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Webinar takeaways: How to start/continue your career in these changing times?

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From November 16 to November 20 was the Week of the International Student. As like any other event in 2020, it was hosted online. On Tuesday November 17, the Holland Alumni network hosted a webinar titled How to start/continue your career in these changing times? Three guest speakers were invited to have a conversation about this: Kristina Bouree, Warris Jacob and Octavian Partenie. Having different educational backgrounds, all studied in the Netherlands and shared their experiences with current students and recent graduates.

A fruitful discussion followed that covered the topics of disadvantages international students may experience in the Netherlands, the use of LinkedIn, Dutch language proficiency, and sending CVs to potential employers. 

The webinar was a success, the discussion between the Holland Career Ambassadors was going very well and the viewers posed interesting question. Here we sum up a few of the takeaways of the webinar. 

Coming in alone

Quickly judging, there are several big disadvantages that might pop up to being an international student or alumni in the Netherlands. Not only do you not speak the language yet, there is in most cases no family to stay at, like most Dutch student do. As you are coming into the country new, you are likely not to have a network like your Dutch peers yet. 

However, coming from abroad has its own advantages. Kristina’s observation is that if you are from a relatively turbulent place (such as Russia, where Kristina is from herself), you are probably more used to adapting quickly to a new environment and overcoming sudden hurdles. This is a big advantage you have compared to your Dutch colleagues.

(Online) CV

Switching from in-person interviews to online interviews means that jobseekers are way more active on LinkedIn. If you are in search of a job, you should be too! Make sure that your LinkedIn is perfect. That means, fill in all empty fields, keep it updated, upload a nice, casual, not too-casual picture of yourself, and interact with people.

For more LinkedIn tips, read one of our previous articles.

Keep making connections. To keep yourself in your connections’ minds, write a short introductory text when sending the connection request. Another tip, if you are in pursue of a job at a specific company, find someone with a similar background to you, and connect with them. Ask them for tips and also ask them about their experiences. Things you can use as common background or interest are nationality, university, hobby, languages, etc. Browse their profiles!

Coming from another country means that you take with you a load of knowledge about your own country, culture and habits. You can apply these to your new environment, and in this way expand not only your own horizon, but also the horizon of your peers and classmates.

Being an international student or alumni has many disadvantages in NL, no Dutch, no parents for free housing, no network. But also advantages, such as turbulent environment of Russia, and being used to overcome problems that come quickly.

Unlike your Dutch peers, you will be more used to speaking English everywhere. This will help you in your job, as jobs in the Netherlands are getting increasingly English-focused. 

No experience is OK

As experienced by all three speakers, having no work experience is OK. Everyone has to start somewhere. There is, however, one thing that is greatly valued by Dutch employers. Namely, the drive to work. In your CV, show that you are willing to work. You can show this by having had a side job alongside your studies, or by being a volunteer somewhere. It shows your soft skills, which are equally important to the other skills required for your dream job!

Learning Dutch

As Warris phrased it nicely: “I am fluent in Dutch. Would my career be any less if I weren’t fluent? No. Did my Dutch skills help me in my career? Absolutely.” Octavian added that it is important to show willingness to learn the language. For an interview, it is great to show that you can have a basic conversation. Start in Dutch: “Hoi, hoe gaat het?” It goes a long way, and creates the impression that you really want to commit to a career in the Netherlands. No company will hire someone who they think will leave soon anyway!

If you really want to commit yourself to learning the language, take out the time. Ask your colleague to help you sometimes. For example, have a 30-minute video call where you practice your speaking skills every week. Many people, even though they may not be teachers, are very willing to help you! Other resources you can use are apps like Duolingo, to get a first impression and to learn basic phrases. Many language course that were traditionally taught locally, have now also switched to online classes, making them even more accessible to you. Octavian ended his tips with: “The only real difference I see between my expat friends who speak Dutch and those who do not, is commitment and dedication.”

Sending CV

Sending CVs will become a daily task for you if you are at the end of your studies and want to start your career in the Netherlands. Though it is time consuming, Warris said that it is better to tailor your CV to every job position you apply to. It shows that you do things carefully and with attention to detail, which is something every employer wants.

And last but not least, try to keep your CV short and use the right keywords for the job. If you do not have a work experience, that is fine. Focus your CV on the things you do have: your education and experiences on the side. Short CVs are more likely to be read by recruiters than long ones, so more chance for you to end up on the to-call list!

Thank you Kristina, Octavian and Warris for being part of and sharing your experiences during this webinar. We hope that everyone who tuned in for the show has enjoyed the tips and tricks, and will have a smooth road in finding a job.

For more information about finding a job, feel free to check out some pages on the Holland Alumni network website! Haven’t registered yet? Do so quickly, to engage with fellow students and alumni!

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