First appeared in THEXPAT Journal Autumn 2014 publication
Keeping it Simple
There is no way around it, when looking for employment; the need for networking. Whether it be for enhancing one’s employment possibilities, exposing oneself to hearing about possible jobs, sharing with others what you are looking for (in the hopes that they may know of something or someone of value), or letting people know what you do, it is the single most recommended step to be taken.
Not Mountains, Only Molehills
Seems straightforward, yet – as we at ACCESS know – when you arrive somewhere for the first time and know no-one or nothing about how things work locally, the simple act of networking can be an enormous challenge, and yet one more mountain to climb in the process of settling in a new place: Where to start, which are the networks of value, what to say, how to say it, who are the people to speak to? So many questions!
From our collective experience of having been in the same boat as many new arrivals, we would like to share a more positive note: keep it simple. Remember, every opportunity to meet people – network – can be a golden one, even if you are not yet sure how things work locally, or perhaps even what you want to do. Really! The process of meeting people, being able to ask about their experiences, benefitting from their own knowledge, sharing your own experiences and knowledge and who you are are ALL valuable tools for your networking to do list.
You have to start somewhere – even if it is not THE right place for you, it will add to your knowledge, give you insight, ensure you meet people and may even provide you with alternatives you had not considered. Every opportunity – from schoolyards to coffee mornings to talks on subjects which interest you are, in fact, networking opportunities. While perhaps not relevant to all (schoolyards are difficult to access if you have no children; and the tour of location X may not be on the list of your top interests) every single chance – at least during the first six months – is an opportunity to be capitalised upon. You can decide later if you want to return to the group, or engage further with certain people – but by not taking the first step, the subsequent networking demands become ever larger mountains to climb.
It should surprise few people to hear of the jobs found as a result of having mentioned on the playground what you used to do (or are interested in doing) to someone who knew someone else looking for someone like you; or the interviews arranged as a result of sitting next to someone on a bus who could help. One of the reasons the employment market is ‘hidden’ is precisely because such chance encounters often ensure a match is made between employee and employer before we are even aware of the opening. It is frustrating of course that this is the case – but if you stick with frustration someone else will be on that tour to the flower market instead of you, or will be drinking endless cups of coffee at a ‘coffee morning’ and taking advantage of ‘hidden’ insights.
Let us of course not forget volunteering – with ACCESS or any other local organisation. More and more of the larger cities in the Netherlands are providing volunteering opportunities for the international community – vacancies for which little to no Dutch is required. Grab these opportunities even if for only a few months, this too is networking: meeting people in a similar boat, gaining knowledge and insight and making the challenge of networking a little less daunting.