Happy UN Career Podcast / Episode 8

Keep Your UN Career Open – Look for Jobs!

Happy UN Career Podcast / Episode 8

Episode 8 / 3 November 2020


Hello, and welcome to this 1st episode in a small series I’ve called: “Professional Development – Job Hunting and CVs”!

In the last episode, I suggested that you should prioritise time to work on your CV and keep yourself updated about vacancies.

Even if you’re perfectly happy in your current job!

So, in this and the next episode, I’ll delve into the CV and job-hunting sphere.

When I speak to my clients, they often tell me that they think they ought to look for another job.

But they just don’t feel they have the time because they’re so busy with their current job. And they’re exhausted at the end of the day, so they don’t get it done.

Or, occasionally they see – or are pointed towards – a relevant job vacancy, but they find it hard to find the time to apply. Because their CV has not been updated in a long time and they know they really need to put some work in, in order to present themselves well.

And they often tell me this with a slightly embarrassed smile…

If you recognize this there’s nothing to be embarrassed about it. As you can hear it happens to many people and it’s totally natural.

And I’ve certainly had that experience myself. That when I was in the most need of a change – I had the least energy to pursue it!

We are so engrossed in what we’re doing in our daily life and performing in our current job – that CV writing and looking for other jobs seem to end up at the bottom of the to-do list.

But then I discovered that our energy levels and what we think we have time for are a strangely fluid thing!

I also spoke about this in episode 7 (the one I called “Are You Ready to Take Action in Your UN Career?” and which you can find on www.barbarakandersen.com/7).

You can make time for applications and CV writing.

If you decide it’s important.

And maybe more importantly, if you decide that it’s something that you want to do because it will develop your career and professional life and make it more interesting.

I have identified 5 reasons why you should be open for opportunities and scanning the job pages – even if you’re perfectly happy with your present job:

#1 – Create Options for Yourself in Your UN Career

I’m a strong believer in the power of creating options for ourselves.

It’s when we’re stuck and feel out of options, that we start feeling that we have no power or control over our job and career. And over time I’ve seen that lead to resentment towards the organisation, lack of motivation and engagement or even cynicism.

But there’s always something you can do yourself. And generally, more than you imagine at first sight.

And it starts with lifting yourself out of that place of stuckness that I talked about in episode 5 – the one called “Are You Also Feeling Stuck in Your UN Career?”.

One very practical way to do this is to start seeing yourself as somebody who’s open for or actively looking for opportunities. Somebody who’s not just waiting to see what might be offered down the line. But you’re enthusiastically looking for opportunities yourself. Both inside and outside your organization. And also outside the UN.

But I want to stay in the UN, you might be saying? The values and the mission of the UN fit you and your values and world view.

I fully understand and appreciate that. But that can also be a very limiting way of viewing your career. And remember that your career is not only about your job, but also about your entire life situation. Just as we discussed in episode 6.

UN organizations cover a lot of ground. And a lot of positions. But there are also many interesting and worthwhile jobs outside the UN. Many things to learn out there. And competencies to develop. And all stuff that you can use to grow professionally and bring back into the UN later on.

I know there can be some issues around pension, especially if you’ve been on a fixed-term position for many years, but for many people, it can still be worthwhile diversifying their experience. And also taking into account not only what you leave behind – but also what you can gain.

In any event, creating options is also a way to boost your self-respect as a professional individual. You’re seeing possibilities for yourself. Even if you’re in a situation where jobs are not “hanging on the trees” you’re being realistic about choices and opportunities while at the same time considering how you can have an interesting and satisfying career and job life going forward.

You’re being open to seeking out opportunities. Is there a place you want to try to live in? Is there an experience you’d like to have? A professional challenge you’re looking for? Or particular people you’d like to work with?

#2 – Take Responsibility for Your Professional Development

It’s a way of getting a feel for what could be a natural – or interesting – next step for you. And consider whether it’s time to pursue that already now instead of waiting until you’re growing tired or losing steam in your current job. Or risking that the job content, the team or your organisation changes in a way that you may find less interesting or supportive for you.

And by the way. If you’re on a type of contract where you might not be extended indefinitely it’s important also to consider the often-long recruitment processes in the UN. 6-9 months are not unheard of, so it’s late to apply when your job is ending. I regularly speak to people who’re concerned that if they get the next job early, they’ll have to break the current contract and – even worse in their mind – not be able to finish the project they’re working on – and they fear giving a bad impression. But it’s absolutely your right (and responsibility) to keep yourself employed and make sure you can pay your rent. And as hiring managers, we know that if we employ people on short contracts, we risk losing them early because they find new jobs before their contract expires. That’s just the way it is.

And try not to see the job search as a stress factor keeping you from enjoying your current job. But see it simply as part of your ongoing professional development.

Checking the latest vacancies is also a way of keeping yourself engaged. And figure out whether you feel excited when you look at what may seem like the “natural next step” in your field? Are you interested in moving up the ladder? Or are you actually more interested in a lateral move that will give you the opportunity to broaden your expertise?

Whatever it is it’s important to notice what makes you excited?

Being excited about your job is not a luxury to hope for on top of your salary. Being excited about your job is what energizes you and makes you excel in your job. When your job motivates you, you’re happier at work – and you also perform better.

You may not feel excited every single day, but overall you should definitely feel excited about your job. And look for that excitement in your next job.

#3 – Keep Abreast of What’s Needed in Your Field

Looking at vacancies is also a way of keeping abreast of the job market and the developments in your area of work. Find out if you’re up to date with what’s required in your field?

It will help you see if there are areas where you need to up your game? Are there skills and competencies you need to develop to move to your next favourite job? Is there special experience that is sought after?

If you’re uncertain about this, seek out people in your network who are knowledgeable in this area to discuss this with.

#4 – Look for Jobs While You’re Still in a Job

You’ve probably heard that it’s better to apply for a new job, while you’re in a job. And it’s true that as recruiters we like to see that an applicant is already employed. I think there’s an underlying belief that it’s a good sign that the applicant is working and has an “unbroken” record of employment. This doesn’t mean of course that you can’t get a job after a break or period of unemployment, but there seems to be a bit of a bias around that.

So, by applying while you’re still happily employed, you’re making things a bit easier for yourself.

#5 – It’s Easier to Apply While You’re Happy, Confident and Your Morale is High

This may be the most important reason for applying while you’re still employed and content in your job. That it boosts your confidence to be applying without being forced to. You apply from a place of resourcefulness – instead of from a place of need.

It may sound like a luxury that you’re applying while you’re still genuinely happy in your current job, and just curious about what the next job has to offer. But what that means is that you’re applying from a place of self-assurance and mental energy that comes from knowing that you don’t necessarily need the job – you’re just interested to see what opportunities are out there.

And it gives you the benefit of moving from one good place to another good place. Instead of waiting to feel tired and demotivated before you think about moving on.

Questions for You to Consider:
  • How long is it since you last looked for interesting vacancies?
  • Was it a daunting experience? If yes, why?
    This is important to find out because I suggest you do something about it. Most of us can’t stay in the same job forever. And for most of us, it would also mean a lack of professional development if we did.
  • What kind of support or accountability would help you to move on this? How can you get this kind of support?
  • What effect could it have for you if you found your next new job soon, instead of waiting for time to run out on your current job?
  • What kind of options would you like to create for yourself?
Find a Way to Get Help

I know it’s easy to fall behind with looking for job opportunities. If you’re busy with work, it’s just like those other important tasks that it seems you can always do “tomorrow”. And then somehow you never get around to. It’s human and it happens to so many of us!

So – you know the point I’m going to make!

It’s easier if you get support!

Is there a close colleague or a friend that you could team up with so you can discuss vacancies and maybe support each other with applications?

Do look for that support – it will make it so much easier for you to take action and make a move.

What’s Next?

When you’re actively interested in looking for career development opportunities and the next interesting job opening for you – you want of course to have a great (updated!) CV.

A CV that’s just waiting to be shared with your network or sent in with an application.

So, in the next episode, I’ll share some important guiding principles that will help you create a CV that you’ll be proud of.