“Know what you want, and be focused and creative.” In a nutshell, that’s Stella Pennekamp’s advice for expats seeking new job opportunities in the Netherlands. Pennekamp runs Orange Expats, a career and personal development coaching service for internationals living in the Amsterdam area.
Since the economic crisis, many expats have faced contract terminations or have had their workloads increased to make up for the loss of colleagues who were let go. Others have been wary about changing jobs given the insecure environment.
But with the economy showing signs of recovery, it’s now time to think about dusting off the CV and taking the next career step. Pennekamp offers her professional advice on how to proceed.
Where to begin?
Finding a new job begins with self analysis, says Pennekamp. You have to know what you want. It sounds obvious, perhaps, but many job seekers fail to take this important step.
According to Pennekamp, it’s important to look at the complete picture of yourself before you start sending out applications: what do you like to do? What are your strengths? Where do you want to be in the future? What drives you? During her career coaching sessions, Pennekamp helps you to answer these and other important questions.
Focus your approach
Once you know what kind of job you want, the next step is to plan your strategy for getting it. “One of the first things I find out from clients is what they know and don’t know about the job market,” Pennekamp says. This includes knowing where to search for a job, and keeping focused in your search so you do not waste time applying for jobs that are actually not a good fit.
When you have taken the time to know what you want, Pennekamp says, then you are in a better position to focus your search and apply for jobs for which you are actually suited, and in which you are actually interested. Then you can customise your CV and letter of interest in such a way that shows potential employers that you are not only qualified, but genuinely enthusiastic.
Making a decision
Receiving a job offer is exciting, but deciding to take the plunge and make the change can be difficult. Sometimes it feels too risky and daunting to leave a known situation, even if it’s not ideal, and leap into a new one. This can be particularly true for expats who are less familiar with Dutch working culture.
Pennekamp helps job seekers work through the decision-making process. She advises clients to evaluate each career choice by listing the pros and cons of all aspects of their current job and new opportunity. For example, perhaps a new job offers a higher salary, clearly a benefit, but means more travel and a longer commute, which may be a negative.
This kind of list, according to Pennekamp, can tell you a lot about how your job will fit in to your lifestyle and contribute or detract from your general happiness. It can really help you make a decision that is informed and that you can be confident about.
“Career coaching is really about gaining insight and knowledge and adapting behaviour,” Pennekamp says. “You need insight into your personal and career goals, and knowledge about the job market and the cultural environment. You combine this with understanding and partly changing your behaviour to reach your goals,” Pennekamp says.
And once you’ve been through the coaching process, the gains are lasting. “Once you have had a sufficient package of coaching, it gives you skills that you can apply each time you want to make a change,” Pennekamp says.
Preparing your CV
It can be particularly challenging for expats to understand differences in the Dutch business culture. How you write a CV or letter of interest may be different here than in your home country. (See Orange Expats Top Tips: Writing CVs for Dutch employers.)
Networking is key!
Networking is essential in today’s job market, and this can pose additional challenges for expats who have fewer connections in the Netherlands. One important networking tool is LinkedIn. According to Pennekamp, over 2 million people working in Holland use the site. Keep your profile up to date, and actively seek out companies and connections.
Other networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter can also help the savvy job seeker find important leads. Use these tools and above all, be proactive— Less than 30 percent of jobs are actually advertised according to recent statistics. Simply visiting HR sites and looking at newspaper want ads is not sufficient.
Using LinkedIn to network effectively
LinkedIn can be a very handy tool for your job search, and it is very popular with employers, recruiters and job seekers in the Netherlands. Make sure you keep your profile current, and indicate that you are interested in career opportunities so potential employers and recruiters know you are looking!
By Stella Pennekamp