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How to network like a Groninger

Whether it was your studies, your career or your relationship that brought you here, making sense of the subtleties of Dutch professional culture can be daunting for internationals. City Central, Make it in the North and International Welcome Center North have gathered their best tips for (soon-to-be) job seekers in Groningen for how to network like the Dutch do.

Curious to learn how to network like the Dutch do? City Central and Make it in the North are hosting a panel discussion and networking event on 20 September at 19:00 at the Remonstrantse Kerk! Get your tickets today.

Acquisition is welcome! In the Netherlands, it’s completely normal to send open applications to employers, even if there’s no vacancy posted anywhere and you have no contacts there. Many, if not most, job opportunities are found through word of mouth, and may be filled before the job listing is even posted online. So don’t be shy: invite yourself to coffee with an employer where you want to work, but don’t use a generic email! Specify why you want to work for THEM and what attracted you to the company. Check the company website for their goals and activities so you can make it personal.

There are actually several job agencies and recruiters out there that have made their business out of candidates that speak languages other than Dutch: for example Adams Multilingual, the Undutchables, or Unique. If you're looking for a student/casual job, then check out Recruit a Student, who have lots of part-time opportunities across the North.

Bonus tip: Be sure to sign up for City Central’s upcoming event series, Invisible Networks, To learn more about how Dutch professional culture really works, particularly in Groningen. An English discussion plus networking event will be held in the Akerk on Monday, 20 September and a Dutch panel and networking event will take place on Monday, 27 September.

If you’re worried that your lack of Dutch could be a problem, think of it this way instead: look at the specific tasks for the role you're considering applying for, and then ask yourself if you are comfortable carrying them out not speaking Dutch. But if you are looking through job listings, most companies will be up-front in their advert if you need a specific level of Dutch.

Add everyone on LinkedIn: your Dutch teachers and your classmates have their own professional networks, so when you join theirs, you gain closer access to everyone they know.

The best ways to stand out in the Netherlands on digital networking platforms like LinkedIn:

1. Complete your profile. Talk about results when you describe your past experiences. Work towards getting certificates that are relevant to your area and make them visible on your own LinkedIn.
2. Ask people to write a recommendation about you and endorse you.
3. Translate your profile to the languages that you speak.

Borrels are equal parts social and professional events, so you should go to them if you’re invited (even if they may be predominantly in Dutch.

Joining a student association is a good way not only to make friends - there’s a wide range of associations, from Christian to LGBTQI+ to theatre-lovers to pretty much every sport you can think up - but they can also potentially jump start your career. In Groningen, becoming a member of one of the biggest and oldest verenigingen – Vindicat and Albertus Magnus - is often first and foremost a professional goldmine: these associations, which started on religious grounds, have existed for hundreds of years, which means that membership gets you access to many generations of professional contacts. People who are also former members of the same verenigingen tend to hire other members, but they’re not very accessible for foreign students: in the best professionally connected associations, fewer than 1% of their members are internationals (on average, nation-wide).

Bonus tip: Did you know there’s an entire website dedicated to helping international job seekers and northern employers find each other? Make it in the North has job listings, an overview of sectors and companies operating in Groningen, Drenthe and Friesland, and also organizes sector-themed networking events throughout the year.

Employers – and recruiters - are interested in you as a person, not merely as a job filler. It’s not just about ticking the right boxes, it’s also about having a click. Don’t just list your professional accomplishments – talk about your personal experiences (from growing up in a different culture) and your passions so they can get a sense of who you really are. So while you should of course prep questions about your strengths, weaknesses and accomplishments, make sure your answers are really personal to you and not generic. Have examples ready from experiences that taught you specific insights or skills in life.

If you are a non-EU citizen who needs a visa sponsorship, then be open during job interviews and say that you need a work permit (i.e. after your orientation year visa expires). And offer to help with all the documentation and gathering of necessary information for a visa.

Bonus tip: if you’re contemplating starting your own business in Groningen, there’s a one-stop-shop site with info about legalities, funding, requirements for non-EU citizens, and incubators: www.startupvisagroningen.nl

If you’d like to learn more about the invisible networking culture of the Netherlands, be sure to sign up to attend the panel discussion on 20 September at 19:00 at the Remonstrantse Kerk! Get your tickets today.