So, you want to be the next Harvey or Jessica? Here's a different perspective on working in the
Amy on what she does ...and it's not much like the picture above.
I'm a lawyer at the United Nations. Right now I work in the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia in West Africa (UNMIL) and provide advice on any of the Mission’s legal issues. The mission is comprised of UN peacekeepers from national militaries and police forces combined with civilian staff from over 100 countries. My daily work varies from cases involving property law, maritime border disputes, allegations of misconduct against UN personnel, criminal law, privileges and immunities to conducting training programs in the field where we work closely with community leaders, UN agencies, the Government of Liberia and NGOs to develop the rule of law.
My previous UN roles were in international criminal law. I worked as Counsel in the prosecution team at the UN war crimes tribunal for Rwanda prosecuting a number of individuals accused of genocide in 1994, war crimes and crimes against humanity. I also provided legal support to the Judges of the Appeals Chamber in the UN court in Cambodia on the cases against senior members of the Khmer Rouge accused of contributing to the nearly 2 million people killed in Cambodia in the 1970s.
Before that I worked at an international law firm called Baker & McKenzie where I qualified as an Australian lawyer.
How could someone go about getting a job like yours? What is the first step?
The UN is huge and pathways to employment in the legal field vary but to give yourself the best shot, intern in the UN agency that interests you most. Building an internal network and knowing the
practical realities of the job really help.
I also recommend getting qualified and practicing for a few years in your domestic jurisdiction to build up your legal skill base and make you a more attractive candidate. You’ll also need some patience! UN recruitments are very competitive, can take up to 6 months and usually involve a written exam and a phone interview.
What advice would you give your 15 year old self about life?
I would tell my 15-year- old self to not take life too seriously. These are some of the best days of your life and you will likely form some life-long friendships so enjoy it. Of course study hard but keep a balance, spend time with your friends and pursue extra curricula activities like sport or music if they interest you. At the end of the day, your university entrance score does not determine your success in life or overall happiness.
Also be true to your values, there is nothing wrong with going against the grain, people will admire
you for it. Sometimes I wish I had stood up more for the kids who were having a tough time in high
As you gear up towards the end of high school and maybe start of university life, I’d keep these things in mind;
Go on exchange or travel where possible, anywhere, just go. I’ve found being in foreign environments and meeting new people to be some of life’s greatest lessons.
Consider getting a part-time job. I got my first job at IGA supermarket when I was 14 to help pay for a high school music tour to Europe. I got paid next to nothing but it helped me understand the importance of saving and being comfortable around strangers.
Be a YES person. Try to say yes to as many opportunities as possible. You just never know where these opportunities may lead you. In my experience, it’s not always the cleverest people but the most determined who attract success.
Don’t be afraid to ask. You’d be surprised at how many people will be willing to help you along your way. And if they’re not, well you’ve got nothing to lose by asking.
Apply for internships at university. It’s never too early to start. You need to be able to distinguish yourself early on in the current job market. There are plenty of funding opportunities to support you embark on internships during the university breaks.
Do you remember what you wanted to do with your life when you were a teenager?
In primary school I wanted to be a marine biologist because I loved the ocean and marine animals. In high school I started to become interested in law. I’ve always been motivated by positive social
change and how to use the justice system to improve people’s lives.
What was the best career/life advice you’ve ever been given?
My mum tells me the opportunity of a lifetime comes along everyday.
Which part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?
The people (everyone has an incredible story), the adventure and making a contribution, however
small, to international justice.
How many places have you lived (countries have you visited?!
Places I’ve lived: Australia (Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide), Reunion Island, East Sussex
(England), Geneva in Switzerland, Arusha in Tanzania, Monrovia in Liberia, Phnom Penh in Cambodia,Tokyo in Japan
Countries I’ve visited: about 60.
And the most memorable: Bhutan, India, Russia, Swedish Lapland, Patagonia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Myanmar.
Did you have any jobs as a teenager?
Yes and I’m so glad I did. My most memorable job was at an independent video store in Perth. I’m
sure working there as an impressionable teenager made me more confident and taught me the
importance of savings and time management.
I also worked as a nanny, piano teacher and in hospitality.
How do you believe schools or universities might be changed to be more relevant or effective?
In my opinion, practical experience is key. Internships and volunteering during university should be
treated equally to substantive lecture courses. Practical experience also provides the best
pathway to a job further down the track.
Whilst online learning is also great, it can never be as effective as face-to-face learning. Where
possible online learning should be not be a substitute for class time.
Personally, I wish learning languages was more encouraged at all levels of Australian education.
Any opportunity to travel during school should also be jumped at. Whether it is on an exchange
program or volunteering trip. My exchange experiences were without a doubt life changing and in
fact my exchange during law school is directly attributable to my career today.
A lot of universities have generous financial aid programs so it is attainable to anyone. If nothing else, living independently as a youngster is bound to help develop a better appreciation for the world and inclination to think big.
Extra points to mention..
Mentors, mentors! Never be afraid to ask for help, cold call people, email them. Don’t be scared,
people are actually flattered to be asked for help.