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American seeking work in the Netherlands
April 13, 2008 8:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm an American living in the U.S. and searching for a job in the Netherlands (with the intention of moving there permanently). My chances for success are slim, I know. What can I do to improve them?

There are basically two ways for a non-EU citizen to legally work in the Netherlands: an employer can sponsor you (after proving that no EU citizen can do the job), or your Dutch partner can sponsor you.*

I have the best Dutch boyfriend in the history of Dutch boyfriends, but he doesn't qualify to sponsor me. So I'm searching for a job the work-permit-less way: wading through listings at NL job search Web sites and applying directly to companies with specific openings (with my fingers crossed).**

However, as the rejection e-mails are flooding my inbox, I'm wondering if there's something I can do differently with my resume to convince potential employers that I'm worth the time, effort, and money involved in hiring a non-EU citizen. I feel like I've done the basics -- my resume is typo-free, every bullet point starts with a verb, and I tweak the keywords to match the job posting when I can -- but I have no idea if it's ever going to help me make the international leap.

Some background on me, if it helps: I have a bachelor degree in Management Information Systems and a bachelor degree in English. I started my career in 2003 as a programmer using proprietary tools. In 2004, I transferred into corporate communications, so I have about four years' experience doing a combination of technical writing, editing, and marketing copywriting. I'd prefer to stay in the world of corporate communications (although at this point I'd be thrilled to land an IT job; I just don't think I could compete with someone with more experience). I'm totally open to companies outside the software industry. Oh, and I don't speak Dutch. I'm studying, but the reality is that it'll be a few years before I'm fluent, and I don't think it'll ever happen without more immersion.


International recruiters/hiring managers: What makes you choose one candidate over another? Extra skills beyond what was listed in the job posting? Professional organization memberships? Certifications?

Folks who have successfully landed jobs in countries other than your native land: What was the key to your success? Was there a point in your job search where you changed tactics?

Dutch employers: Want to hire me? I'm really great!


Bonus question: How does one stay positive during a difficult job search? I'm starting to lose hope and it's really affecting my emotional and physical health.


* There's also the highly skilled migrants program, which enables registered employers to bring in employees without work permits; but the job seeker has to find a job with a registered employer first, so I don't see how it affects one's job search.

** Most employment agencies (including Undutchables and Dambusters) can't help, because they won't consider applicants who don't already have work permits.
posted by korres to Work & Money (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is your boyfriend already in the Netherlands? I think you'd have a much better chance (because realistically you have almost nil in your situation now) searching from over there. Go as a tourist and put your feelers out actually on Dutch soil. Meet your bf's friends, co-workers, relatives and find a job that way.
posted by meerkatty at 8:24 AM on April 13, 2008


Hiya,

Hang in there. Here is a tip: the statement "every bullet point starts with a verb" suggests that you are writing a US-style resume. CVs in the EU have a particular style which is necessary to conform to in order to make the first cut as an applicant, and each individual country has its own preferences beyond that. Here are some guides to writing a Netherlands-style CV I found:

http://www.expatax.nl/workjob.htm

http://www.amsterdam.info/employment/cv/

http://www.jobera.com/job-resumes-cvs/international-resumes-cvs/netherlands/dutch-cv.htm

But what you really need is for a successful career-oriented person in the Netherlands to vet your CV and make sure it is making the right impression. Being a good bullet-point-verbing-active-writing American-style job applicant is probably a deficit in the Netherlands. If they are anything like Germans, they want unadorned facts in the CV and no sizzle with that steak. I would take a little break from applying for jobs and gather intelligence about your market. Check this out for a start:

http://www.executiveplanet.com/index.php?title=Netherlands

Good luck!
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 8:38 AM on April 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


If you seek to work in corporate communications that might be hard with a wholly Dutch company. Because that obviously involves a high skill in written Dutch.
But there are also companies in NL that are just located in the Netherlands but their activities are international and the language used is english. So I'd aim for those companies if you want to work in corporate communications.

If you want to work in IT: there's a real shortage.

Do you really need to have a job instantly? Or can you scrape by together after moving? I do think it's easier to find work when you're in NL. I'm sure you should be able to at least get an interview based on your bachelors in MIS for instance.

What are the possibilities with temporary work permits? It's much easier to convince an employer to do some legwork wrt to permits when you've already been working for them in a contractor capacity and they know you and know what you're worth.
posted by jouke at 8:47 AM on April 13, 2008


It would be better to do the job-hunting from the Netherlands. I doubt if I would bother to call for interview someone who was thousands of miles away. If you can't get over there it might be better to give a Dutch address and phone number anyway, arranging rapid message passing.

You may still fail to find a job somewhere where perfect English is not unusual. Any chance that you could work long-distance for your current US employer? Or set up in business for yourself, with either Dutch or US clients?

Depending on your income needs, teaching English may be a possibility, and your business/technical background might put you in the bracket of teaching adults -- more lucrative and less difficult to handle than schoolkids. But I would find that a depressing long-term career.

If you think you might wind up as a wife somewhere in the Netherlands outside Amsterdam, you definitely need to take a close look at the life there first. Travellers' tales of Amsterdam do not give a picture that fits the rest of the country. Piece in the Economist.
posted by Idcoytco at 9:00 AM on April 13, 2008


Do you really need to have a job instantly? Or can you scrape by together after moving? I do think it's easier to find work when you're in NL. I'm sure you should be able to at least get an interview based on your bachelors in MIS for instance.

That's a quandary. I can legally stay in the Netherlands for three months without a residence permit, but just being there doesn't make me legally able to work. So that does have the advantage of making me available for in-person interviews, but it doesn't get me a work permit (which can take months to secure). And I don't know what I would do if I hit the three-month mark and had nothing.

I'm also at a personal disadvantage because I have no savings; I've been clawing my way out of debt. In about a month, I can start saving, but it could take up to a year for me to save enough to live those three months. Of course, I would love to move with a savings cushion, but I'm also tired of being apart from my partner, so I'm struggling.
posted by korres at 9:06 AM on April 13, 2008


Any chance that you could work long-distance for your current US employer?

No, my employer is strictly U.S.-only. It's a very small (although very profitable) company.

If you think you might wind up as a wife somewhere in the Netherlands outside Amsterdam, you definitely need to take a close look at the life there first. Travellers' tales of Amsterdam do not give a picture that fits the rest of the country.

My partner and I actually specifically want to live outside Amsterdam; even if I work there, we'd live someplace nearby and I'd commute. I just added it as a tag because lots of people think Netherlands = Amsterdam. ;)
posted by korres at 9:09 AM on April 13, 2008


The easiest way for this to happen is for your boyfriend to work on qualifying to sponsor you. Feel free to MeMail me.
posted by different at 9:33 AM on April 13, 2008


Approaching from a different angle - are/were any of your grandparents EU citizens? I believe some countries e.g. Ireland and Italy will grant citizenship if you are the first or second generation descendant of a citizen. Note that if a great-grandparent was a citizen then the appropriate parent may be able to apply and then you apply based on their citizenship.

Once you have EU citizenship - from just about any EU country* - you can live and work anywhere in the EU.


* Certain restrictions may apply for the most recent 12 countries that joined the EU, but they're not onerous.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 9:56 AM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Approaching from a different angle - are/were any of your grandparents EU citizens?

I wish! I explored this possibility, but my extended family's been in the U.S. for too many generations.
posted by korres at 10:00 AM on April 13, 2008



Perhaps you could try for a UN job, in the Hague? I'm not sure that would get you a work permit, since they are not a Dutch employer, but they would get you residency, I should think. There's the ICTY, the OPCW, the ICC, and so on.
posted by ysabella at 12:08 PM on April 13, 2008


Phillips & ASML are (according to what I heard in the hallways of the latter) the largest Dutch companies. Both do work in optics related to semiconductor processing, and ASML is going gangbusters right now. Don't know if any of that helps, but it gives you international, NE-based companies to court, FWIW.

Email me at iambroom on gmail if I can help more, somehow. Good luck.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:40 PM on April 13, 2008


Just want to second what Your Time Machine says, and amplify it: not just the resume, but many other aspects, of the job search process are different in other countries, and you need to learn how to do as the Romans if you want to get a job in Rome (literally or figuratively).

For example, your age and your marital status, things which in the US are bad form to volunteer and illegal for an employer to ask about, are required content in most Western European resumes.
posted by MattD at 3:11 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can legally stay in the Netherlands for three months without a residence permit, but just being there doesn't make me legally able to work.

Being there doesn't necessarily make you legally able to look for work, either. You might want to verify this before going over there to look for work.
posted by oaf at 3:17 PM on April 13, 2008


Someone else posted this to AskMe at some point, but I don't see it above yet: have you heard about the Dutch American Friendship Treaty? Basically with a good business plan and a rather modest amount of capital, you, US citizen, can get residency in the Netherlands. Isn't that hot?!?
posted by whatzit at 7:17 AM on April 14, 2008


I'm pretty sure you can stay for 3 months, leave the EU (quick trip to Russia, Croatia, etc.), then return to stay for another 3 months. At least in Austria there were 2 rules for Americans staying on a tourist visa when I first came here:
1. can't stay more than 90 days in a row
2. can't stay more than 180 days in a 365 day period

As for looking for a job, it may be much easier than you think, if you're actually in the Netherlands while you search. The "can't find an EU citizen to do the job" is pretty easy to get around if the employer is motivated to hire you. For instance, they can write a job requirement that lists a combination of skills that you have, which few other people may have.

As for formatting your resume to match European standards, I have never done that. It seems to me that my US-formatted resume helped me to stick out from the crowd. I've been in Austria since 2000 (came with my backpack), and I'm working my second job now and have earned the Austrian equivalent of a green card.

I've interviewed with T-Mobile, Siemens, Ogilvy and Mather and several small-to-medium European companies, all on the basis of my US-formatted resume.

My experience: I arrived in Vienna, expecting to stay a couple of days. I liked the city and started looking online for jobs immediately. I blasted my resume to every job that mentioned any IT keywords that matched my experience. Within two weeks, I'd had ~10 interviews, 5 job offers, and accepted the best one. It's not impossible!
posted by syzygy at 9:58 AM on April 14, 2008


I once lived in the Netherlands and all the Americans I knew there were either students or professionals (like exec professionals). I think your options are: get hired by an American company that has a presence there, get married, or go to school there.

A lot of people I knew there solved this problem by continuing their education. Once you're a student (I believe more than half time, not 100% sure) the Visa and work permit are no problem.

The reason you will most likely not find a job the way you're going about it now is this- in order for you to get a Visa/work permit someone has to be willing to offer you a contract for work (I believe it was for 1 year, maybe 6 months, can't remember...). Once you have that offer in writing you can get the elusive 'Sofi-number'. Once you have the sofi-number (equivalent to a ssn), the company can legally hire you. The thing is, by offering you a year contract in writing the company is taking a huge risk. If you get injured in any way and are unable to work for the rest of that period, the company still has compensate you for the remainder of the contract. So they have to want you pretty badly to take that risk. Then there's the whole 'no EU citizen could do this job' bit.

At least that's how it was explained to me.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 12:29 PM on April 14, 2008


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