Interview: Public Information Assistant

In collaboration with Career Services, NUTS has conducted two interviews for you that hopefully will help you with making a decision regarding your future job. Together with the RUG Career Services we have created this mini-series, consisting of two interviews, that will shine a light on non-stereotypical jobs you are able to get after graduating from the program English Language and Culture.

Today, we will introduce you to the job of a Communication / Public Information Assistant at the UNHCR with Stefan Bulatović. 

 

What does your job entail and what do you like the most (and the least)?

In my role as a Communication/Public Information Assistant, I provide support to communication activities at UNHCR in Montenegro. This involves developing communication and advocacy strategies, monitoring media reporting on refugee and asylum issues, producing various kinds of reports and updates, drafting press releases, writing web stories, organizing various events and managing the organization’s social media platforms. I also provide communication assistance to the Representative and senior staff, particularly by keeping them abreast of developments relevant to UNHCR’s work in Montenegro and providing them with relevant inputs and key messages for media interviews. The most exciting part of my job is the process of creating human interest stories about refugees, as these enable me to amplify the voices of those who have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety. What I enjoy the least is the administrative procedures that you need to complete when organizing events or developing visibility materials, but that’s necessary in order to ensure that everything is done according to UNHCR’s standards. 

 

How did you get from your university program to the job you have now?

After completing my Research MA in Linguistics at the University of Groningen, I went back to Montenegro and started teaching at the University of Montenegro as an adjunct English language instructor. In the meantime, I saw a vacancy announcement on the local UN website seeking a candidate to fill the position of Communication/PI Assistant and decided to apply. I was confident that I stood a good chance, as I had completed a BA in English and a two-year master’s programme at a reputable university, while I had also acquired some professional experience by working at a local media & translation agency, at the university and, most importantly, at UNHCR. In particular, before the period of study in Groningen, I had already served for 8 months at UNHCR as a UN Volunteer, covering the position of Operations Assistant. I was well familiar with the organization’s mandate in Montenegro and I knew most of the colleagues, so I believed I could easily fit in (again). After a demanding recruitment process, which included a two-hour written test and an interview, I was informed several weeks later that I got the job! I was super excited, but also aware that I needed to live up to the expectations and give my best to justify the trust that had been placed in me.

 

Do you feel like this job is perfect for you or would you like to move on after a while and why?

I believe that working in an international organization such as UNHCR is an opportunity that many people dream about, and I’ve been lucky to have such a dream come true. Yet, as we live in an ever-changing world, it’s rather difficult to think in absolute terms and hence classify jobs (and other aspects of life) as ‘perfect’. It takes so many factors for something to be perfect and what seems like a perfect fit at one point in life might not be at another. I’m of the opinion that in order to stay competitive on the market, one should learn continuously, acquire new skills and keep up with the latest trends and developments. That said, while this job has helped me learn so much – and I am immensely grateful for that – it’s been more than four years since I joined the organization. At the moment I am involved on a consultant basis, as I’ve recently started my PhD, so will dedicate more time to my research in the coming period and seek to gain new expertise that I hope to use in the future. I also do some volunteer work at a local association that promotes cycling and sustainable urban mobility. This might appear challenging, but I find it very exciting and I believe this constant change is something that keeps me going. 

 

 

Is there any particular job-related mistake that you made that taught you a valuable lesson about (your) work and would you like to share this? (1) 

As this is quite a dynamic position, you need to have a whole set of different skills in order to meet the expectations. Apart from a genuine interest in humanitarian causes and refugee issues, you need to have an excellent command of both English and the local language. The knowledge of other UN languages (Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese or Arabic) is a plus, but not a requirement. Furthermore, as the job involves a lot of writing and reporting, you naturally need to have good writing skills, including skills to tailor your messages to different audiences. Other capabilities include editing, translation and interpreting skills, along with decent computer literacy. Just as these ‘hard skills’ are essential, so are the soft ones. In particular, a person in this position should possess strong communication and interpersonal skills, as this is crucial for forming and maintaining relationships with your colleagues, as well as with journalists, various stakeholders and, naturally, refugees. Political awareness, creativity and the ability to adapt are also some of the core competencies for this role. 

 

Is there any particular job-related mistake that you made that taught you a valuable lesson about (your) work and would you like to share this? (2)

Mistakes are part of any job and we all make them. I generally tend not to dwell on them, but rather see them as experience. If you were to ask me if there is something I would have done differently, then I could probably list a number of things, For instance, in the first months of my job I wanted so hard to prove myself worthy of the role, so I ended up taking on more tasks than I could handle. However, I quickly learned how to estimate the time I would need to complete a task, so my organizational style moved up to a new level. 

 

Thank you, Stefan for your lovely answers and we hope that you all will tune in for the next interview, next week!