Finding a job in the Netherlands: mission impossible?
It has been almost four months since I moved from Finland to the Netherlands and six years since I moved from Russia to Finland. Once again I have to start my career in a new country from the very beginning. Will I succeed this time?
My Finnish experience
I found my real job in Finland in two years after I moved there. Before my arrival I took several Finnish courses, did a few internships, got a summer job as a strawberry seller and entered the Lahti University of Applied Sciences. In Russia – where I am originally from -I worked as a financial controller. The switch from a well-paid office job to internships was a bit painful, to say the least. However, my 6-months long internship helped me to land a job. Finally, I succeeded in starting working as an export assistant.
I was pretty happy with my job, even though I knew; it was a temporary one. That meant that every year I would get an 8-months temporary work contract. After it had expired, I went back to my studies. Then last year there was a chance I was waiting for. My contract would become permanent. But the financial crisis changed my manager’s plans. So, I needed to change mine.
I started to look for another job but did not succeed. After sending out about 200 applications, I got tons of rejection letters and only three invitations for interviews. They were followed by a negative decision.
Regardless, my job gave me a lot of work experience in a new field. I liaised between Finnish manufacturers and Russian customers, so I learned how to deal with different cultures and work ethic. I found the Finnish working style more relaxing and informal than in Russia. The working dress code was also different: I was not allowed to wear jeans at my work in Russia but in Finland everyone, including the CEO, dressed casually. Rest breaks also surprised me. I was entitled to one 30-minutes long break a day in Russia. In Finland, I also had two additional coffee breaks that helped me to socialize with my colleagues. I might not have managed to settle down in Finland for good, but I got the insight into a working culture other than my own.
Moving to The Netherlands
Some time ago I fell in love with a Dutch guy. After a year of long distance relationship, we decided to move in together. My boyfriend had a permanent job and my contract in Finland just ended again. My manager was not sure if I could get a contract next year at all, so it was quite logical for me to move and start my new life in the Netherlands. By this time, I was lucky enough to get Finnish citizenship that made my moving process smooth and easy. My dual citizenship was a tremendous help. As a Russian, I would have needed to take a Dutch language test at one of the Dutch Embassies, apply for a provisional residence permit (MVV) and wait several months for a decision from the immigration service. As a Finn, however, I could just move to the Netherlands without any additional papers or burdensome procedures.
I have been looking for a new job since the day I moved here. I was invited for several interviews, but unfortunately, got rejected every time here, too. Recruiters mentioned different reasons – lack of experience, non-native Finnish language skills and even the fact that I’m a very calm person. As one of the recruiters said it means that I can behave unpredictable in stressful situations. I still find it quite funny, or rather, odd.
My lack of experience is a serious problem. In total, I worked for two years for my Finnish company. Most of the companies want to get a worker with at least three (sometimes even five) years of work experience. Financial vacancies quite often require fluent Dutch and work experience with international financial reporting standards. I have a 6-years break in my financial career, and I only worked with Russian financial reports. Although I have just finished an intermediate Dutch course, I don’t think that I am fluent enough in working at a Dutch company. My Finnish is fluent, but the language is not very popular outside Finland, and it seems that companies only want to have “authentic” Finns on board.
Unemployment as a positive source of energy, or?
Sometimes it feels like I would never find a job, and it’s better to give up. Fortunately my boyfriend and his family are very supportive, and it helps a lot. It turned out that unemployment could also bring something positive to my life. Now, I have enough time for my hobbies, sports and learning Dutch. Finally, after waking up at 5h30 for years, I can also sleep enough.
Unemployment is also a ‘good status’ to think about your future and possible opportunities. I am considering applying to a university and getting a master degree in finances or business administration. I used to work as an SEO-copywriter for a Russian web shop, thus, going freelance is also an option. I continue to master my language skills so that in the future I would also be able to apply to positions that require fluency in Dutch.
When things start to seem desperate again, I go jogging or biking and then I continue exploring job boards. Someone said that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and I believe that my light is close by.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Guest Columnist at MissCareerLess
Polina Kalvarskaya was born and raised in Russia. She studied Economics at Saint-Petersburg State University. Six years ago Polina moved to Finland, where she studied Business Administration at Lahti University of Applied Sciences and worked as an export assistant for a small company. Four months ago she moved to the Netherlands and currently settling down here. Besides writing she enjoys drawing, jogging and sci-fi (especially Star Wars). Polina is an optimist and believes that there are only good things ahead. Edited by Lilie.
Photo credit: Flickr/ David Blackwell