Job Seekers Abroad: You Can Do It
I've done it, I've landed a job in the Netherlands!
My job search wasn't easy. It required focus and perseverance, and also adaptation. Landing a job in the Netherlands is different than landing a job where I'm from. Here, and with a substantial gap in my resume, I had to learn to do things a little differently. It was a big lesson in self-branding and self-empowerment.
A job search anywhere in 2016 might be designed to kill your spirit. I have unique experience that doesn't fit many traditional boxes, and I was often screened out by robots. This is the future.
It all worked out in the end, as things tend to. Now, a month into my shiny new job, I've had a chance to think about what I learned.
You Are A Person First
Perhaps the weirdest thing about job searching in the Netherlands is that, once you get past the robots, no one cares too much about your education or career accomplishments or qualifications. They want to know who you are, what your story is and how you function outside of work just as much as in the office.
Hobbies is a vital section on your CV, not, as I initially thought, a waste of space. Your hobbies tell job recruiters whether you are the type of person you say you are. Enjoy solitary activities like reading and writing; are you really a team player? Can't think of hobbies; are you really a well-rounded person who understands work-life balance?
The work-life balance is more than a buzz word here, I think. It is expected as a functioning adult that you will have a life outside of work, and that work bends around your life because it must, not only the other way around.
If you think of yourself as a person first, not simply a candidate, you will make a better impression in the Netherlands, and I think more likely to land a job you enjoy no matter where you live.
Thinking of myself as a full-package human being emboldened me to take charge in interviews as well. The interview is not only a test of your abilities and qualifications — as it can sometimes feel — it is a chance for you to see if the role and the company measures up for you as well.
Common advice is to ask questions in an interview, and that's definitely the case in the Netherlands as well, where people are very direct. Preparing a few tough questions to ask my interviewers earned me some bonus points. They also allowed me to get beyond the company line and get a sense of what the work environment is actually like.
Bonus tip, your interviewers are also people. Finding out what has been their biggest personal accomplishment at the company, for example, can tell you a lot about the company, how it treats employees and whether people enjoy their work. Their answer, or inability to answer, might reveal important clues that will help you decide whether it is the ideal job for you.
I found out how necessary this strategy had become when I was prevented from using it. I had to record an interview online in which questions were posed in writing and my answers were timed and captured on video. I was not able to go back, edit, re-record or ask questions. I was placed at a disadvantage, and I felt it was a poor interview strategy for a position that required excellent networking skills.
The process itself was an answer to my unasked question about how they conduct business, and it was a fatal mistake on their part. I made the shortlist, but based on their interview approach, I knew we weren't a match. Declining the next round made me feel good, and freed me up for better opportunities.
There Is No Wrong Choice
I ended up receiving two job offers on the same day, and I had a very difficult choice to make. One was the job I thought I wanted, and the other was the type of job I thought I didn't want but was seducing me with its shiny benefits.
As I progressed through the interview process at both, I worried how I would make the choice between them. It seemed impossible to compare: apples and oranges. I secretly hoped one wouldn't offer me the job, just so I wouldn't have to make the choice, and I felt bad about it. Don't allow circumstances to make your choices for you. Take charge.
I asked trusted people for advice. I considered my daily routine. I considered my potential colleagues. I considered my career at both jobs a year down the line.
The second interview helped me choose, partly due to the questions I asked. But, I saw clearly that I could have done both, been happy at both, been successful at both. There wasn't a wrong choice, there was just a choice.
I went with my gut, not with my plan. I took the job that seduced me, and haven't looked back.
Stick with it
The job search sucks sometimes, but don't lose heart! It can feel like you're the hedgehog in the middle of the road, about to become roadkill. Do everything you can to steer the search your way, and you will stand out.