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Catching the Elusive Job Monster

I’ve been back out on the trail of the elusive day job (the teaching position didn’t work out), so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the subject. There are a lot of places in the Netherlands where finding a non-Dutch speaking job is possible, but, unfortunately for me, Maastricht isn’t really one of them. Although there are a few English-speaking and international companies in the area, many are seeking people with multiple language skills. And frankly most people with a higher education also speak excellent English in this area. So competition on the English-only/monolingual market is quite stiff. If you do speak Dutch (and I mean enough to hold an interview in that language), you’ll have an easier time of it. I haven’t been hired yet, but here’s a few thoughts that have gotten me to the interview stage.

The Hunt

The job monster at rest. Photo (cc) sskennel.

When we first moved to the region, I started my job hunt with the various employment and temp services in the city. This is a pretty typical way to find a job in the Netherlands, even for things like housecleaning and waitressing. The overwhelming response from everyone was “No Dutch, No Job”. Simple as that. One or two places did have the caveat that if you work in finance or science, there are sometimes openings for English-only, but I didn’t have those skills, so I didn’t pursue that angle. There are a few Dutch employment agencies that cater to expats and multilingual people, but none of them extend their influence into the Maastricht region.

Instead I found more success searching for jobs via online job site, although personal contacts are certainly beneficial if you have them. Since the number of available jobs in English is low, I generally just do a regional search for “English”. Especially on the all Dutch sites, this will pop out a job description written in English; which are the ones I was looking for. Here are a few sites to get you started:

  • Marktplaats.nl: Look under Vacatures. I’ve found one job to apply to via this site.
  • BanenRijkLimburg: Limburg oriented job site for people with college and postgrad degrees.
  • LimburgVac.nl: A Dutch only job site for the Limburg area. I’ve found one job to apply to via this site.
  • Maastricht Region: A general resource site that includes a Job Opportunities section in English. The listings are provided by BanenRijkLimburg above.

You can see more job sites under my Expat Resources or if you’re really desperate take a look at Craigslist (underused in the Netherlands). Sources like Expatica tend to be more Holland oriented.

It’s a good idea to apply directly to employers in your area of expertise, particularly in academia where English-only or Dutch-optional jobs are a little more common. I keep an eye on Maastricht University (technically an English-language campus) and the area’s international schools for openings.

The best advice is to know what you do and don’t want to do, and then to stay flexible. I’ve had to look at my skills from different angles to make them slot into the available jobs. Not that I’ve applied to jobs I can’t do; I’ve just learned from my year in self-employment that the walls between jobs are squishy and something you considered trivial in one job maybe just what the new one needs.

Patience & luck are virtues as well. I went ahead and started my own business to carry me over until there was something available that I was qualified to do (and self-employment has actually improved many of my skills and made me more employable.)

The Trap

Do lobster traps work on jobs? Photo (cc) shino 誌野

Setting “the trap” (a no-kill one, you want that job right?) with your cover letter and resume in the Netherlands is pretty straight forward if you’re use to the American tradition. You’ll need to include a letter describing why you’re the person for the job, as well as either a resume or a CV. Generally employers seem to ask for a CV, but since my actual CV is 3 pages long with childhood retail jobs, I generally pare things down to the relevant positions. I like to include factual, descriptive explanations of what my jobs entailed as well since the jobs I’m applying to are not necessarily a straight line from my previous positions.

I’ve never been good at crowing about my accomplishments, so shifting to a less boastful cover letter has been easy for me. Keep it accurate and to-the-point. Most Dutch employers are not looking to hire you because you think you’re awesome. But don’t be afraid to regard your native English tongue as an asset. If you’re looking at English-only jobs, that’s really what the employer wants you for.

The Interview

Make sure the job monster isn't hungry during the interview. Photo (cc) Ped-X-Ing

Ok, I couldn’t think of a good metaphor for this one, but interviewing is naturally the next step in the job hunt process. Like in the United States you could be looking at a variety of interviewing situations. If you’re applying for a job where you’ll need to speak Dutch, I imagine your interview will also be in that language, but if you’re applying to an English-only position, the interview ought to be in that language. If you’re not comfortable in Dutch, ask to speak in English.

I’ve had a couple of interviews in Maastricht and found that the interviewers in both cases were happy to speak in my native language. My most recent one was a multiple person, in-person interview where we really just got down to brass tacks. I was asked why I wanted the job, but I didn’t have to answer those awkward roleplaying questions you sometimes get in the US.

Closing the Deal

Thank you for this opprotunity Job Monster. Photo (cc) yngrich

I haven’t quite made it to this point yet (fingers crossed), but there are a few things to keep in mind when accepting a job offer. The first is that, in the Netherlands, you can usually count on a 13th-month bonus and a holiday bonus, each of which are often equivalent to a month’s salary. Ask your employer about it. Also, you are not obliged to take the health insurance your employer offers you (you can stay with your current NL carrier if you desire), but the one sponsored by your employer sometimes will be offered at a slight discount. So it’s worth checking out.

Employment law in the Netherlands generally favors the employee, making it difficult to fire people, etc. Some companies do real backflips to try and keep their options open, so you should carefully read your contract. Or (more likely if you’re like me) get someone to read it for you. It’s not legal if it’s not in Dutch.

For more information about employment in the Netherlands that is less tainted by my personal experience, check out Maastricht Region’s Working section and IAmExpat’s Career section.

Photos are all used under the Creative Commons-Attribution License and are (in order) by sskennel, shino 誌野, Ped-X-Ing and yngrich.

6 Responses to “Catching the Elusive Job Monster”

  1. Clarence says:

    Thanks for the links to some potentially helpful resources! I agree about the limited options for English-only jobs in Maastricht. I will most likely pack up and move to Amsterdam after my Master’s here, just because there’s a lot more opportunities there. But I’ll always love Maastricht. ;)

  2. I know finding a job in the Netherlands with English language skills is tough. The best bet is to learn and polish you Dutch to some extent. But that is easier said than done.

    Wish you all the best for the interview Amanda!

  3. Amanda says:

    Thanks. The interview actually went very well. I agree that learning/polishing up your Dutch is your best bet, but sometimes you can’t wait that long. ;)

  4. Amanda says:

    Good luck on you job hunt. We’re held here by Dan’s job, but I would consider a wider area if moving was an option. I don’t want to live away from my husband though.

  5. Jules says:

    If you work in the sciences you’ll have a relatively easy time of finding a job via the Academic Transfer network, which lists all of the science positions in the Netherlands. It sucks if you want to learn Dutch, though, because I haven’t had to speak a word of Dutch to anybody since I started working…

  6. JR says:

    Another very good site for bio-scientists which you may want to consider is

    vividlinks.eu – The Life Sciences Career Comunity,

    This site specifically covers the Meuse Rhine region, and contains academic and non-academic (commercial) bio-jobs.

    Dr. Jo (currently unemployed but looking!)