“Around 300 international students applied for the 65 available places at the last International Day,” explained Nienke Peters, Marketing & PR Commissioner of Erasmus Recruitment Days. Recruitment Days has organised a special recruitment day for international students for the past few years. It’s a day on which internationals can attend workshops and make personal contact with companies and recruiters who are seeking an international workforce.
Peters thinks it’s great to see the enthusiasm of international students on such a day. “They really grasped every opportunity: they handed out their CVs, engaged in discussions with companies and enquired about internship options.” According to Peters, the companies were just as enthusiastic. “The recruiters were really keen to come into contact with international students. They view the different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives that internationals bring with them as a real enrichment for their company.”
Campus Recruiter Ning-Hsuan Yen from Philips agrees. “Multinational companies like us are particularly always on the search for new international talent.” As Campus Recruiter, she recruits students for a first job or internship. Yen regularly visits campuses to make contact with students. “The labour market in the Netherlands is becoming increasingly competitive, but international students have just the same chance of finding a job as their Dutch counterparts.”
Yen was herself an international student from Taiwan. She completed her Finance and Investment master programme at RSM in 2014. As experience expert, she really understands the obstacles that international students face. In the EM survey, internationals indicate that the Dutch language and – for students from outside the EU – obtaining a work permit are the main obstacles. “I recognise that anxiety,” she explained. “These were obstacles for me too.” She eventually took Dutch lessons after her master degree and obtained an Orientation Year Visa. 1
“It’s certainly wise to learn Dutch, even if your future employer’s official working language is English,” advised Yen. In such cases, speaking Dutch is mainly useful in building social contacts. “Then you can at least engage in small talk with your Dutch colleagues.”
Yen also thinks non-EU students shouldn’t worry about the difficulties associated with obtaining a work permit. It is true that companies first have to seek candidates from within the EU – and they need to be able to prove this to the UWV – before appointing someone from outside the EU. But, explained Yen, this is usually the case if relocation is needed. “For international alumni from Dutch universities who already live in the Netherlands, the arrangements for a highly skilled migrant visa is simpler. Big multinational companies really won’t have any problems with this,” she explained. “So my tip is: stay in or go to the country in which you want to work. This makes everything easier to arrange for a company that wants to appoint you.”
Koen Knoop, Sales and Recruitment Manager at Undutchables, has another perspective. His company specialises in recruiting expats for companies in the Netherlands. So for him relocation is the norm. “If a company is being difficult about standing surety for your residency and work permit, then it probably doesn’t really see any need to hire international employees,” he said. “This also means that this is possibly not the right place for you as international.”
International students wish to stay in the Netherlands after getting their degrees
80 per cent of the students expect to have difficulty finding a job in the Netherlands.
As well as the language and work permit, international students are also confronted with a typical Dutch system, stated Irene Kroon, Career Development Manager at RSM Career Center. “For instance, for a traineeship, recruiters often look at ancillary activities, such as board membership or committee work, which are perhaps less accessible for international students.”
The RSM Career Center recently investigated where their international alumni end up. “The result differs hugely per study area, level of English and Dutch, personality and experience,” explained Kroon. “For the master programmes Supply Chain Management and Business Information Management, a non-EU student can find a job easily, while for HR and Accounting it’s quite difficult to find work if the student doesn’t speak Dutch.”
Kroon thinks internships are important. “Companies want to see that students can survive in the Dutch culture; an internship provides the best evidence of this.”
Forthermore, the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education Nuffic can help internationals as well. Via online information and physical activities Nuffic helps (international) students and alumni to find their way in the Dutch labor market. They organise, for instance, low-threshold career cafés and skills workshops.2
Passion is important
Both Yen and Knoop think that the Netherlands is open to internationals. “Of course it depends on your area of expertise: the more specific this is, the more difficult it is to find a job – simply because there are fewer jobs on offer than in the broader areas such as Economics or Management,” explained Knoop. “But if you have a background in, for instance, marketing or communications, there are certainly opportunities for you on the Dutch labour market.”
Sometimes international students even take precedence. “Companies are looking for someone to represent their business. So the more diverse their employees are, the better able they are to serve their international customers. That’s why the companies affiliated with us are specifically seeking people with a non-Dutch background,” explained Knoop.
Surviving in a foreign country
“Internationals are often also ambitious,” added Yen. “Perhaps because they’ve had to survive in a foreign country from day one, and have had to cope with a lot of uncertainties and have learned to be independent. They solve problems every day, from arranging public transport subscriptions to buying a bicycle or finding accommodation. These may seem minor achievements, but these things build their perseverance, flexibility and discipline. And such traits make it easier for them to operate in the business world.”
‘The Netherlands is internationally oriented, but you do have to be able to speak the language’
International Erasmus University Rotterdam students talk about their career…
But what are companies actually seeking? “Of course we’re also looking for the hard skills, for which you were trained during your studies,” Yen explained about the things recruiters are alert for. “But we also consider soft skills, such as your interpersonal skills or how you organise your time.” One thing that’s absolutely essential according to Yen: “I can’t emphasise enough that passion is important. I had an interview with a candidate for a job in our communications department two weeks ago. She was the first candidate and we decided to appoint her immediately before inviting the other candidates. This was because, in addition to her skills, she demonstrated so much passion for her field and position.”
Dorianne van Schaijk, EUR Career Advisor, also emphasises that international students have distinctive traits. “International students sometimes want to come across as Dutch. But they really shouldn’t do this,” stated Van Schaijk. “Career wise, Dutch students may appear to be stronger, but that isn’t always the case. Internationals have their advantages that many Dutch students don’t have, namely their international experience and perspective.”
“Absolutely,” responded Yen. “What I mainly see at Philips is that international employees contribute a lot to the growth of the company. As they come from different parts of the world, they also have a different view on work processes and that enriches the company.”
“In short, internationals shouldn’t be afraid to build a career in the Netherlands,” concluded Yen. “However, they do need to do their best to excel in their field, but that applies everywhere.”
Tips for job-seeking internationals from EUR’s career advisor Dorianne van Schaijk:
- Reflect – Everything starts with you, so know yourself, think carefully about what you want for your career.
- Conduct research – If you’re going to apply, research the company properly: what kind of company is it, what exactly is the company looking for, what are the mission and vision, read the annual report, really study them in depth. This will enable you to gain valuable information for your letter of application.
- Write a love letter – Your letter of application should be like a love letter in which you describe your genuine “passion” for the company or product (and you can do this if you’ve researched the company and know it really well).
- Don’t stay in your room – You don’t find your dream job by dreaming or writing loads of application letters while sitting at your desk. Get active, go outside, visit fairs, go networking, develop yourself, do an internship, do volunteer work. In a foreign country it’s a particularly important step to orient yourself and become familiar with that country’s people and customs.
- And don’t be too much of a perfectionist – You don’t need to find your dream job in one go. Take things one step at a time. And be aware that your career will have its ups and downs. That’s why number 1 is so important, as then you’re always clearly and consciously searching for something you’re passionate about.
Campus Talk: Are you prepared for a Dutch job hunt?
Werken in Nederland na je afstuderen, meer dan de helft van de internationale studenten…
- Non-EU/EEA students can request a residency permit to seek work after their studies: this is valid for 1 year and during this year they do not need a work permit to work or do internships in the Netherlands. ↩︎
- “We started the Holland Alumni network in 2009, a database full of alumni who successfully completed their studies in the Netherlands and have links with the Netherlands,” explained Van Donselaar. This network uses online information services and arranges events and activities to help national and international students and alumni find their way in the Dutch labour market. Van Donselaar: “We’ve also trained Holland Career Ambassadors, an enthusiastic group of volunteers and experience experts who offer students information and tips about starting a career in the Netherlands.” ↩︎