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.


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