Young Centre alumna’s career advancing in the United Nations
May 26, 2011 By Leigh Cocanougher
assistant in the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-
General at the United Nations.
Zhang (above, in Strasbourg, France), says that her study abroad
experience at Centre greatly prepared her for her work in the UN.
At the age of 25, Centre College alumna Jing Zhang ’08 has already landed her dream job—and it’s an impressive one. After beginning her career at the United Nations as a tour guide, she has recently been promoted to public information assistant in the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General (OSSG) at the United Nations.
“This is the office I’ve always dreamed about working for,” Zhang says. “Serving as a UN tour guide enabled me to gain a thorough knowledge of the work of the UN, and during the General Debate two years ago, I met a former Deputy Spokesperson who was willing to meet with me later to share her experience at the OSSG and her career path at the UN.”
After that meeting, Zhang applied for the position in which she currently serves, but because she still had little experience, she was instead given the opportunity to work at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), which provided her with “a better understanding of the UN peacekeeping missions,” she says.
Later, when the public information assistant position again was open, she felt she had sufficient UN work experience, applied, and, after two rounds of interviews, was given the job.
And it is everything she had hoped it would be.
“There’s no typical day at OSSG,” she says. “We always fight with time since one of the most important things we do is to send out the Secretary-General statement immediately to the journalists and Permanent Missions to the UN and post it on our website. We also post it to Twitter.”
Most enjoyable, she says, is being around so many engaging people.
“I’m a people person,” she says, “and I love to interact with others. I’m frequently in contact with people in different offices within the UN, as well as journalists and the Permanent Missions to the UN, and my colleagues are very friendly and patient when I ask all of my questions.”
Being able to communicate in French and Spanish, two of the six UN official languages, is another aspect of her job that Zhang appreciates.
“My study abroad term with Centre-in-Strasbourg definitely adds credit to my foreign language skills,” she says, “which are especially important for work in the UN.”
Centre also helped prepare Zhang for the prestigious position by emphasizing critical thinking and analytical writing skills, she says. “And Centre provides amazing career services. The career counselors, Deb, Joy and Mindy, are all very helpful and friendly and have given me advice on seeking internships, networking with alums, polishing my CVs and preparing for interviews.”
Having begun work in the office she had aspired to join, Zhang now hopes to spend several years working in the United Nations Headquarters and then begin working in a UN peacekeeping mission.
And she has a bit of advice for Centre students and young graduates who are in the midst of their own searches for dream jobs.
“Think big and start small. You might not enjoy what you’re doing at the moment, but be positive—it might pave the way for a better future. In Chinese there’s a saying: fuchu zongyou huibao, ‘one’s effort will pay off.’”