On April 23th 2021, the Hertie School Security Club had the pleasure to welcome Mr. Jorgen Christian Gad Justesen-Jørgensen, Chief of NATO Protocol and Secretary of the North Atlantic Council for a mentoring session. After Mr. Lorenz Meyer-Minnemann (see mentoring session March 29th, 2020), this marked the second time a member of NATO’s most senior management staff agreed to mentor the HSSC.
After graduating from the Copenhagen Law School, Mr. Justesen-Jørgensen, who is widely known as J.C., first worked in the energy sector for companies like Alfa Laval in Hamburg or A/S Dansk Shell before he moved to the Danish Ministry of Defense working inter alia as Assistant Defense Advisor at the Danish Delegation to NATO. After his assignment at the Danish Delegation, he then moved to the team of then Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He held the positions of the Private Secretary to the Secretary General, the Deputy Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General, and currently the Chief of Protocol and the Secretary of the North Atlantic Council under Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Although JC’s resume might suggest that he was aiming for certain positions from the outset, a very different picture emerged in direct conversation. Life is only predictable to a certain extent, and career paths are often unfathomable. Therefore, one of his key messages to the HSSC was: Keep your goals in sight, but never forget to enjoy the journey!
These were his mentoring points for good professional development:
(1) Don’t obsess just about your one professional goal. When working toward your long-term career goals, don’t just focus on one career goal. A career goal is important, but along the way, opportunities will arise that may be a much better fit for you than the goal you set for yourself at the beginning. Make sure that your career goal isn’t the only thing that makes you happy and that you retain enough flexibility to change careers if necessary – in the end, it’s not about objective success, it’s about finding the career that makes you the happiest inside.
(2) Reach for a holistic personal development. Professional success is not just about getting to the top, it’s also about staying there. Therefore, work not only on your professional skills, but above all on your personality: What kind of person do you want to be? What are your own values? How do you want to lead? Rest assured that you won’t stay at the top for long without an internal answer to these questions.
(3) Leadership is not a title, it’s a choice! You don’t have to be in a leadership position to lead. You can decide at any moment to take on leadership responsibilities. Ask yourself: What is important to you? Use your skills in line with your values to inspire others. Then you decide to lead, and everything else will follow.
(4) Try to be the leader you want to have. Each of us has probably been led at one time or another. Remember how you want to be led and lead that way. Here he recommended the book: Turn the ship around by L. David Marquet.
(5) Think about why people do what they do. This is true for yourself, but also for others. What drives you or others? In dealing with yourself, be honest with yourself! What fires your internal engine? What is it that gets you up every morning and motivates you to work? Because you can be sure that without knowing your internal engine, you will run out of breath.
(6) Learn to maneuver between “keeping options open” and “taking tough decisions”. Observe how current leaders make decisions and observe how you are making decisions right now. Good leaders must have a knack for either leaving options open or making responsible often far-reaching decisions (which often don’t come easily) at the right moment. This is something you can practice.
(7) Never stop learning. Even after 50 years of leadership experience, you will still learn something new. Leadership means giving guidance to other people. For this, you have to get involved with other people and constantly be open to accepting new things for yourself to not lose the connection to your people. If you stop being open, you will not be able to lead for long.
Finally, J.C. gave us three main takeaways to apply well to an employer and especially to NATO: Ask yourself before applying: Why me? Why NATO? Why this job?
(1) Why me? This is not necessarily about the resume, but about the situations in which you have demonstrated qualities required for the job. Ask yourself at least 100 times in the shower: Who am I? What can I do? Where can I bring this to bear? And then, build on your shower work and explain in the application what your strengths are, in what specific examples you’ve shown them, and how you plan to bring them to your future job.
(2) Why NATO? Ask yourself: How does NATO and its mission fit with you as a personal being? What inspires you about NATO? Why do you want to provide your services to NATO so badly? There are thousands of good jobs out there, so why is it NATO you are striving for?
(3) Why this specific job? Bear in mind the exact job you are applying for. Get to grips with that particular job. There is nothing worse than generic answers in an application.
Finally, JC gave us probably the most important of all advice on the way: The job search is not a game in which you can win and lose. Follow your inner feeling. In the end, what counts is that you are happy with your job – so be honest with yourself and also have the courage to quit the most socially prestigious job if it doesn’t fulfill you.
We thank J.C. very much for these personal insights and his advice. We are sure that these key insights have inspired many of the participants.
We also look forward to hosting further mentoring sessions and sharing our experiences with our audience!