Yesterday I attended The International Career Café, as a guest speak on a round table about job searching in The Netherlands. This was an online event organised by NL Alumni Network, Here2Work and Here2Start– an informal get-together of young international professionals: International students and alumni who are interested in starting a career in the Netherlands.

Most of the 70 attendees were young professionals and undergraduates with a solid desire to kick off their career here in the Netherlands. Their interest was to get specific information about life in the Netherlands and concerns about different topics live visa, formalities, career opportunities and how to navigate the cultural aspects of living abroad. 

During the event, and together with other Latin American experts from Colombia, Mexico and Argentina, we shared our personal experience about finding a job in the Netherlands, the orientation year Visa, Dutch language and Dutch Working Culture. It was an excellent chance for people to hear experiences, ask concrete questions and receive straightforward advice on navigating life abroad. It was also a good opportunity to connect and learn from other alumni experiences.

1. Job searching/hunting in the Netherlands with Alvaro de Salvo
2. Orientation year with Alejandro Rodriguez
3. Startups, Businesses and entrepreneurship with María Lucía Bermúdez Oviedo
4. Dutch Language and culture with Dr. Margarita Lourido
5. Dutch working culture with Karla Hernández Zaldívar

My talk was initially programmed to last 50 minutes, as a freestyle session with no PowerPoint, which got me really excited. I would be there and have a conversation sharing a bit of my story and get to know each other of the attendees, learn about their stories snd struggles, and answer as many questions as possible, conversationally. However, as it often happens these days, technology presented its challenges, and our video conference platform did not let us go as envisioned, despite all checks and tests. We had to quickly reorganise the event, providing only 10 minutes to each speaker to share their point of view and evacuate doubts.

I focused on shortly telling my story and experience, and explained on how I could be of help. I then jumped to answer as many questions as possible, directly from those participants which asked directly through the video and voice,  or picking up on the  multiple questions sent via the chat. The latter was also interesting as I could pick up lots of these on the go and choose the ones that I thought would be the best way to add value to everyone present.

The variety of questions ranged from: “How do I present my volunteer experience in the best way? “How easy is it to get a job in the Netherlands?” “What are the turn-offs when it comes to job applications? “How do promotions in the Netherlands work? “How are the best ways to get in touch with hiring managers?”.

As often happens when I speak at an event, time flew, and it left me wondering, how could have I transmitted more?

So in that spirit, here are the five main things that are currently in my mind to share with you, which I believe could make a difference when starting a career in the Netherlands today.

✔ Focus on ONE central problem you want to solve
Organisations hire people to solve problems. So get clear on the main problem you want to solve and why you want to solve it and articulate that clearly and explicitly. Then look for 10-15 organisations that are looking for people like you to solve those problems.

✔ Meet with new people instead of only applying online
It’s much better to meet with 100 people than to send 100 job applications. The reason behind this is that your applications won’t get you the job. They will merely get you invited to an interview. It’s talking to humans and generating trust with a hiring manager what will get you the job. Remember that people need first to know you, like you, trust you, need you, and finally want you (and be able to have a budget to hire you) before you get a job offer. Creating and fostering relationships will always bring you further than applying online only.

✔ Keep all your marketing materials (LinkedIn, Resume and Cover Letter) focused on one type of job target title and become attractive to many.
Many folks assume (I myself been there done that!) that the widest you present yourself (“I can do Sales, Marketing, Operations and Customer support”), the more chances you can get of landing a great job. But it actually works the other way around. Being generic can be an excellent thing, and it certainly is usually the case when you are walking the first steps in your career, while you are beginning to discover where your strengths are. But when it comes to getting a job, employers usually begin their search with a specific job title in mind, which should be the starting point for you to look for resonance.

✔ Invest in understanding the local way of working
No matter where you come from, there’s probably many similarities and differences between your home country and the Netherlands. When it comes to communications, it pays off to invest on quickly understanding who things are usually done here. Understanding how to format your materials and learning to keep “direct but friendly”, “humorous but formal”, “eye contact but mindful of personal space” can accelerate the way you connect either in print, online and in person.

✔ Be specific about your ambitions, but remember to give before you take
When talking to people, it’s essential to be specific on what your piece of the puzzle looks like and provide enough context of your journey (Where do you come from? Where are you now? Where you want to go to next?). It’s only by giving a short but complete picture that the people you talk to can actually see if you fit on their puzzle, or refer you to people who might be a good fit. But remember: give before you take. Try to add value to others first (in any way you can) before asking for something in return. I cannot emphasise how important this is enough.

After the my conversion, I got the opportunity to have some one-on-one sessions with some of the participants who requested to meet. These were great opportunities which not only give me energy, but also allow to deepen on someones specific problem and answer very concrete questions to think along with them.

Fiker, for example, was interested in revamping her LinkedIn and activating her brand. I shared my vision about the importance of making the connection between her past with the present, and the future she seeks to pursue while also showing her value clearly. Carla, on the other hand, was super excited to apply to her first internship but was not sure how to convey her cover letter in the best way. I shared my highlighting method on how to read job ads and choose specific responsibilities and requirements of her experience to showcase her strengths and come across as more compelling. She felt happy and reassured.

I founded Mr. Cover Letter to become the person I wish I knew when I came here and continued my career in the Netherlands almost ten years ago. Yesterday night, as I meet online with students and young professionals, I felt the urge to give my best to help people shorten their learning curve experience on what it takes to make a life and a professional career abroad. Despite all technical inconveniences, I received great feedback, which confirms me it was time well spent.

Looking for extra support?

👉 If you were present at the event and felt that I couldn’t answer your questions, please reach out to me on LinkedIn and simply ask it. I’d be happy to answer it and help you in any way I can.

💌 If you are looking for inspiration, tips and tricks and learn more about these types of events, sign up for Tips and Tricks, read the Blogs or have a look at my Tools page.

🎬 If you want to learn how to properly read a job ad to get the best results and how to craft a magnetic resume and cover letter that will work well in the Dutch market, have a look at these three online mini courses which are less than an hour each and they guide you step-by-step on how to do it exactly that. They come full of resources, templates and examples to make your job easier.

To your success!

Mr. Cover Letter

Looking for a job is time consuming and frustrating. Mr. Cover Letter has everything you need to clarify your story and value, engage with hiring managers and get shortlisted and land a great job, faster.

Actively looking for a job or about to start doing so? Consider taking advantage of my tools, joining a workshop or engaging in coaching. Otherwise, decide to become “one in a million” and sign up for updates.