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How to Secure an Internship Position in any International Development Organization

To secure an internship position in any international development organization you must start early, carry out a thorough research on the organization you intend to do the internship, it’s vision, mission, core values and hiring system. You need to clearly identify your background, experience, skills, talents and abilities that makes you the most suitable candidate for a particular internship programme. Have a clear understanding of how the internship programme design will help prepare you for your future career. It is also important that you decide who is best positioned to write you a compelling and robust reference letter.

Lastly, having identified a particular internship position or programme you want to be considered for, informed by the UN SDGs you will need to customise your Curriculum Vitae(CV) and write a compelling cover letter.  Before you submit your application make sure that you share it with someone in the system or generally ahead of you to review and give you feedback.

Interning with a recognised and reputable international development organisation such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s’ Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), OXFAM and GOAL can get you started on a very exciting career. Many students including those doing their PhD, Masters and undergraduate degrees often find it intimidating to apply to these organisations.

Frankly speaking it is understandable considering the level of competition associated with these organisations. Everyone wants to intern with these organizations, but the spots are usually limited. Many people want to intern with recognised international development organisations because they understand that having any of these organisations’ name on their CV will instil confidence on their future prospective employers opening multiple doors of opportunities for them. They also believe they will acquire world class work experience upon which they can build amazing careers.

The purpose of taking up an internship is to help yourself gain practical work experience related to your studies and career interests. Some of the internship programmes offered comes with a salary or stipend, introducing you to industrial experience. Apart from all that,  some internship programs will help you with good social networks one you can capitalise on in your career development

While doing your internship with reputable International developmental organisations such as UN Agencies is very attractive many applicants often find it difficult to get accepted. This is usually the case because they are yet grasp and master the art of submitting a compelling application and that is exactly what this article unpacks. 

First, you must realise that there are lots of benefits associated with starting early in any application process. You do not need to wait until it is last minute. Be deliberate about starting early on your internship application journey. Internship programmes offered by international development organisations such as the United Nations agencies are highly competitive and sometimes the application process is quite rigorous.

Starting early will therefore give you a head start in your application. You will have ample time to gather the necessary ammunition in terms of information and required documentation. Starting to think about your internship application early will help condition your mind and shape your actions towards achieving your goal of submitting a difficult to reject application.

It will cause you to become deliberate on how you spend your time for instance some people will start attending conferences, seminars, workshops and conferences organised by the organization they eying to do their internship with. Some people will start enrolling for free online programmes/ courses that will expose them to the systems of the organisation they are interested in. All these things will become handy when penning down your cover letter and putting together your CV.

One of the main advantages of starting early is you will have ample time to develop an in-depth appreciation of the organization you are looking at the prospect of interning with.  You will have time to research on the organisations’ work, its vision, mission, core values, impact, work ethic, organisational culture and hiring procedures. Researching on these aspects will give you a good picture of what exactly the organization is involved in and who exactly would fit into their system. It will also help you assess whether it is the right organization for you considering your career goals and the internship work experience you are seeking. It will also give you the right language or jargon to use when writing down your cover letter.

It is very important that you clearly identify and and outline the skills, talents and abilities that makes you an outstanding and most suitable candidate for the internship programme or position you are eying. This will go a long way in helping you craft the right cover letter, statement of purpose or motivational letter especially the segment you will explaining why you are the right candidate apart from your academic qualifications.

It is imperative both for you and the organization you are applying to that you understand how they the internship program will help prepare you for your future career. Understanding this aspect will assist you write a compelling cover letter, statement of purpose or motivational letter which plays acritical role in strengthening you application. This point further reinforces the concept of carrying research on the organization you are considering to apply to. That includes researching on the available internship programmes, their components and duration.

The need to specific and precise in your application can never be over emphasised. The idea here is to clearly give the recruitment team or HR team the impression that you are most suitable candidate for their internship programme, not any other. You will need to customise your CV and statement of purpose in tandem  with the requirements and interests being sought after as reflected in the call for applications or advert. The organisations of this nature tend to clearly outline exactly what they are looking for in terms of eligibility, requirements and attributes. Your cover letter must contain the exact key words used in the advert or call for applications.

When all the above are in place, the next thing you need to do is submit your application. Do not submit a generic application. You want to submit an application that specific. Using all the information gathered through research, you need to make an application that speaks to what is being sought after.

It is often advisable that you frame your application around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The assumption here is that in your research you would have established the SDGs your international development organization of interest focuses on. For instance, some of the organisations want to address poverty, hunger, economic inequality, climate action or issues to do with quality education which is SDG 4. It would be smart to build your application around these SDGs, showing how you have already been involved through various initiatives at various levels. It can be at a club,  community or school level. Your passion must not be doubted.

Share your application with other people that have gone ahead of you to review it before you make your submission. This usually works perfectly when you start early as we have underscored. When you share your application for review early the people you want to review it are likely not to give you excuses. Sharing your application early will ensure your application is not reviewed in a rush. Having your application reviewed can help you with new ideas in terms of things you can include and how you can express yourself better.  Feedback can go a long way in helping you identify grammatical errors and have them addressed, further strengthening your application. Some people because they would have already gone through the exact same process can help you with the right language which will give the reader the impression that you easily fit into their system. When you are now confident with your application carefully follow the instructions on how to submit your application. Some applications are made online but some of them you must submit your cover letter and CV in person. Whatever the case just make sure you have read and understood the instructions and you carefully follow them. You also want to show that you can follow instructions.

To tie it all in, if you want to land an internship position in any international development organization start your journey early, research on the organization and its hiring system, identify and clearly outline your career interests to see if you are considering the right internship programme with the right organization. Consider how the internship program will help prepare you for your future career.

When you have all the critical information before you work on your cover letter and customise your CV. Frame your application around one or more of the UN SDGs and before you make your submission make sure your application is reviewed by someone in the system who is  knowledgeable and familiar with the organisations’ system.

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