How to make the most of the employment crisis

Orange Expats coachThe economic climate is especially difficult for expats, who may be faced with sudden redundancy and the need to relocate. Career coach Stella Pennekamp offers expats professional advice on handling the crisis, and even turning it to your advantage.

Life as an expat can be tough and the current economic situation presents added difficulties for those working abroad. Many expat workers have already been made redundant and may be faced with the prospect of having to find a new job quickly or having to relocate. Knowledge migrants in particular must find a new job within three months in order to retain their status.

Expats fortunate enough to still be in employment may nevertheless have to deal with a mounting workload as colleagues are made redundant, on top of the uncertainty of whether their own contract will be terminated next, while new job opportunities are scarce.

It is only too easy to see the employment situation as bleak or even hopeless. Yet Stella Pennekamp, a career and lifestyle coach specialising in supporting expats in the Netherlands, urges expats to think and act positively during these difficult times and offers practical advice on how best to handle the crisis.

Motivation through education

The crucial thing, she believes, is to be—and stay—motivated in your role, and the key to staying motivated is personal development through education and training.

“Companies have lost a lot of people so the rest need to work more, be more flexible and have broader skills and capabilities. So now is the time to do extra training; it’ll be appreciated by your current or future employer and you’ll be a more attractive employee.”

Motivated employees are more effective, more flexible and more productive, as well as producing better quality work; all major plus points for employers, looking to get maximal leverage from a restricted workforce.

And importantly, if you’re more motivated then you’ll be happier in your work and, hopefully, healthier. “Just be careful not to become so motivated that you work too hard and burn yourself out!” warns Stella, mindful of the poor work–life balance so many expat workers—keen to perform and impress—suffer from.

It may sound near impossible to make time for personal development in the current climate but Stella insists that it’s worth the effort. “Personal development is highly valued in the Netherlands, so it can be really effective to discuss the possibilities with your manager and write a personal development plan together.”

Re-evaluate your career path

She goes on to encourage people—whether currently employed or looking for a job—to take the time to think about their career path.

“Everyone has some moments in their life when they get stuck in their career path. Then it’s good to think things through again and ask yourself is this what I want to continue doing or would I like to take another path? And that’s where I help.”

Stella, a career and lifestyle coach for five years now, founded Orange Expats just over a year ago, providing specialist coaching services for expats in the Netherlands. Hired by both individuals and organisations employing expats in the Netherlands, she creates tailor-made support packages to help expats define and achieve their personal and professional goals.

The crisis could be the impetus for disenchanted, stuck-in-a-rut expats to kick-start a fresh career for themselves.

“If you’re in the finance sector, for example, and made redundant, and there just aren’t any jobs, you can reconsider your career path,” says Stella. “You’ll probably have done many different things in the last year and you can take this chance to evaluate whether you’d now prefer to pursue a particular aspect of your previous job or perhaps even consider a total career switch.”

Focus your efforts

What you definitely should not do, on the other hand, is apply for any and every vacancy you find.

“There are many people trying to find a job at the moment and HR get a lot of CVs. But what is obvious now is that many people are applying for jobs even though they don’t match the vacancy well.”

Be selective in the jobs you apply for; is this something you can do and that you would like to do? By focussing on suitable vacancies, you can take the time to fine-tune your CV for each one and make your application stand out from the pile.

“It’s more important than ever to know how to write a good CV and cover letter, and to know what your career goals are, so that recruiters are able to do their job better; to more easily see, yes, this is a good match, this is exactly what I’m looking for.”

Beautiful moment

Of course, the best course of action will be different for everyone. Perhaps now is the perfect opportunity to take a year off and travel, or take the sabbatical you always dreamed of.

But for everyone it’s worthwhile to take stock of where you are in your career and where you’re headed, and to make sure that it’s where you want to be. When you know you’re back on the right track, when you feel you’ve really got a grip on your life and your career, that, says Stella, is the mooi moment (‘beautiful moment’).

By Stella Pennekamp

Orange Expats 6 Hints:
Writing CVs for Dutch employers

  1. Above all, keep it short! Your CV should be a maximum of two pages.
  2. Give a clear overview of your work experience, highlighting what you’ve done that is relevant to the vacancy you’re applying for.
  3. A statement of your career objective is not typically Dutch but can be helpful.
  4. Don’t be tempted to give your whole history and overload the recruiter with irrelevant information.
  5. Include your knowledge of languages, including Dutch, if relevant: your writing and speaking levels, and what is your mother tongue.
  6. Finish by saying something about any hobbies that are relevant to the vacancy; hobbies speak volumes about what sort of person you are—whether you’re a team player, whether you like to travel—which employers need to see if you fit in their company/team.

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