Getting a job in the Netherlands, even without a Dutch education

As an immigrant, I was in your situation. Studying in Europe, lots of us dream of building a professional career here. However, this is not an easy dream to achieve. Our immigrant title alone already undervalues us in the eyes of the recruiter for multiple reasons. Despite many disadvantages, some still succeed in this strenuous quest to land a job. 

In my case, I have a French degree but I needed to search for a job in a different country, as I did not speak French at all. But, that was all in 2019. Now, after a long period of job seeking, I am working for a Dutch start-up company in the Netherlands. 

In this article, I will not only mention common advice on Google on how to find a job. Because we are non-EU immigrants, we need more than a universal approach to move ahead with our job-search journey. I hope these advices will help you land on the job you want, despite our disadvantages compared to native job seekers.

Strengthen your profile

Not CV, but it is your profile that you have to improve first. A weak profile means a bad CV. Hence, it is critical to invest in a strong profile! 

‘Profile’ here includes: 

(1) Education

Obviously, having a degree from a highly-ranked university is beneficial. However, you should also consider how good those schools are with getting job opportunities for students, such as the quality of the career fair. Also, for some universities, there could be many firms attending a job fair, but many of them have offers for native speakers only. Hence, you should look out for universities with extensive connections with companies that have vacancies for English speakers. Universities that have strong relationships with companies can help you to have an advantage when applying for the positions 

(2) Experience 

If you do not have a lot of internships, school projects are a valuable experience that you can invest in. These are alternatives which you can put in your CV to show your competence. For example, in my case, I used to include a link in my CV to Github, where I store all of my school projects to demonstrate coding my experience.  

(3) Reference

For those who have not had any prior working experience in Europe, you could search for job reference using the following methods:

  • Attend your school Alumni’s event. This allows you to connect to international alumni who have the same background as you.
  • Go to Linkedin/Meetup events. By joining groups or events with people having common skills or backgrounds, you can further expand your network and might even find opportunities from there. For example, as I am working in tech, I am joining a group called ‘R Ladies in Amsterdam’. The group’s objective is to promote R coding skills among women in Amsterdam/Netherlands. In this group, not only am I able to study many interesting things, but also I have the chance to widen my professional network in the Netherlands.

(4) Skill

When building your skill profile, always ask yourself 3 important questions:

  1. What do my future recruiters need in general? (Find it)
  2. How do I improve those skills? (Make it)
  3. How can I prove those skills? (Prove it)

Do not just rely on what you can learn in schools, as unfortunately, they are often one step behind the industry demand. Instead, you could try reaching out to professionals on Linkedin. They are more open minded and helpful than you think, and can actually advise you on what skills are most needed in the business world. 

Another thing is to be proactive in learning. Thanks to the internet, we all have access to various learning channels. Hence, even if you find an important skill that the school curriculum does not offer yet, you can learn it online. For example, if you want to become a Data Analyst or Data Scientist, you could improve your analytical and engineering skills by joining online platforms such as Kaggle – the online community of data scientists and machine learning practitioners. 

At the end of the day, all recruiters have the same target: searching for the right candidates which can do the job. To make them believe us, make sure you know how to prove your skills.

Ignore Recruiters, Target Your Future-To-Be Teammates

It is not rare to see your CV being rejected in the first round, even when you think you are a perfect match. The reasons could be, but not limited to: 

(1) You are not from their top universities. 

(2) You are an immigrant and HR thinks it is complicated to process your papers. 

(3) You do not speak the right language. Even for vacancies that only require English, they sometimes still prefer to hire someone that could speak the local languages.

It would be easier to make it into the interview round if you have a reference. In the case that you do not know anyone working in the company, you could search for the companies you are applying for, and look for the employees working in the team of that job. You can send a message to a few of them with a proper introduction, and ask them to consider your CV. Not all of them will reply, but not all of them will refuse to answer either. You only need one ‘yes’ to get a job 😉 Besides asking for a referral, you can also ask for tips and advice from them regarding the application process.

Prepare two Types of CV

Prepare two types of CV: (1) General CV and (2) Customized CV. 

Often, you apply for more than one job. If you apply for 300 companies like me, you do not have much time to prepare a CV for every single company. So obviously, you need a general template.

Yet, there are some vacancies that you are really interested in, or you feel like you have a much higher chance than other people. Then, you can customize your CV to make it an even better fit for the position, and it might increase your chance of getting accepted to the next round.

Speed Up Your Application Process

As soon as you see a vacancy, apply for it as fast as possible. Some companies apply the first come first serve policy in their job application process. Therefore, the position will be closed once they find the suitable person(s). When I was applying for a German company, I applied on Monday, got the interview schedule on Tuesday, talked to HR on Wednesday, and got rejected on Thursday. Yes, all in the same week! Even in my Dutch company, HR only spent 3-4 days to shortlist the CV. So, remember to be ready and speedy. 

Look for Help Around you

Not all of us are fortunate enough to have good support from our school, hence you cannot rely too much on that. Try to look for less conventional sources of help. 

What I did was simply try to apply as much as possible, get as many interviews as I could. At the end of each interview, I tried asking them what I needed to improve and noted them down. Please, never be afraid to ask for help, even from your own recruiters. 

Make use of Facebook and other social media, as there are quite a lot of specialized groups. I even saw a Facebook group where people look for partners to practice McKinsey interview cases. There are always communities that can support you which you might not know of!

Final Words

To summarize, before preparing the CV, always remember to create a better profile of yourself first. Do not just rely on recruiters, search for help and references around, even future employers or could-be future teammates on Linkedin. Do not be too slow in your job searching process: apply for the positions immediately once you see them! 

These tips are what I have learned from my 3-month job search. I know that many of you have been tirelessly applying every day and heard no answers from any employers. It is a difficult time, especially with the pandemic going on, but keep your determination and take this time to strengthen your profile. I wish you best of luck in your job seeking process!

This article was edited by Hanh Pham.

About our guest writer

Tam is currently working as a Data Analyst in Plotwise, based in Netherlands. At the age of 25, she gave up her job in a Vietnamese banking firm and went to France for her studies before moving to Netherlands to build a career from ground zero, outside of financial industry. Tam is here today to encourage people to step out of your comfort zone. “When one door closes, another opens” – Alexander Graham Bell.

To know more about Tam, visit her profile on LinkedIn.

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