Few have made it, but it is not impossible. NATO can offer one of the most popular internships to students and young professionals. YATA Norway have read the application of one who succeeded.
Written by: Sunniva Skjeggestad, International Officer of YATA Norway
– After he had given us a lecture on political crisis communication, I followed Jamie Shea into the elevator. I told him that I wanted to work at the same place he did. He worked in NATO.
Tip: Have good portion of patience. It takes time
In the elevator Siw Tynes Johnsen received the mail address to James Shea’s secretary, and they met again a few weeks later. By then, Johnson had already applied for an intern position in NATO, but Johnsen had to wait 1,5 years from the time she submitted the application until she had her first day on the job.
Tip: Write your application with confidence
There are many things worth mentioning about Johnsens’ application. First of all how she demonstrates her international engagement, interest in NATO, and last but not least, her experience with communication and the international community.
Moreover, in the application, Johnsen seems happy with the career choices she has made, and she is not afraid to show it in the application: “… a position I was very pleased two get” and “… and it was the best year of my life, yet”.
– We have to think more like Americans when we write applications. Your English level might be intermediate compared with an American friend of yours, but when you apply for an internship in NATO you are competing with people from all around the world. Do not underestimate yourself, says Johnsen.
In her application, Johnsen also informed NATO about her upcoming studies in Brussels.
– I wanted to emphasize that even though I didn’t hold a masters degree when I wrote the application, I would have required it by the time I started the internship, she says.
Tip: Get relevant experience
When Johnsen interned in NATO, her previous job at the Afghan Embassy in Washington D.C. and in Oslo proved to be a valuable experiences. Throughout her application Johnsen relates the internship to her interests and shows how her professional background is relevant for the position.
– My experience from the Afghan embassies in Norway and in the US would not have been as relevant today. When I applied for the internship, the mission in Afghanistan was high on the agenda. NATO is event-driven and they need people with expertise on what is happening right now, says Johnsen.
Tip: Learn a language. You have time
English and French are working-languages in NATO, and you need to be fluent in one of them, and preferably in both. Johnsen attended language courses in French in addition to a fulltime job, to become a stronger candidate for the internship.
Here is an excerpt from Johnsen’s application: “This last year I have also taken French classes, and I am currently progressing fast. I really enjoy learning the language, and while in Brussels I hope to develop my skills even further by using French in everyday situations”.
NATO has currently listed three languages they want expertise in: Arabic, Russian and Ukrainian. This requirement doesn’t exclude candidates without language skills, but you will have an advantage if you are in possession of several languages.
Because you never know whom you are competing with, it’s better to submit an application than not doing it. Johnsen has received surprisingly many more offers then expected.
– You never know what they’re looking for. The only thing you can be sure of, is that if you do not apply, you don’t get the job.
Johnsen ended her application with the following words: “If you were to choose me for a NATO internship, I would do my very best to prove you made the right decision”. NATO hired Siw Tynes Johnsen, and when her six-month internship was over, she got a job on as a media analyst.
The deadline to apply is April, 2017. Follow the link here.