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24 April 2019
UNA-NCA Young Professional Career Dinner Series: A Focus on Choosing an Enjoyable Career Path
Written by Laura Blyler, Vice President of Young Professionals



On Saturday, April 6, 2019, young professionals and students gathered at the United Nations Foundation to participate in the semi-annual UNA-NCA Young Professional Career Dinner series.

This signature event is held every spring and fall and is an opportunity for young professionals to discuss global career paths and network with experienced professionals in their fields of interest. The Spring 2019 event kicked off with a networking reception, where around 80 participants and speakers had the chance to meet, swap business cards, and enjoy the beautiful views of the city from the terrace of the United Nations Foundation. Stephen Moseley, President of UNA-NCA, and Paula Boland, Executive Director of UNA-NCA, welcomed guests to the evening’s event, before turning over the stage to our keynote speaker, Ambassador (ret) Keith Harper, former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council and Partner at Kilpatrick Townsend, LLC.

Ambassador Harper, also the recipient of the 2017 UNA-NCA F. Allen “Tex” Harris Human Rights Diplomacy Award, addressed the crowd with timely and thoughtful remarks about his career path and the importance of U.S. leadership at the United Nations. Harper weaved stories of his own career journey with advice for a career path centered around issues that make an impact in the world.

Harper’s own career has been driven by two great interests, international relations and federal Indian law. He told attendees to choose the path you find most enjoyable drawing on a choice he made after law school to take a job at the Native American Rights Fund rather than at a big law firm, because he believed the path he wanted to be on was to litigate on behalf of Indian tribes. That choice led him to bring a case against the federal government for mismanagement of Indian trust funds which settled in 2009 for $3.4 billion. Harper went on to work as an advisor on President Barack Obama’s first campaign in 2007, a role which led to a position in the Obama administration and eventually to his appointment as the United States Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

To provide guidance and share lessons learned from his own career journey, Harper imparted four thoughts on career choices for young professionals:

1. Luck. You have to be prepared to accept the lucky opportunities when they arise.

2. Put yourself out there. People who are experts in their field are willing to help young people succeed. It is highly probable that they will want to engage with you if you just ask them!

3. Choose the path that you find most enjoyable.

4. Focus not on what you want to be, but rather focus on what you want to do. If you care about an issue, there are many different ways to impact that issue. There will always be new and innovative ways to work on issues that you care about.

Ambassador Harper left the audience with a final tidbit of advice centered on choosing a path that you find most enjoyable, “as you go through that journey to find out where specifically you want to make your contributions, you let your heart guide you. You follow that which you think is the kind of impact you want to make, and I guarantee you, you will find a way to achieve your objectives.”

Following Ambassador Harper’s speech, the participants broke out into small groups to attend their respective dinner topics. This year the event featured six different topics including Careers in the United Nations, International Development, Climate Adaptation and Mitigation, International Law, Refugees and Migration, and Careers in Women, Peace, and Security. During the dinner, participants had the chance to discuss changing career fields, working in an uncertain political climate and engaging in the workforce as a young professional.

Every year the UNA-NCA Young Professionals’ team is excited to connect mid-career and expert professionals with passionate young professionals to deepen the participant’s knowledge of the field from an insider’s point of view. The next career dinner will take place in the fall of this year and we look forward to seeing you there!

Join UNA-NCA today if you want to get involved with the Young Professionals program to help plan events like this!