By Malaika Neri
One horribly hot and sweaty summer, I found myself sitting on our itchy mid-century beige sofa, applying for job after job while my roommate went off to her paid internship at a large, multinational organisation. I was envious; I, too, wanted to get dressed up in nice clothes and go do important work that would affect the lives of millions of people, but after sending off literally hundreds of application forms to human rights and international development organisations, I was no closer to getting a job, or even an interview.
The year before, I’d fallen in love with international development after a stint at a microfinance in Madagascar, and thought I had what it takes to make it in this field: an understanding of specific development needs, a passion for helping others, an eagerness to share knowledge, and the gift of being a “people-person”.
But working in Madagascar, like in so many developing countries, was emotionally and culturally challenging, besides, I wanted to improve my French. I sent out email after email to organisations all over France, but it seemed completely futile, because lots of positions required EU nationality. I began to feel horribly naïve, thinking NGOs would be interested in my education, international experience, creative mind and great set of soft skills.
Towards September, just when I was getting really desperate, came a lovely, warm email from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), based in Paris: was I available for an interview on Skype, 3pm Central European Time? A week later, my internship was confirmed, and I was over the moon.
But while large organisations like the OECD can teach you a great deal about the international development system, and I was eager to get started, Paris is expensive, and the idea of living from hand to mouth was daunting, to say the least.
Happily, the OECD traineeship program pays every intern at its Paris headquarters a monthly stipend of 554,40 euro, which can be supplemented by a grant from the Erasmus+ Traineeship Grant, awarded by partner universities in participating countries and ranging from €390 to €700 per month for the duration of the internship.
Best of all, you don’t need a French or European work permit to start working there. The majority of the interns are affiliated with a university in the OECD countries (particularly France and the US), but you don’t need to be an EU citizen or come from an OECD member country in order to apply.
Wondering how you, too, can be selected for a paid internship at the world’s premier policy organisation, living and working in the heart of Paris?
State your skills clearly
The OECD selects for applicants with academic backgrounds in a discipline related to the work of the organisation’s research-oriented work, (which can range from social affairs, trade, agriculture, development and education, to employment, finance, and statistics), with strong quantitative skills and international experience in research and analytical activities. The more you emphasise these points and demonstrate your ability to undertake tasks requiring these skills, the better your chance of being selected.
Cater to the role, and not to the organisation as a whole
There are over 15 Directorates at the OECD and the intern network is quite localised to each Directorate. Most intern roles involve some form of research work – reasoning, analytical and writing (drafting or synthesising) skills are very much valued. In my application to the OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Committee, I headlined my published research on financial regulatory frameworks, and work experience in knowledge management, liaison, and coordination – the latter of which were specifically requested in the job description.
Demonstrate that you’re a global citizen
The OECD produces policy recommendations for 35 member countries around the world. It’s a big responsibility. You’re expected to be capable of working in a team in a multicultural and international environment, and the OECD requires written and spoken fluency in either English or French.
Show the link between your studies and the OECD internship
Most interns are enrolled in programs such as international relations, public policy, economics, political science, and other fields relevant to the work of the organisation. Those who are still working on their Master theses usually link their topic to the work they do at the OECD. In my emails with the HR manager, I mentioned that I was enrolled in a Master’s degree in international public policy, and that the internship would help me better understand my coursework and reading.
Show you can do the job before you get the job
Although you’re applying for an internship, your application is the first element of communication in a relationship that might last longer than six months, particularly if you’re asked to stay on and start a consultancy, or a full-time job at the organisation. HR will look for candidates who demonstrate their likelihood of performing well before they ever set foot in the organisation’s Paris headquarters. Hard work and commitment are extremely appreciated, and you can improve your chances of being selected by demonstrating your passion for the research topics on which you’ll be focusing, and your commitment to the discipline.
The deadline to apply for an internship at the OECD headquarters in Paris is midnight CEST, Tuesday, 25 October.
Ready to apply but not sure where to begin?
Click here to get the exact C.V. template I used to successfully get a position at the OECD.
Malaika studied at New York University and has worked at a number of NGOs over the last ten years in Haiti, Ecuador, the US and Germany. She is keen to help other ambitious young professionals, especially those just starting out in their careers, through sharing step-by-step plans. Malaika hopes to curb the common feeling that working in this sector is just for wealthy people with connections, so she recently started her own blog.
Featured image by Oselina, Wikimedia Commons
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