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Graying retirees are spared the anxieties experienced by the 20- and 30-somethings of today who are trying to crack the job market. But late in April, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 jumped to record levels, United States employment rose at a stronger-than-expected rate. I breathed a sigh of relief, hoping the rising jobs trajectory will benefit so many young people I know, whom I try to help find jobs through my volunteer work in two active organizations. Here are some recent examples of activities that have offered resources for people interested in international relations.
Though freed from the daily office grindstone, I keep several hot irons in the fire. One is as a member of the National Capital Area of the United Nations Association of the USA. Last month, my wife, Dawn, and I held a dinner meeting organized by our local chapter for young professionals seeking work in foreign affairs. Another hot iron has me helping projects as what we call a returned Peace Corps Volunteer. I also assisted the embassy of Peru (the country I served while in the Peace Corps 50 years ago) as more than 6,000 visitors jammed the embassy’s spring open house in Washington.
My interests in the UN and as a returned Peace Corps Volunteer seem never to intersect, but they did last month.
The National Capital Area’s Career Day in Washington attracted about 100 young professionals. Sandy Coburn, the manager of integrated fund development at World Food Program USA, based in the capital, was the keynote speaker at the opening session of the daylong program. The biannual event presents information and recommendations on how to start careers in international relations. (This year, more than 30 participants also signed up as new National Capital Area members.) Closing dinner sessions were held at eight homes in which the young professionals met veterans of nonprofit organizations, government agencies and even UN offices to discuss their career goals and gain guidance on how to achieve them. The next Career Day event by the National Capital Area will be held in October, when UN Day (Oct. 24) is commemorated.
Having worked for more than 10 years for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Information Center, the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs and other international affairs-related posts, not to mention her membership in the Council on Foreign Relations, Dawn shared her wealth of experiences around our table.
Meanwhile, Carrie Hessler-Radelet, the acting Peace Corps director, led a contingent of 160 returned volunteers to participate in Manhattan’s first returned Peace Corps Volunteer-United Nations Career Day. Officials from UN Women, UN Development Program, Unicef, UN Population Fund and UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations explained their agency missions and tips on how to apply for UN jobs. A breakout session enabled UN staffers to mingle with the returned Peace Corps volunteers for informal discussions.
Some UN officials were frank, admitting how hard it can be to get hired for an organization in which nationals of more than 190-member countries vie for jobs. On the other hand, officials noted that the in-country living and working experiences of former Peace Corps volunteers, plus their fluency in local languages and dialects, make them highly competitive for UN work, especially when compared with most other Americans. Interestingly, the Peace Corps has long cooperated with the UN in processing Americans wishing to serve as UN Volunteers. Maybe returning volunteers from the Peace Corps could find full-time employment within the UN itself. Flexibility as to where you want to work can be helpful in your approach. Agreeing to work in “hardship” locations can possibly give you a more competitive footing, experts say.