I'd like to live and work in Amsterdam, how do I make this happen?
March 23, 2013 11:41 AM   Subscribe

As a 33 year old Canadian professional with a background in IT project and program management at some of the big firms, how do I find work in Amsterdam?

In the simplest terms, I would like to be Dutch. I've spent some time in Amsterdam in the past and have fallen in love with the place. It just makes sense there. Not a Dutch speaker, though I would throw myself into learning it if I had the opportunity. My ladyfriend and myself would both like to relocate.

Some background:
I have a degree in computer science as well as an MBA in international management and a PMP designation. Started out in the dot com boom in the late 90s. Grew up as a developer and project manager while my peers were doing their undergraduate degrees. Went to school part-time at night.

I have worked at major IT implementation and management consulting firms over the years. I excel at working as the glue between business and technology because I get both sides of the equation. Recently, I delivered an award winning ecommerce website that supports $90 million in monthly customer account revenue for a public entity on the west coast of Canada.

My questions are:
- What are the best ways to tap into the NL job market without actually physically being there?
- Should I use a recruiter to gain traction?
- Do any MeFites have suggestions on the best ways to proceed in achieving my goals?
posted by dobie to Work & Money (6 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine, also Canadian, works for a UN agency based in Holland. He is a web designer, but has significant PM accreditation.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:16 PM on March 23, 2013

The highly-skilled migrants programme (AKA knowledge migrants programme, kennismigrant in Dutch) is your most likely answer. You apply for jobs in the Netherlands; your employer proves that you have a skill that cannot be found in an applicant with an EU work permit (mainly by advertising the job for a certain period of time before hiring you), you meet a salary requirement (currently €52,010 for people over 30), and you're done. Your employer arranges for your residence permit and pays all the fees. You can probably negotiate some relocation money, too.

The downside of the knowledge migrant programme is that you don't have a work permit, so you can't change jobs without finding an employer who will go through the whole process again for you. But it gets less painful each time. I've done it three times so far.

Put your CV up on monsterboard.nl as soon as possible. Look at postings on indeed.nl and LinkedIn. Be up-front about the fact that you're looking to move to the Netherlands.

Start looking at big, international organizations that have offices in the Netherlands, like Philips, Adobe, Nike, Canon, Google, and so on, and apply to them directly. These types of organizations are more likely to be used to hiring foreigners and have the HR infrastructure in place to do so. Smaller organizations can have trouble proving that your skills are sufficiently rare and can be unwilling to pay the IND fees.

You can try contacting recruiting agencies like Undutchables and Blue Lynx, but they often don't want to talk to anyone who doesn't have a work permit. But if your CV is on monsterboard.nl, you'll probably get some emails from more specialized recruiting firms. Personally, I've worked with recruiters a fair bit, but they've never landed me a job. I did not work with any recruiters when I was first trying to move to the Netherlands.

Once you start feeling confident, plan a Dutch holiday and tell companies that you'll be in the country X dates, if they'd like to have an in-person interview.

Have you been outside Amsterdam? Are you willing to live in cities like Rotterdam, Den Haag, or Eindhoven? Give this some thought.

Start working on your Dutch now. You don't need it to get a job, but everyone will ask you if you're trying, and it's always a plus if you can say yes. There are lots of websites out there for learning Dutch. You can watch Dutch TV at Uitzending Gemist. And of course, there's Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, Michel Thomas, and so on.

Some random tips, based on my experience: let HR departments and lawyers worry about the legality of employing you. Obviously, ask a lot of questions and make sure you know what's going on, but don't put up with HR people who expect you to know Dutch law better than they do. Push back. Same with salary negotiation. Don't show your hand with the knowledge migrant minimum requirement. Cost of living in the Netherlands is high, especially in Amsterdam. Make sure you're getting what you're worth. Start purging your belongings now, because moving across the ocean is tough.
posted by neushoorn at 12:51 PM on March 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

Were either of your parents or any of your grandparents born in a European Community country? If you can establish rights to an EC passport you can bypass some of the headaches. I know, because my sister originally settled in the Netherlands based on her UK passport based on our dad having been born in England.
posted by zadcat at 1:01 PM on March 23, 2013

"The Undutchables" book - which spawned the above-mentioned website - is a fun and informative read if you have not seen it already.

If I was in your situation I would consider using sites like LinkedIn to make some informal contacts to people in the sort of areas you are interested in: do they know of anybody who has done the sort of thing you are planning to do - maybe you could meet up, buy them a coffee and ask them some questions? Meetup have numerous groups locally - some could help you it you happen to be in the country.

I have only worked in Amsterdam for a few months - but I would say it is a place where it is easy to be lulled by the notion that "everybody speaks English so I won't need to learn Dutch". My gut feeling is that, to set yourself apart from the many ex-pats who make this shaky assumption it would be worth your while spending at least a few weeks in the country studying the language.
posted by rongorongo at 1:53 PM on March 23, 2013

I want to work abroad too, and one blog I read is Overseas Exile. Recently he posted about partnering with a company in Amsterdam, as he gets a lot of contacts asking him how to find work. Jobs Have Arrived - they're in development, not specifically project management, but it's a good blog anyway and maybe could be of use to you. Disclaimer, I just read this, I don't know the chap. Good luck!
posted by symphonicknot at 3:17 AM on March 27, 2013

So I made it happen. Well, more like we made it happen. My partner managed to get a transfer through her international company. They handled the visa process but didn't pay for much else, so we were on our own there. I'm still technically employed by my company in Vancouver, though on a long term leave of absence without pay, which made a few of the logistical like finding an apartment turn out a bit better. If anyone has any specific questions or is in Amsterdam and wants to grab a Koffee please feel free to MeFi mail me.
posted by dobie at 9:57 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

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