Celebrating 60 years of the Dutch JPO Programme: Seven pieces of advice for aspiring young professionals to clinch a highly coveted position with the UN

Celebrating 60 years of the Dutch JPO Programme: Seven pieces of advice for aspiring young professionals to clinch a highly coveted position with the UN

 Faisal Yousaf is a strategy and planning expert who has worked in various programme management, planning, and partnership building roles with international organisations including the UN in Pakistan, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sudan, New York, and Germany. He is currently based in Stockholm, Sweden. He holds a distinction of being a former Dutch-funded developing country JPO with UNICEF in Sudan. Faisal is currently enrolled in Future Leaders Programme for Fundraising in the UK. You may reproduce, share, or republish this article. Follow Faisal on Twitter: @Faisalswe


First, I must thank Hans van Poeteren, from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for motivating me to write this post and share my experience, as a Junior Professional Officer (JPO), with other aspiring young professionals, both from the Netherlands and from the eligible 60 plus developing countries, who can apply for Dutch-funded JPO positions within the UN system and other international organisations.  

The year 2014 will mark 60 years of the establishment of generous Associate Expert/JPO programme funded by the government of the Netherlands. As a beneficiary of one of its kind Dutch JPO programme, I think this is a true manifestation of people to people development cooperation in the international affairs arena, absolutely unparalleled by any other donor country. So thank you, the big-hearted people of the Netherlands, for your unflinching support to this programme over the last 60 years.

This post is also timely for all those who are considering applying for soon to be advertised JPO positions in 2014.

1. Talk to current and former JPOs before applying: Don’t do it alone! There are a number of JPO networks on Linkedin and Facebook. Reach out to current and former JPOs for their advice, insights and foresights. Trust me, you will never be disappointed!

2. Be open for working in hardship duty stations:  Hardship is rewarding! Apply for positions in difficult and least developed countries, if you really want to learn, develop yourself, and contribute to local development in a fulfilling way. I went to Sudan. Believe me, Khartoum was incredibly safe!

3. Communicate your passion for international development:  Yes, believing in UN ideals greatly matters! The whole basis for the Dutch JPO programme is embedded in the UN ideals of universal peace and stability, respect for human rights, gender equality, economic and social development and respect of international law etc. So make sure to genuinely express your views about the UN ideals and values.  Being a JPO will certainly make you put your ideals into actions!

4. Consider a wide range of positions: Don’t be picky!  JPO positions are at entry level and offer you an opportunity to develop your general project and fund management competencies. I did not have an academic background in education and ideally wanted to work in the area of planning or external relations. I accepted the position of Programme Officer in education team of UNICEF. But then I shaped my own job description by working as a team focal point for all planning and funding related issues.  Before finishing my JPO assignment in Sudan, I got an offer to work as a Planning Specialist in UNICEF’s donor/external relations division in New York. Being a JPO is a unique opportunity to discover your special talent and niche!

5. Highlight your report writing skills in application: Everyone loves good reports in the UN! Make sure you emphasize your writing and communication skills in your application and interview process. List down all the major documents, papers, and reports you have written in the past. A good project or donor report will earn you a lot of praise!

6. Demonstrate your multicultural exposure: UN is amazingly diverse!  You are likely to be asked to share your experience of working or living in multicultural and diverse settings. You will be lucky to have a beautiful team with wonderful colleagues from the US, the Gambia, Japan, India, Vietnam, Malawi, and Nepal. Welcome to international civil service!

7.  Make UNICEF your top target for landing a JPO position:   An employer of choice, undoubtedly! UNICEF has a remarkably distinctive corporate culture characterized by a clear vision, mission driven leaders and staff, and focus on achieving results for children. I don’t want to compliment excessively but managers and leaders in UNICEF nurture young talent like JPOs and give them sincere career advice and opportunities to grow and develop. Imagine your team leader selflessly sends you to Darfur for six months to have a real first-hand experience of UNICEF’s work; imagine as a JPO you are given a co-lead role for working with external partners; imagine you are sent to present at the UN Country Team meetings; and imagine you are allowed to go to UNICEF office in Mozambique for six weeks on a JPO learning mission. Yes, UNICEF is AWESOME!




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