Work hard, network and do internships

Read about Margarita's journey towards her dream job in international law: working with human rights issues at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Image may contain: Necklace, Forehead, Face, Smile, Skin.

It is important to stay open to various ways to achieve your goals, says Margarita (photo: private)

Margarita Avramtcheva currently works for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she's a policy officer in the Multilateral Organisations and Human Rights Department.

– I work at the Political and Legal UN cluster, with a focus on achieving accountability for grave international crimes. Examples of such crimes would be human rights violations, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. I look into how the Netherlands can support the fight against impunity in conflict regions. To achieve this, I liaise with partner UN-organisations. We also work with victim and survivor organisations from these regions, she says.

Additionally, together with her colleagues she develops their national policy and strategy at multilateral UN fora such as the Human Rights Council in Geneva and the UN General Assembly in New York. At the same time, they also aim to keep their national counterparts informed, such as the minister and the parliament.

–  Do you get to use your educational background in your job? How?

– Most certainly, she exclaims. – I use international law every day with almost every issue that I encounter at my job. In order to understand how and what type of mandates would support accountability is conflict regions, it is essential to have a very firm grasp on international legal principles. Additionally, I did a specialisation in international criminal law and humanitarian law at UiO, which has proven incredibly useful when promoting the persecution of precisely this kind of crimes.

UiO also gave Margarita the opportunity to represent Norway in two international legal competitions: Telders International Moot Court Competition (PIL) and the Jean-Pictet Humanitarian Law Competition (IHL). Mooting is an excellent way to not only put the theoretical legal knowledge into practise, but it also challenges students to delve very deep into contemporary legal issues.

– Part of the legal field requires skills that can only be taught outside the lecture hall, such as teamwork, advocacy, presentation, diction and many others. It also gave me the chance to network; international law is a very select discipline and it has turned out to be a small world where almost everyone knows each other, Margarita says.

Networking and internships

When asked what the most important thing Margarita learned from her studies, she says she tried to use every opportunity that the program gave her.

– I participated in tournaments, I volunteered, I got some extra credit with additional classes and met with as many different people as possible. It is important to stay open to various ways to achieve your goals and to go out of your way if you have to. Grades are not the most important part of the studies; the broad scale of experiences and skills that you can demonstrate are, she says.

During her masters, Margarita landed two internships. The first internship was for six months at the UN Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (formerly known as the Yugoslavia Tribunal or ‘ICTY’, editor's remark) in the Office of the Prosecutor, Trial Division. The second internship was at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the International Law Division of the legal department.

– After this internship I was able to land a temporary position in the Treaties Division of the same legal department. After a year passed I transitioned into my current position. Looking back on it, the way my career has started might seem to be a very natural flow of events and developments, but the truth is that getting to where I am now has been quite hard. I am very grateful for the opportunities that I had to get this job; but I would have never gotten this far without constantly pushing myself to be better, she says.

A difficult journey

Margarita states that international law is a very difficult field to get into; the amount of job positions available are small while at the same time there are many who want to pursue a career in the field.

– I realised this during my internship at the UN, where over the summer there were no less than 17 unpaid interns for roughly half the amount of lawyers. Therefore, I would advise two things. Firstly, it is easier to first gain experience in national law and then transition into international law. If you are unable to do this, like I was, start internships as soon as possible. You can never have too many internships; getting international legal experience is incredibly precious and is a decisive factor in you landing your first job. Most internships are unfortunately unpaid, so at first glance they might not seem worth it, but the connections you get from your time there are invaluable. If you are unable to do these internships, I would still advise to make yourself as unique and interesting as possible through extracurricular activities. These activities make you stand out from the gigantic crowd and you might also get some important connections in the process, she advices.

Her second advice would be to start networking as early on as you can. Job opportunities are often not shared publicly, and you never know when someone might help you with the next step in your career.

– Do you have any further career plans and aims?

– I would like to continue my international career; it does not have to be focused solely on law, but it definitely has to have at least a bit of a legal side, she says. – In the future I might apply to become a diplomat or decide to work for a human rights organisation in Japan. I will try my hand at as many opportunities that I might get, so who knows where I will end up.

Name: Margarita Avramtcheva

Age: 24

Studies: LL.M. Public International Law, (finished 2020)

Work Place: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Published Mar. 7, 2022 8:41 AM - Last modified Mar. 7, 2022 12:59 PM