UNU-MERIT Careers Fair 2024: Empowering students to shape their futures

By Josh Tendai, Alumni Officer at UNU-MERIT 

Last Friday (12 April), we held the ‘Careers Beyond Borders’ hybrid career event at UNU-MERIT in collaboration with the United Nations Student Association (UNSA) Maastricht. Aimed at students aspiring to make a difference in the world, this event illuminated the pathways to fulfilling careers within international organizations. The event drew strong interest, with over 50 students attending in person – including participants from our MSc in Public Policy and Human Development (MPP), as well as Maastricht University’s Global Studies and European Studies programmes – and an additional 41 participants joining online.  

The career fair’s two panel discussions offered students a rare glimpse into professionals’ real-world experiences and the strategies that helped them to forge successful careers on the global stage. 

UNU-MERIT’s moderator Michal Natorski (right) engages with panellists Marian Blondeel (left) and Liatifa Ibragimova (centre). Photo: Herman Pijpers

Students listening to the panel discussion. Photo: Herman Pijpers









Journeys to leadership 

The first panel discussion, ‘Journeys to Leadership in International Organizations’, explored what it takes to reach leadership positions within international organizations. Distinguished leaders shared the career paths and decisions that brought them to their positions today; we heard from Marian Blondeel, (Head of Benelux & EU Desk at United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe), Liatifa Ibragimova (Political Administrator at the EU Consilium) and Vincenzo Vinci (Social Protection Specialist, The World Bank). 

Our panellists spoke about navigating complex landscapes, driving impactful initiatives, and finding organisations with missions that aligned with their personal values – all areas where our master’s programme in Public Policy and Human Development curriculum could provide a sturdy foundation. Afterwards, the session’s Q&A and the networking lunch that followed allowed the attending students to have a meaningful dialogue with these three speakers. 

Learning networking skills 

[Onscreen] Mutinta Nseluke Hambayi (top left), Véronique Benoit-Gex (top right) and Tareq Abuelhaj (bottom)

The afternoon’s panel, ‘Careers and Networking: Navigating Your Path to International Organizations,’ focused on practical strategies for building fulfilling careers, covering essential skills, networking tactics, and how to navigate the recruitment process. We were fortunate to have four expert speakers join this session: Tareq Abuelhaj (independent consultant), Véronique Benoit-Gex (HR & Partnerships Programme Officer at International Telecommunication Union), Veronika Georgieva (Tendering Officer at European Institute of Public Administration) and Mutinta Nseluke Hambayi (Deputy Country Director, UN World Food Programme Rwanda). 

Abuelhaj and Hambayi stressed the importance of internships and volunteer work, aligning skills with mission-driven goals, and highlighted key traits like cultural sensitivity and problem-solving. 

Georgieva highlighted the importance of understanding the landscape of your chosen field and how to align your skills and vision with the missions of the organisation you are applying for. This led to a discussion on the recruitment process led by Benoit-Gex on the value of learning from internships, early career experiences, and focused lifelong/continuous education.

Resources for aspiring leaders 

Speakers supplied the following resources to help attendees start their careers in international organizations: 


Building connections 

Veronika Georgieva (left) and Anna-Sophie Dorweiler (right) from EIPA. Photo: Herman Pijpers.

We were pleased to see that our event achieved its goal of fostering a sense of ongoing connection: students actively engaged with the speakers during lunch and visited the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA)’s booth to chat with MPP alumna Miranda Lovell-Prescod (researcher) and Anna-Sophie Dorweiler (HR officer) about their work at EIPA. The direct interactions provided a wealth of additional information and solidified the tangible link between the MPP programme and careers in international organizations around the world.

This event left students equipped with more than just advice; it fuelled a sense of possibility and a roadmap for turning aspirations into reality. We hope to have inspired those who dream of shaping a better future for our world, and we look forward to hearing about the career paths that our current and future alumni embark on! 



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    Photos by H. Pijpers / UNU-MERIT and UNSA