After growing up and completing his studies in Milan and Rome, Grandi started off his career at the UNHCR office more than 30 years ago. At the start he was serving in countries effected by the Gulf war, as well as emergency operations including situations in Yemen, Afghanistan and Ghana, just to name a few. He then stepped into the position as the Field Coordinator at the UNHCR and specifically focused on operations in the Republic of Congo. From 2001 to 2004, Grandi served as the Chief of Mission for the UNHCR and took on key roles in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
Grandi was appointed to take on the office as the High Commissioner for refugees in 2015, and since then has been re-elected by the UN General Assembly. He has also been active as a member of the Global Future council at the World Economic Forum and obtains an honorary doctorate from the University of Coventry.