Student - October 23, 2008

‘Keep your head down and don’t make waves’

You’ve started to appreciate the Dutch weather, are eating hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) on your bread, and are getting used to the up-front criticism the Dutch are famous for. You’ve decided to stay in the country and look for a job. But how do you go about this?

Seventy international students at Wage­nin­gen UR responded to the KLV alumni association invitation to take part in a workshop ‘How to find a job in the Netherlands’ on 14 October in the lecture theatre in De Leeuwenborch. The work­shop was led by Nannette Ripmeester from Labour Mobility, a company that ad­vises on the international labour market. She gave the students tips on how to un­derstand Dutch culture better and there­fore increase their chances of getting a job.

International students and graduates are not always aware of the informal rules involved in applying for a job in the Netherlands. People like it here if you show initiative, Ripmeester explained. If you see an interesting looking job ad, call and ask for more information about the job. Once you’ve sent in your application, it’s worth phoning to check that your letter has arrived safely. Ask questions during an interview. And if you are rejected, ask why. The information you receive will help you to prepare better for your next application. Don’t take the typical Dutch directness personally, and don’t be afraid of being a little bit cheeky, were a couple of pieces of advice from Ripmeester. The Dutch appreciate initiative.

Language is often a problem for international students. Elvire Schlösser from KLV commented that many are too modest about their Dutch. The advice is, always put something in your CV about your mastery of Dutch. If you can hold a conversation in Dutch then put that in. If you aren’t that far but are prepared to learn the language, put that in your accompanying letter. Having a different nationality is regarded as a plus. Be proud of this, said Ripmeester, and present it as an advantage to prospective employers. But don’t exaggerate: the Dutch prefer to be average rather than exceptional. ‘Keep your head down and don’t make waves’ is a loose translation of the Dutch expression ‘Doe normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg’. / Alice van Ginkel

If you missed the workshop, or have questions about applying for a job in the Netherlands, KLV has a special service for members. Contact email('klv.office','wur.nl'); .

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