The Happy UN Career Podcast is hosted by Barbara K Andersen, UN Career Strategist. The show offers practical guidance and inspiration to UN Professionals who long for more fulfillment in their careers and better balance in life. Episodes will cover how to take real ownership of your career, gain recognition, sharpen your focus, and other topics to help you create a balance and feeling happy at work. The show will also get into effective ways to plan, prioritize, create boundaries, improve relations and networks, and generate powerful options for yourself. Barbara has over 18 years of experience in working in UN organisations, international HR, career development, and coaching. Join the conversation and listen to the shows at: www.barbarakandersen.com/happy-un-career-podcast/
The Secret Tool for Time Optimists in the UN
Are you a bit of a time optimist?
Do you often take on a new task thinking: “Oh - I can easily squeeze this in between the next two meetings”?
Only to find that you needed the time between meetings to go to the bathroom, find your papers, respond to an urgent email and a question from a colleague...
And at the end of the day, you’re feeling deflated and behind in your work – even if you’ve been crazy busy all day?
If you recognize this kind of scenario - then today’s episode is for you!
I’m going to share what I call “3 secret steps” to how time estimation can make your workday less frazzled and support your UN Career.
And it’s not a gimmick when I talk about secrets here, because the skill of time estimation seems to be a well-kept secret in most organizations I’ve worked with, and definitely also in the UN!
You can find the show notes for this episode at www.barbarakandersen.com/25.
Lack of time estimation means lack of realism
Does that sound dramatic? Well, I’ve taught personal effectiveness tools to hundreds of clients and whenever we discuss to-do lists and the value of time estimation, people will jump through all kinds of hoops to avoid doing it.
But when they sit down with me and we go through their to-do list together, it turns out that often their lists are off the charts. And sometimes wildly off the charts.
Because what they write down is what they’d LIKE to get done. Not what they have time to do.
I see people planning tasks for 8 or 10 hours, when maybe they only have 3 or 4 hours, considering meetings, lunch and other planned events.
So, what does it mean for your workday, when your planning is unrealistic? It means that very often you don’t get done what you had planned which has two unhappy side effects:
You feel behind – and that makes you feel deflated You easily get into situations where you have trouble delivering what you have promised to othersBoth of which are bad for your self-esteem and can affect your reputation in the long run.
3 secrets to how time estimation can improve your work and your UN Career
Without some element of time estimation, it’s impossible to get a realistic picture of how much time you have available – and how much time you need.
So, why don’t we all do it? Well, as far as I can see there are three reasons for that:
Nobody taught us that we should do it – or how to do it!When we hear about it we suspect it will be difficult and take too much time!We don’t want to face the fact that we don’t have time for everything. And I’ll share an example of that in a moment. So today I want to share with you the 3 simple steps to make realistic and effective planning with time estimation:
Write your tasks down.Estimate how much time you think you need for each task, and write it down next to the task.Add up the time you’ve estimated and compare to how much time you’ve got available. So, as you can see it’s not rocket science. The secret lies in being consistent!
If we for example look at your workday in the office, it might look like this...
Read the full show notes at www.barbarakandersen.com/25 where you’ll also find the detailed description of how to use the 3 steps, I mention above.
Top Tips from UN Executive Coach – Interview w Christine Heyting
I’m excited to share an interview with my friend and former colleague in the UNDP – and someone I consider a mentor - Ms Christine Heyting.
Christine is Australian and we met in 2013 when she worked with UNDP Headquarters in the area of performance management and leadership development. Since then, she’s been a regular contractor for various UN agencies doing missions on four continents.
Before that, she was an HR Director in the private sector for about 15 years.
I asked Christine to come on the podcast because I think that with her wealth of HR and leadership experience - combined with her experience from both inside and outside the UN - she has a unique perspective to share. And she’s also a lot of fun to talk to!
Christine shares lots of advice from her experience in areas such as:
imposter syndromefeeling stucknetworkingmentoring (as well as reverse mentoring, which was a new concept for me!)plus some very practical tips on moving into consultingI’m certain therefore that there is something to take away for every one of us and I really hope you will enjoy this interview as much as I did!
If you enjoyed this episode, then please think about sharing it with a colleague or a friend in the UN who might be motivated or inspired by Christine’s tips and advice.
See the full show notes at: www.barbarakandersen.com/24.
You can read more about Christine HERE.
If you're interested in more tips on going the consulting way, you can refer to the book Christine recommends in the interview: Elaine Biech: "The New Business of Consulting"
Work With Reality and Move Your UN Career Forward
Read the full show notes at www.barbarakandersen.com/23 where you’ll also find the 3 keys to take control of your own reality.
This episode is about a topic that is on the one hand very basic – but on the hand quite essential for how you can effectively - and successfully - deal with your career. And your life!
Simply put, it's about working with the reality you’re in!
Or dealing with the hand you’ve been dealt, you could say.
I’ve noticed how we spend a fair bit of time and energy wishing that things were different from what they are.
That's quite human and natural, but the problem is when we get stuck in dreaming of what the perfect state should be – and then lament about why the world isn’t like that.
And that’s just not very helpful when it comes to taking action to move forward in the direction you want to go.
One of my favourite teachers taught me this great sentence that has inspired and helped me a lot:
“When you fight reality, you lose. Not only every time – but every single time!”
Now, that doesn’t mean that we have to like or approve of the reality. Or that we have to keep living with it. But it means that we have to acknowledge – or accept - that the reality is what it is right now.
You have to acknowledge the reality of how your organisation operates, what the rules are, what your supervisor’s choices are, etc. Because only when you do that, can you find out what is the best way to move on – given the reality you’re operating in.
Read the full show notes at www.barbarakandersen.com/23
3 Keys to a To Do-List that Helps Your UN career
Hello, and welcome to this 4th episode in a small series I’ve called: “Plan and Succeed”.
Previously in this series, I’ve talked about effective planning principles, goalsetting and the underrated importance of having an overview. All of these things are of course interlinked and influence each other, but in this small series, I’m trying to take them apart a bit so that you can apply them more easily in your own work and life.
Find the FULL show notes at www.barbarakandersen.com/22 where you’ll also find the 3 keys to an effective to-do list.
Today's episode is about a very concrete element of your daily planning.
Feeling happy in your UN career certainly has a lot to do with for example having interesting work and good relationships with peers and supervisors. But a very fundamental requirement for happiness at work - which I think that both organisations and individuals overlook - is to feel that you’re in control of your work and can manage it with the time you have.
I’ve worked with several clients who felt stressed out and frustrated with their work when we started working together. They were wondering whether their job was still right for them and whether maybe they should find something else altogether.
And after working very consistently on creating an overview, establishing realism and solid prioritizations in their work they found out that that they still liked their work. They’d just lost overview and control which led to overwhelm and stress. (And I know from my own personal experience that it’s difficult to be happy at work when you’re stressed.)
But with that control re-established with effective planning tools that suited them their individual jobs and personalities, they came back and told me that they were happy with their work again.
First Create an Overview
In episode 19, I talked at some length about why you need to start by creating an overview for any kind of planning or effort to make time for important actions. If you haven’t already, I suggest you pause this episode and go back and listen to that episode which can find at www.barbarakandersen.com/19.
Without an overview, it’s like you’re standing in the valley looking up on the mountain. It’s very difficult to see what’s the best way to the top – or to find the easiest way to the valley on the other side. But if you can get an overview with a map, then you can plan the best path for yourself.
So, as I said, a key element of feeling happy with your work is to feel in control of your work. To know that you are in control of your time and your tasks – instead of you being controlled by work.
And one simple tool but very effective tool to help you with this is an effective to-do list.
Now, I can almost hear some of you say. "A to-do list? But Barbara, I have a to-do -list – and it just makes me feel overwhelmed!"
3 Common Problems with Most To-Do-Lists
Well, in my experience, there are some key elements that most people are missing when writing their to-do lists. And that’s exactly when it can lead to overwhelm instead of clarity of mind.
The 3 most important problems are:
A lot of people think they’re creating a to-do list, but in reality, they depend on their memory for many of their tasks and only write down some of them. In that way, you use a lot of energy trying to remember things. In fact, much more brainpower than you realise and that’s brainpower you need to do your work – instead of thinking about what is the next task. Read the full show notes at www.barbarakandersen.com/22.
Dr. Akjemal Magtymova: a career of dedication and diplomacy
I’m thrilled to be able to share in this episode an interview with my good friend, Dr. Akjemal Magtymova.
Akjemal is a national of Turkmenistan where she started her UN career in 1998 as a G5 programme assistant with UNFPA. Today (in 2021) she serves with WHO as a D2, Head of Mission and Representative in Syria.
I asked Akjemal to come on the podcast because she’s had – and has - a very interesting career and I’m fascinated by her approach to work and life and how she, together with her family, has made decisions for her career over the years. In the podcast she also shares her thoughts on mentorship and the importance of human relations, on passion in work – and much more.
Akjemal is used to being interviewed by newspapers and TV stations like Al Jazeera and BBC, so I’m honoured that she took the time to come on the show.
I always feel like I get an injection of UN pride when I talk to Akjemal and I think that in her reflections on her career there is something to take away for all of us.
And who knows? Maybe some of Akjemal’s reflections will inspire you in your own career?
If you enjoy this episode, then please consider sharing it with a colleague or a friend in the UN who might be motivated or inspired by Akjemal’s story.
You can either share the episode directly from your podcast app or you can send them a link to the podcast website at www.barbarakandersen.com/21.
Is It Time to Take the Next step in Your UN Career?
Is it time to get going?
Hello, and welcome to this short episode which is about a mindset issue that many of us struggle with:
When is it time to take the next step?
Or to use my favourite car analogy: When is it time to go from “being parked” to “start driving”?
Do you want something else?
For this episode, I was inspired by a conversation with a new client the other day where she shared with me how for several years she had been feeling, well... - not really happy in her job. She had a dream of “something else”, but she had not really been able to articulate that dream.
And she was also feeling a bit guilty about wanting something else because it was a good job that she was in. She felt she ought to be happy.
The reason she was talking to me about it was that she had finally reached that stage where she knew that she had to act. She could no longer stay in that “dreaming of something else” stage but needed to move to the next stage. She needed to take action.
Since she still wasn’t sure exactly what that “something else” should be, her first action step was to contact me and get help to figure that out.
Being stuck in the dream stage
And as we spoke, I was reminded of the time when I was in that dream stage (for lack of a better word) myself.
I spent a fair number of years where I was dreaming of something else, but where I didn’t really know what else to do.
Because there were many things to be happy about in my job.
I had great colleagues, a nice boss, interesting work responsibilities and I was working for a wonderful cause. But still, I was not satisfied. And I felt a bit guilty about not being happy.
When I told people about my job they were impressed. Thought it sounded really exciting. “Yes”, I said. “It is!”
And I thought: “That’s right. I ought to be happy!”
And still, I wasn’t. Not because there was anything wrong in any concrete way. But because I needed, and wanted, to move on. Learn new things. Use different sides of my skills. Meet new people.
It just wasn’t clear to me what that “something else” should be
I often meet clients who are in a similar situation. And I notice that it often also comes up when I speak to people in private contexts.
So, I have a very important point I want to make today:
It’s ok to want something else!
Even if you don’t have a clear career plan.
t’s ok that you want to quit and move to the next part. Do something else!
Maybe you’re right now longing to move on, but you’re worried about taking that next step. You’re concerned about the unknown.
Because you know what you’ve got, right? Even if you’re not super happy about what you’ve got.
And quite possibly you’re also exhausted from the daily grind you’re in and find it hard to muster the energy to make a move.
What are you missing out on while you're waiting?
On the weekend a good friend talked about the time when he took up his first management position. It had been a hard transition for him, but also very rewarding. And he reflected upon this and said: “I should have made that move much earlier.”
The reason why he had waited so long to make that move was that he was so comfortable with knowing his old job very well. He felt very competent there. And very safe. And there’s something to say for that of course.
But while waiting to take that step, he was missing out on personal and professional development. The excitement of learning and mastering new responsibilities. Have influence.
Read the full show notes at www.barbarakandersen.com/20