How to land an Internship at the International Labour Organisation

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) was created in 1919 and serves as the leading U.N. agency dealing with labour issues. The headquarters of the ILO is located in Switzerland employing some 2,700 officials from over 150 nations at its headquarters in Geneva and in around 40 field offices around the world.

Among these officials, 900 work in technical cooperation programmes and projects.

Here’s what you need to know

The internship program requires you to be enrolled in or have completed a Masters Degree. The work of the ILO is really diverse, so your specialization does not need to be in labour or international policy etc. Take a look at the different departments to see where your interest could lay.

The duration of the internship can be between 3 to 6 months. This usually depends on matters such as funding or whether you will be working on a particular project. It is definitely better to apply for the full 6 months, if you get three months there is an opportunity for extension of your contract.

Brush up your language skills, the main language spoken in Geneva is French and with the three working languages of the ILO being Spanish, French, and English. Having a primary or proficient knowledge of two out of the three will be a great way to get around and will boost your chances of an internship.

We all know that most internships are unpaid, leading a lot of young graduates into debt and dire living circumstances. Fortunately, the ILO pays its interns a stipend which is enough to live in Geneva, subject to a nice and tight budget).

Geneva is one of the most expensive cities to live in but don’t let that be a deterrent. It is doable, despite the fact that everyone loves to remind you how expensive it is. But you are a Motherland mogul, you know how to budget!

Applying for the internship

You can apply for the internship through the ILO generic internship roster, which is published several times per year.The roster will be made available to all departments within the Office. Find the right department! Read up on the different departments and their work to see where your interest lies.

This will help you hone your application to the actual department, the internship experience is considered a learning experience rather than a work experience. You want to be able to get the most out of it so you can build your professional skills in your field.

You can apply to the internship roster and wait to be contacted by a department when an internship position opens up.

Getting there

I hope you got your savings right because of the cost of travel, insurance, and accommodation, as well as living expenses, are your responsibility, as an intern. You gotta pay your own way girl.

Moving can be extremely costly so be prepared to bear those costs. If you can get sponsorship that would be amazing. You really have to think about whether it is worth it and how feasible it actually is.

So Motherland Mogul, is it worth it?

Internships really do have their costs and benefits. And considering moving to another continent is a bigger battle on its own. So, as with all things you do, you have to think about whether it is what you want.

The risk is definitely worth the reward. Currently, internships are the best way to get your foot in the door and build your career at international organizations such as the ILO.

One of the lines you will constantly hear is that the internship program is not intended to lead to a career in the ILO. This is true, there is no guarantee of a position after your internship so you have to put your networking skills to use and your resourcefulness to further your career either at the ILO or any of the other organizations in Geneva.

You will be exposed to the structure of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. The work environment is multicultural and multi-faceted, and the networking opportunities are endless as you will meet not only your colleagues but people from around the world who attend conferences and meetings at the ILO.

This exposure is unbelievable, you just have to know how to make the best of the internship.


Got advice on how to land a job or an internship in your organization or industry? Share your article with us here.

What is your next employer looking for?

Employers have a certain type of candidate they need to join their organization. Opportunities will open up, and you will be among those seeking (and eventually chosen) for that role.

This article shares what the employer is looking for as well extra tips on what you also need to avoid or stop doing if you want to enjoy a fulfilling career.


Reliability, dependability, and trustworthiness

To succeed in your career, you need to be trustworthy. Your boss, team members, and other colleagues can depend on you to carry out agreed tasks and keep your word. You need to be a reliable member of the team. Those are the ones that get recognized and get to higher heights in their careers.

Listening

Communication as an essential skill cannot be overemphasized. Unfortunately, listening is a challenge for most people. Learn to listen attentively and go a step further to ask questions and clarify statements or comments so that you avoid making mistakes in the long run.

Do not assume that you heard one thing and then do the other. That is a career stumbling block right there. Try and re-iterate what needs to be said enough to make sure you are sure about what you have interpreted.

Know your onions

Make sure you have the ability to actually carry out the job you’ve been employed to do. No distractions or time wasting on tasks.

Let your wardrobe SLAY

Depending on the type of job it is, wardrobe co-ordination is very essential. Your day at work should be a day you can easily create a professional impression. Get your outfits suitable enough to show that you are ready, qualified and happy to be given an opportunity at the company.

I suggest you do smart and professional dressing in your first few weeks until you settle into your role and the organization’s culture.

Always be punctual

Being punctual is essential. From your work start time, to your work prioritization, you need to eliminate all forms of “African time”. Click To Tweet

Know your key strengths

You have a gift. Call it talent, skill or passion. Just know you have a gift. Figure out what it is. It is also identified as your key strength. You already have it. It may take time to discover but you will and can discover them.

Develop and learn from others

The interesting thing is that you can always find a person who also identifies with your strength and has done more in developing this key attribute.

That is why we have mentors or coaches and role models. You should have an attitude that is willing to learn. Your attitude to learning from others will determine your acceleration.

Take personal responsibility

You are what you create. Make decisions and stand by the consequences of them. Click To Tweet

Kill that entitlement mindset that blames everyone but yourself. Determine to not only grow but to also be the one going to make sure you definitely grow.

Below are some habits that employees need to really avoid.

All employers aren’t the same but you can be an exceptional employee and that attitude will take you higher. Click To Tweet 

I recommend this to everyone looking to attain a higher impact in their chosen field.

1. Taking all the credit

Working as part of a team means everyone contributes their own quota to the success of a task, goal or project. Do not take credit for anything you do. Even when you work alone on a project, it will be obvious what your contributions are but even in that, you still would have needed some input or help from someone other than yourself.

Avoid taking credit that you don’t deserve and over-estimate your participation to the achievement of a goal.

2. Talking down on others

It is totally wrong to speak to a colleague in a derogatory manner. It makes you project yourself negatively and gives off the impression that you lack confidence and possess low self-esteem.

Avoid the urge to speak of or join in, to destroy a colleague’s work reputation. It’s an epic no for your career success.

3. Expressing anger at work

To be in a position of leadership is not a walk in the park. Expression of emotions especially anger is a skill that needs mastery. No one is entitled to use anger to intimidate or communicate at work. It is not a management or leadership tool. To ensure you enjoy a successful career, do not wear your emotions on your sleeves and express emotions when you need to and appropriately.

4. Negative Personality

Another career stall is one who has a negative personality. Everything about you is negative and distasteful. Nothing good comes from your conversations, you always have negativity and spread it to anyone around you. Your contributions are always negative, your output negative, your impression or comments about colleagues are also negative. The outcome is disastrous to your career success.

5. Inability to take responsibility for actions

Avoid the need to point fingers and blame everything and everyone for the mistake or gap. It is going to stall your career if you are unable to own up to it. When you lead a team, you, as the lead, are responsible for the success or failure. Do not pass on the buck but stand tall, admit the wrong, learn, adjust and move on.

6. Hoarding Information

Withholding information from your colleagues so that you can be in competition or at an advantage over them is not a criteria for a successful career.

It shows you are not a team player neither are you a candidate for getting into higher leadership positions. Information is to be shared, not kept as a secret weapon.


What key lessons have you learned as an employee or an employer? Share your experience with us here.

How to land a legal job: The dream cover letter for the future attorney

Don’t expect anything if you don’t work for it Click To Tweet

It seems obvious but a lot of the time we wish for things and then wait around for them to happen to us. This as opposed to grabbing opportunities and making things happen for ourselves. Particularly when it comes to seeking employment in the legal profession, competition is unavoidable.

You need to differentiate yourself and be proactive in getting yourself that job of your dreams. Your first shot to get through those doors is just two pieces of paper, your CV, and your cover letter.

What is it for?

There is a common misconception that the cover letter is redundant and the magic is in the CV. However, if we analyse the objectives of these two documents, it becomes clear that the CV is a list of information. Important information, yes, but not necessarily relaying your personality and charisma.

The cover letter should be just that, your emotive selling point and the document that can push you over the edge when the employer is stuck with a pool full of like-minded CVs. It, therefore, has the power to be a critical document in your pursuit of employment. You can take your list of achievements and translate them into relevant skills that your prospective employer is looking for.

The CV has important information but not it doesn't relay your personality & charisma Click To Tweet

The law degree will see everyone in much of the same position in terms of subjects. So the extracurricular activities and interest areas will be what makes you stand out – it is important to highlight this and make it clear in your cover letter.

What should I include?

The contents of the cover letter are dependent on what you are applying for. So before you jump into writing, take a few steps back and spend some time engaging with the requirements of the position you are applying for.

Is it a position at a big corporate law firm? Then your cover letter should focus on your ability to work long hours and maintain attention to detail; your ability to translate constructive criticism to a change in your work product and motivated attitude (to name a few).

If it is a position at a human rights non-government organization, then the cover letter will be completely different to the aforementioned. Mention motivated attitude again but now link it to previous experience highlighting your passion for the cause; determination to work regardless of the barriers and interest in following court decisions in this area and the trends you have seen.

Don’t make your cover letter another list of skills in a different order. Take that vacation work experience and make it work for you! Highlight how you learnt the value of networking and even though it was a long work day, you are excited at the prospect of challenging yourself and learning more.

Don’t make your cover letter another list of skills in a different order Click To Tweet

Should someone else read through it?

It can be nerve-wracking once you have poured your heart into this document to then expose yourself to a third party prior to sending it on to your prospective employer. However, there is a lot of value in getting insight as to whether you have sufficiently sold yourself for the position you are applying for.

It is important for a third party to read your cover letter together with your CV to assess whether there are any achievements or skills that you have missed out on including or whether something else could be more relevant to include.

Am I going to use this again?

I think it is helpful to start off with a generic cover letter that covers some of the transferable skills that will be relevant regardless of the position. Then working off this, tweak the original to suit the specific position.

Of course this means that your base cover letter needs to be cracker, and by cracker I mean a strong reflection of some of your core skills that differentiate you from the masses. Then for each new position you are applying for, go through the same process of analyzing the position and your suitability to it and amend your base cover letter accordingly.

Selling yourself is never a bad thing

You are amazing, you just need your prospective employer to see that Click To Tweet

You are amazing, you just need your prospective employer to see that. The benefit in taking the time to reflect on the position and your ability to fulfil the position can result in you realizing that perhaps you are not suited to being a corporate law associate because you don’t like working long hours and you have not really had an interest in corporate law given your previous experience.

Through spending more time and effort on the cover letter process, hopefully you manage to match yourself to position that will fulfil you and to which you are happily suited – it shouldn’t be a strain to sell yourself for a position.

Writing cover letters for jobs in media or communications

Remember, it's not about you, it's about what you can do for them Click To Tweet

The media industry is a very cutthroat place driven by extreme timelines and deadlines. That being said, most media professionals will not have time to read through pages of a cover letter explaining every single job you have ever had or what clubs you chaired in high school. They simply want to know these five things:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Why should we hire you?
  3. What do you know about us as an organization/company/institution/publication?
  4. What sets you apart from the rest?
  5. How do we find you?

Put all this in a cover letter and you’re on your way to getting that interview call back you are hoping for. How to go about this though, is where most of us get it wrong. The world changes every day with each passing day, hour, minute and second, therefore it is imperative to keep up with the constant changes going on.

What worked as a cover letter say 5/6 years ago, is definitely not the case today in 2017. Check out the dos and don’ts below which I hope will be a quick guide to writing a great cover letter.

DO: Start off with a very intriguing first sentence

The media/comms industry is all about being creative and thinking of different angles to put points across. Do not just say, “I’m applying for this position because I really need a job and I feel this would be it”… Let’s avoid the tired cliches, shall we?

Start with what you know, which is your field, where you saw this vacancy and that you are interested in the position. This, first of all, gives them an assurance that their ads are being seen. Secondly, it tells them you know you fit the description by saying what you do already and lets them avoid wasting time reading the entire letter only to find out you don’t even know what you are applying for.

DON’T: Start writing out a detailed description of your resume or LinkedIn profile

By the time an editor, HR officer or head of department is receiving your cover letter, he/she has already looked at your resume. Do not waste time filling cover letters with repetitive content.

DO: Tailor your cover letter to the job description

Generic cover letters are a lazy way of applying for a job and they can be sniffed out from a mile away. A good example during my time working at an NGO, I was tasked with the job of going through various applications that had come in and had to cut them down to at least seven from 30 files.

Out of the 30, half the group had exactly the same cover letter, copied and pasted from a popular career website, just different names and sent on different dates. That saved me a lot of time in terms of evaluation but it cost those candidates a job because they did not bother to actually write a detailed cover letter.

Answer the questions they are asking by saying exactly how you fit the job requirements and you can provide one or two examples of what you have done in relation to the position.

Applying for a job in media/communications? Here are tips to write a stellar cover letter Click To Tweet

DON’T: Go overboard with selling yourself

Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for them. Focus on that. Don’t talk so much about where you went to school, or the accolades you achieved. In this industry particularly, your honours, summa cum laude nod, distinction… aren’t prioritized as much.

Someone with a Ph.D. can just as easily be outshone by a freshly graduated senior from college, it all boils down to efficiency, skill and how badly you want this job. Show them you are worth the investment, don’t tell them what they could have easily looked up on Google.

DO: Your research

Find out all you can about the place you are applying to. Talk to them about their visions, their values, their goals. Show them how adding you to their team will contribute to bringing about even better communication campaigns or how efficient of a designer/copy writer/editor you are thus providing a fresh approach to their brand/publication/business.

Show them you know them and that you are ready to not change things around, but contribute to an already well-established organization.

DON’T: Have grammatical errors

None whatsoever. Cross all your Ts, dot all your I’s, have every comma, period and apostrophe properly placed. Proof-read your letter once you are done writing to make sure there are no typos, spelling errors etc. Have someone else check it as well to have a fresh set of eyes on it.

There have been cases where an entire application has been cast aside due to one single typo in the cover letter. This industry is very detailed in the work they do and a simple mistake such as wrong spelling or a missing piece of information can cost them millions in the long run. A cover letter with grammar mistakes shows you are not meticulous and are sloppy with your work thus a liability to the company.

DO: Be brief

I’ll reiterate the concept of time. Most people in these industries will most likely skim through these applications than actually read through them. They will look for the five things mentioned above and tick off or cross out where appropriate and move on.

Anything more than a page will not be considered at most organizations because again, no one has time to read through all that. Do be brief and concise yet include every detail you deem important to you and them on there. The art of paraphrasing comes in handy when applying to fields such as these.

A cover letter to the UN will be very different from a cover letter to a travel magazine Click To Tweet

DON’T: Forget to provide contact information

If it is not located on your CV, the cover letter is the place one shall look for a way to find you. Also, provide a period of availability (if asked) and when you can be reached. These industries do not work with your typical 9-5 schedule and may sometimes want to call you after business hours. Make sure you can be reached.

DO: Be gracious

Treat this is as a once in a lifetime opportunity and say how fortunate you would be to join such a great work place. Make them feel good as a business and show that you will do this job to your absolute best if considered. Sign off politely, prompting that you hope to hear from them soon.

DON’T: Forget to follow up

This is especially if you are applying to someone directly and not going through the HR office/automated job portal. Send a follow-up email to he/she asking if they received your application.

Give it 3-5 business days before sending the first follow up email and when you do send it, kindly ask when you are likely to hear back from them if it is not indicated on the vacancy announcement.

Now I’m no expert at all things resume/cover letter writing but these are tips I learnt in school and picked up in my time as a job seeker. My cover letter went from a generic 2-3 paragraph email to a concise, one page word document, tailored to the different positions I have applied to over the years.

A cover letter to the United Nations will be very different from a cover letter to a travel magazine or an advertising agency. Keep these tips handy and keep practicing on your writing, the more you do it, the better you get at it. I wish you all the best!