BYU alum gives students advice on working for UN, other international organizations

Liz Jevtic-Somlai held an “Ask me anything” discussion in the Kennedy Center Feb. 8. (Emma Willes)

BYU alum Liz Jevti-Somlai hosted an “Ask me anything” event in the Kennedy Center Feb. 8 to answer students’ questions about working for the U.N. and other international organizations.

Jevtic-Somlai is a visiting political science professor at BYU and a former employee of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, a U.N. partner that promoted the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

Jevtic-Somlai was born in Serbia, but fled the country as a refugee when she was a child. She grew up in Vienna, Austria.

After graduating from BYU, Jevtic-Somlai wanted to work for an international organization. Her first choice was UNICEF because of her passion for helping refugee children, a passion that stemmed from personal experience. She applied to several departments at U.N. offices in Vienna and was eventually hired at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

“Sometimes you have this sort of boxed idea of what you want to do, and so you’re prepping yourself in school for that. Then you will go out to your work field and it’s absolutely not that,” Jevtic-Somlai said.

Jevtic-Somlai told students they can obtain a degree in almost anything and still have a chance of working for the U.N. Many of her former coworkers served in key roles within international organizations despite having degrees that were not directly related to international politics.

“International organizations are like any other company — you need a lot of different people with different skills to run them,” Jevtic-Somlai said.

There are several areas in the U.N. that, according to Jevtic-Somlai, need people with diverse skills. Limiting yourself to a degree that is exclusive to international politics can make it difficult to market yourself, Jevtic-Somlai said.

She encouraged students to pursue something they love and said doing so will make it possible for them to work for the U.N. and other international organizations. She said students should research various opportunities by joining clubs and getting hands-on experience in different fields to discover their passion.

Jevtic-Somlai said when people expose themselves to real-life situations it can help them understand they are able to think on their feet and get to work as soon as their feet hit the ground.

Remember that no matter how glamorous the job title sounds, there is still going to be mundane activities involved with it because it’s still a job, Jevtic-Somlai said.

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