centres are held in Brussels but the oral presentation and structured interview elements may be held in other countries for large-scale recruitments.
At the end of this process, successful candidates are put on a ‘reserve list database’. This is valid for at least one year and may be extended. The selection process aims to balance numbers recruited with anticipated vacancies, so most candidates should be placed within the year.
The database consists of the details of successful candidates (including their application form, which is not used at all by EPSO, and their ‘competency passport’, based on feedback from the assessment process) and is used as the basis for recruitment by individual departments.
‘Lobbying’ departments is officially no longer required, although many individuals still advise said that it is useful to phone the DGs where you hope to work (having done your research first!) to let them know that you have got through the recruitment process and are interested in working for them. Don’t oversell yourself as this can alienate people. The UK Permanent Representation in Brussels gives a lot of help and support to people on the reserve list to enable them to get picked for available positions.
The above information is taken from EU Careers: All the Options and How To Apply: a presentation given at the EU Careers Day on 9 May 2011 and available online at http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/images/eu_careers_presentation.ppt
Information and advice for British applicants
- The EU in the UK http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom This site includes a section on "How to Work with the EU" http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/work_with_eu/index_en.htm covering traineeships and other vacancy information
- Getting you into the EU http://careers.guardian.co.uk/eucareers
- UK Permanent Representation to the EU http://ukeu.fco.gov.uk/en/working-for-eu Information and advice for British candidates
- The European Fast Stream http://faststream.civilservice.gov.uk/The-Fast-Streams/European-Fast-Stream providesexperience and training in the UK Civil Service that will boost your chances of passing the EU recruitment competition
Other useful information on recruitment into the EU institutions
- European Personnel Selection Office http://europa.eu/epso/index_en.htm has a comprehensive website explaining the various routes into the EU and carrying details of forthcoming recruitment competitions and deadlines.
- Europa website – the main site for information on all EU matters http://europa.eu/index_en.htm
- The Official Journal of the European Union http://eur-lex.europa.eu/JOIndex.do?ihmlang=en
- FAQs http://europa.eu/epso/doc/administrators_2012_faq_en.pdf
- Working for the EU http://careers.guardian.co.uk/eu-career-options Q&A from the Guardian (March 2012)
- EU Jargon buster http://careers.guardian.co.uk/eu-careers-jargon-guide a handy guide to the key terminology and abbreviations used by EU Careers
- Arboreus Online EU training www.eutraining.eu free webcasts, e-books and advice on the selection process
- Orseu Concours www.orseu-concours.com/en Provides training and practice tests for the EU concours
- A talk by a graduate working in the DG for Economic and Financial Affairs as part of a SECL “Using Languages” talk is at www.kent.ac.uk/careers/slides.htm (sound file 2)
- Follow “raconteurs” blogging about their lives in the EU institutions on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/EUCareersRaconteurs
- Watch a video about EU Careers: http://www.youtube.com/user/EUCareers
The College of Europe
The College of Europe, www.coleurop.eu , founded in 1949 and based in Bruges ( Belgium ) and Natolin ( Warsaw ), is a centre of academic excellence preparing individuals to work and live in an international environment. The College of Europe focuses on postgraduate European studies in the legal, economic, political, international relations and interdisciplinary domains. Teaching is through English and French and a good working knowledge of both is an essential condition for admission.
24% of alumni work in the European institutions, while an equally high percentage work in the services sector (i.e. banks, consultancies, law firms), with 10% working in each of the following: diplomatic service, national administrations and academia.
Around 70% of students at the College receive scholarships: many are funded by their national government: See www.coleurop.be/template.asp?pagename=admisscholar for scholarship information. The application deadline is usually in mid-January each year.
You can download a prospectus at www.coleurop.be/template.asp?pagename=pubbrochure
There are many opportunities on the "Euro-fringe" - working in organisations, both public and private sector, who have a presence in Brussels to monitor EU activities and to have an input into the decision-making process. These include NGOs, local government, law firms, lobbying organisations, consultancies, charities, industrial and commercial organisations and many more. The following sites carry details of internships and job vacancies in these organisations.
- EuroBrussels www.eurobrussels.com links to jobs available and vacancy information pages in most organisations and corporations located in Brussels including European institutions, international organisations, law firms, NGOs and political consultancies.
- Brussels Jobs www.brusselsJobs.com focuses on non-political expert jobs in the international environment in Brussels . Lists IT jobs, business jobs, office/secretarial jobs, finance jobs, and other specialist jobs in Brussels , for the expat professional.
- EurActiv www.EurActiv.com : search for EU related jobs and internships in Brussels and Europe . Includes European Commission, International Agencies, NGOs, consultancies, Industry federations, and think tanks.
- Electus Start www.workinpolitics.com "the essential guide to a career in politics and public affairs in the UK and European Union”
Positions in the UN and its agencies normally require substantial experience and relevant professional qualifications. Although internships of up to 6 months are available throughout the year for graduates without experience, the UN has no provision in its budget to pay interns and all costs involved must be paid by the interns themselves.
- UN Careers http://careers.un.org career options, career paths, internships, how to apply, etc.
- Explore a career with the UN www.un.org/en/employment
- For current vacancies in the UN (at all levels) see www.unjobs.org This can be searched by organisation, location, etc.
- A Guide to a Career with the United Nations www.jposc.org/documents/Guide_to_a_UN_career.pdf
- "Junior Professional Officers" are recruited through National Competitive Recruitment Examinations. They should have a Masters degree in a development-related subject and be proficient in English, French or Spanish. See www.jposc.org for further details.
- The UNDP Leadership Development Programme (LEAD) is a similar programme offering an entry point for young development professionals interested in a career with UNDP. Currently “on hold” but check www.undp.org/lead for details.
- UN Regional Information Centre for Western Europe www.unric.org - includes a page on employment and internships and links to UN agencies in the UK (and other Western European countries)
- An article on opportunities with the United Nations in Geneva www.escapeartist.com/efam/43/Finding_Jobs_UN.html
- Facebook www.facebook.com/UN.Careers
- Twitter http://twitter.com/un_careers
- LinkedIn http://linkd.in/un_careers
- Information on internships throughout the UN system: http://social.un.org/index/Youth/UNOpportunities/Internships.aspx
- The UNHQ Internship Program www.un.org/Depts/OHRM/sds/internsh/index.htm
- UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) internships in London www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/jobs-and-internships.html
- International Maritime Organization www.imo.org, also based in London , runs a small internship programme principally for postgraduate students in fields such as shipping, marine environment, international maritime and environmental law
- The UN Volunteer Programme www.unv.org places qualified candidates (who must be aged 25 or above) in posts such as administration, agriculture, communication, community development, commerce, education, engineering, environment, health, human settlements, information communication technology, logistics, media and social sciences. Volunteers receive a living allowance, travel costs and other benefits.
- Defence Policy and Planning
- Executive Management
- NATO Office of Security
- Political Affairs and Security Policy
- Public Diplomacy
Internships start in September and March and last for six months. They are paid: €800 per month in 2012. A working knowledge of both English and French is required. See www.nato.int/structur/interns/index.html for full details
For recruitment into NATO at other levels, see www.nato.int/structur/recruit/index.htm Most permanent staff come from a background in the armed forces or civil and diplomatic services of member states.
OSCE (Organisation for Security & Co-operation in Europe )
The OSCE offers unpaid internships, lasting from 2- 6 months, in Vienna and Prague.
See www.osce.org/employment/91 for full details.
The following organisations have advertised internships for recent graduates in the past: please check their websites for current information before contacting them.
Many other NGOs will recruit interns, regularly or occasionally, so use the “Useful Links“ below to find out more
- BASIC (British-American Security Information Council) www.basicint.org internships in London and Washington
- Centre for Democracy & Development www.cddwestafrica.org
- CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) www.cnduk.org
- Foreign Policy Centre http://fpc.org.uk/internships
- Human Rights Watch www.hrw.org
- International Crisis Group www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=1154&l=1
- International Institute for Strategic Studies www.iiss.org/staffexpertise/interns
- Justice Africa www.justiceafrica.org/internships
- Rights & Humanity www.rightsandhumanity.org
- RUSI ( Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies) www.rusi.org/about/vacancies
- Links to international organisations worldwide from Keele University www.psr.keele.ac.uk/orgs.htm
- Foreign Affairs Online www.people.virginia.edu/~rjb3v/rjb.html links to official government sites in the US and other countries; the entire UN system, NGOs, IGOs, think-tanks and human rights sites
- The Institute for War & Peace Reporting www.iwpr.net has useful links to media organisations and NGOs
- BOND www.bond.org.uk Network of 340+ UK-based voluntary organisations working in international development. Includes a database of jobs and volunteering opportunities: www.bond.org.uk/classifieds/index.html
- European Call www.europeancall.org resource listing EU & International Affairs positions. Also describes employment opportunities & give information on jobs, junior professional positions, internships and entrance exams in an employer database which is also for purchase in two Career Handbooks at www.career-handbook.com.
- IGO Search www.igo-search.org allows you to search the websites of over 3000 international organisations
Other useful pages on this site include:
- Working Abroad www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sitesint.htm
- I Want to Work in Human Rights www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/humanrights.htm
- I Want to Work in a Developing Country www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/developing.htm
- Information for International Students www.kent.ac.uk/careers/InternationalStudents.htm
Last fully updated 2012