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Volume 55     Number 3    Winter 2018      Editor: Tara Behrend

Meredith Turner
/ Categories: 553

I-O Psychology at the United Nations: Job and Internship Opportunities

Lise Saari, Nabila Sheikh, Julie Olson-Buchanan, John Scott, Mathian Osicki, Lori Foster, Deborah Rupp, Mary O’Neill Berry, Walter Reichman, Drew Mallory, Dan Maday, and Aimee Lace

There are increasing numbers of opportunities to do meaningful and exciting I-O psychology related work at the United Nations. Although I-O psychology professionals are not yet employed in large numbers at the UN, the UN is starting to recognize the value of I-O expertise and its application to the work of the UN and its affiliated organizations. The SIOP United Nations Committee would like to see more I-O psychologists in positions at the UN to provide expertise to the UN and to increase the influence of our profession.  

Even with increased opportunities to work at the United Nations, many I-O psychologists may never have considered working at the UN. This may be due to a belief that the UN doesn’t hire I-O psychologists or misconceptions about what is required to work at the UN. For example, being multi-lingual is not required to work at the UN for most positions. Also, having worked your whole career at the UN is not required. In fact, some recent I-O related job postings at the UN specifically asked for experienced professionals from outside the UN.

Another reason I-O psychologists may not think of the UN as a place to work is that they have never come upon postings for I-O related opportunities and/or they have encountered challenges trying to find an opportunity at the UN.

This article provides pointers for finding an I-O related job or internship at the United Nations. This information was developed by the SIOP UN Committee and shared at the New York I-O Psychology Career Fair held on November 2, 2017. This annual I-O career fair is organized by Baruch College for graduate-level I-O psychology students and alumni from schools from across the New York and tristate area. The SIOP UN committee sponsored a table related to UN internships and jobs and was equipped with real-time open internship opportunities. Students attending the fair were able to learn more through conversations and submission of their resumes to the SIOP UN team as well as to UN representatives and current UN interns at the table.

The main source for United Nations jobs and internships is the official UN jobs website: careers.un.org. Most I-O related jobs are listed in the category Professional & Higher; job network Management & Administration; job family Human Resources; department Office of Human Resources Management. You can also search on All.

One challenge in finding an I-O related job at the UN is the use of generic job titles where the relation to I-O expertise is not always apparent. For example, a job in the assessment area of the UN that clearly focuses on selection and assessment skills will have the generic job title Human Resources Officer. You must take time to read through to the section titled Responsibilities to discover that it is related to I-O psychology.  

Although there is no easy way to search on specific words on the main UN careers website careers.un.org, if you register to receive job alerts, you can utilize key word searches. Once you are registered and logged in, go to Job Search. From there you can save your job search criteria to receive e-mails when jobs matching your criteria are posted. You are unlikely to find anything when searching on the words I-O psychology. Instead, search on words like: recruitment, hiring, selection, performance appraisal, HR data, workforce data, research, evaluation, statistics, surveys, learning, training, or change management.

There are other pointers for getting a job or internship at the UN: Highlight if you’ve lived/worked in more than one country as this is seen as an advantage and should be emphasized on your application; many UN job postings specifically encourage women to apply to reach the UN’s 50/50 gender goal; some jobs will be listed as temporary but in reality they are regular positions and listed as temporary until next year’s budget is approved (which it always is).

Finding an I-O related internship is very similar to following the steps above. Internship opportunities are listed in the category Internship on careers.un.org. Then, search All or narrow down to a specific department, such as Office of Human Resources Management.

To apply for an internship, you must be a student or a recent student. All UN internships are unpaid, typically full-time, and last 2 to 6 months. An internship is helpful for getting a job at UN but a 6 month break is required between completion of the internship and start of the full-time job.  

Some recent I-O related jobs and internships at the UN include chief of Talent Outreach, human resources internships (working on I-O related projects), and assessment services iInternships.

Websites that are independent from the UN career website are also available and helpful for UN job searches. Two of the best are impactpool.org and unjoblist.org. These websites are very user friendly and will send you regular alerts of available UN jobs based on key words.

The SIOP UN Committee would like to encourage I-O psychology professionals to consider the United Nations, and other humanitarian related jobs, as part of their career considerations. We believe our profession has an opportunity to positively influence the UN’s policies and practices in areas associated with our specific expertise. The field of I-O psychology is gaining significant traction in the relatively new specialty of humanitarian work psychology, and taking positions at the UN will further our capacity building in this critical area and provide rich opportunities beyond the traditional I-O career tracks.  

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