Senior Policy Advisor
Maria Döll works as a Senior Policy Advisor at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development
How did you get your current job?
It was a regular online application. Unfortunately, my first application was denied (as I had not yet gained the minimum of two years working experience). However, the second application was successful and I was invited to participate in a two-day assessment centre, which included a job interview, a group discussion, a presentation, an essay as well as oral and written language tests.
Why do you think they chose you for the job?
Often, having a master's degree is a necessary, but not sole prerequisite to succeed in finding a good job. I was chosen for my current position due to a mixture of factors, such as experience abroad (Cambodia, China, France), language skills in at least two UN languages and a minimum of two years of relevant work experience. In addition, the variety of working/internship experience gained had a positive role to play: NGOs, a political foundation as well as my positions at the German Federal Parliament in Berlin.
What are your main duties?
The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development develops the guidelines and the fundamental concepts on which German development policy is based. It devises long-term strategies for cooperation with the various players concerned and defines the rules for implementing that cooperation. These are the foundations for developing shared projects with partner countries and international development organisations.
As the ministry employs generalists, every couple of years people shift positions, working on as different issues as bilateral/multilateral development cooperation, sectoral themes or public relations. Also, employees can go abroad working at embassies or multilateral bodies. All these opportunities make the job very attractive throughout working life.
What are you working on just now?
Currently, I am responsible for the cooperation with UNHCR, the budget for Asia within the special Initiative for Refugees "Tackling the root causes of forced displacement, reintegrating refugees" and an employment project in the MENA region and Eastern Africa.
Most of my job is about communication: It is important to include all relevant stakeholders, such as other in-house divisions and implementing partners. Consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also play a vital role in my everyday working life. In managing the federal budget, I also spend quite some time on technical issues so as to make sure that funds are being utilised within certain timeframes following correct procedures.
How do you apply your qualifications from the Department of Sociology and Human Geography in your work?
The study programme conveyed knowledge on methodology and methods that is paramount in order to evaluate information in an independent and critical manner. Moreover, being able to quickly extract essential information from, and establishing useful links between, different sources of information is a skill that I use on a day-to-day basis.
The specialisation in development geography offered essential food for thought on issues such as geopolitics, social security and employment which all play a role in my current tasks.
What is your top tip for students who want to be attractive in the job market?
Make use of what the University of Oslo Career Centre has to offer, such as courses on job applications. This was very helpful to me.
In addition, you should do quite some (online) research on your envisioned position and future employer. But most importantly: do some networking! Try to meet with people over lunch who perform exactly the job that you are envisioning. Ask them how they experienced the application process and what is important for your possible future employer to find in a job candidate. This way, you can find out which skills are crucial and how to build your CV in order to succeed.