Interviewing Sanja

Through a very good friend I got to know a great organization called CISV whose web page (CISV) state their purpose to be to educate and inspire action for a more just and peaceful world. Greatness! They organize international camps and other things. Once when I was helping out with a happening in Helsinki I met Sanja. Soon after meeting her she moved to Switzerland. Here is an interview with her about what she’s up to over there!

What is your job title?

I am currently a graduate student at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. I’m doing my second year in a multi-disciplinary master’s programme in international affairs, and active in a number of the university’s student initiatives, such as the Junior Diplomat Initiative, the Academic Writing Initiative and the Bible Study Initiative. However, during the first academic year of the master’s programme I did a 6-month long internship at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, which turned into a summer job the past summer. I started with a title of intern and during the summer worked as a junior programme officer (JPO). I will now focus on telling more about this work experience.

Where do you work? 

In Switzerland, in the city of Geneva at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP). The GCSP is an international foundation at the heart of international Geneva. It was established in 1995 on the initiative of the Swiss Confederation.

How did you get in to the line of work?

I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Social and Political Science at the University of Helsinki, Finland, majoring in International Development Studies and minoring in World Politics and African Studies. I came to Geneva to continue with graduate studies in international affairs, focusing on issues of peace and conflict. As security policy is a viable angle into these issues, I was happy to get an internship at an institute specialized in security policy.

Did you feel lucky landing your job?

I felt very lucky getting the internship opportunity and later the summer job. The field of international affairs is highly competitive and it may not be easy to find an internship one is interested in, let alone an actual job.

What qualifications are needed?

To get an internship at the GCSP, one needs to have an undergraduate degree in a relevant field of study which can range from international affairs to journalism and from physics to marketing. The working language is English and knowledge of French, German or other languages is an advantage. However, I find that first and foremost one needs to be motivated to work diligently, to express one’s capabilities and to be humble to learn new things.

Are you striven by the work you do or your paycheck?

The interns at the GCSP received a renumeration of CHF300-500 per month (that is approximately 300-500€), depending on the hours they worked. The salary of a JPO was not big either. Therefore I’m quite confident in saying that it was the work itself that was driving me and not the paycheck.

Does your work match your expectations?

Yes, for sure! Although I must say that I didn’t quite know what to expect when I started my internship at the GCSP, but the expectations that I had were met. I expected to work in a multinational and multicultural environment and to work on various foreign policy issues. In practice that involved organizing and coordinating courses, conferences, seminars and public discussions; conducting research; doing market analysis; writing reports of meetings etc. Many of these were skills that developed a lot during the job or that I had to learn pretty much from scratch.

Describe a basic day at work. Does it vary day by day?

A basic day at work would have been a day beginning at 9am, starting by reading and responding to the emails that had arrived the previous night or early in the morning, followed by a few phone calls to organize logistical issues for instance with conference facilities or catering. Afterwards I would have started focusing on a report or a research project that I was working on, and continue until lunch time. In the afternoon I often sent a few emails or called course participants and speakers to remind them of any necessary information or documents that were still missing, and afterwards either I would have attended a meeting, a public discussion or a lecture, and/or continue with working on a report or a research project. The afternoon usually included a coffee break and a chat with a colleague, and the day ended at 5pm.

What is the most exciting thing about your work and why?

The most exciting thing was learning new things every day, whether it was new skills and knowledge, or maybe something about another culture from a colleague. I found that very intriguing and inspiring.

What do you get asked about your job by friends and family?

I was often asked by friends in Geneva: “Why do they always wear suits at the GCSP?” The dress code was indeed quite formal and one would often see men and women wearing black suits and dresses when walking into the glass building. The GCSP trains government officials, diplomats, military officers etc. who tend to wear business clothes for work and that was also the custom at the GCSP.

What is the best part of your job?

Fantastic colleagues and course participants. And as said before, learning new things every day.

Do you have bad days or moments? Why?

Absolutely – because I am a human-being!

Do you have any advice for people considering your line of work?

I would advice you to talk to people who already work in the field and to those who are interested in doing so. Build connections and networks, work diligently, take care of work-life balance and value your free time. There is a lot of work to do in the field of international peace, conflict and security, so if you really want to dedicate your working hours to working on them, if you are ready to work with people from all around the world and are willing to constantly develop your own skills and understanding, you will surely succeed in finding a job in the field.

Thank you Sanja!


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