Amsterdam Mamas: Going Dutch - the jobhunt

Amsterdam Mamas: Going Dutch - the jobhunt

Comments16 comments

Nadine Migoni shares her experiences with a Dutch jobhunt.

As soon as I arrived in Holland, I started to look for jobs and called several agencies.

From different friends I got the well-known job sites for foreigners such as Undutchables, Monsterboard, Expatica, etc. With great concern I realised that the jobs offered were all to do with business, finance, logistics and, in best cases, customer service-oriented. None of them required a humanities background let alone a Spanish-speaking person.

I was disappointed, I had the worst combination possible: Master’s degree in Literature, Bachelor’s in Humanities with specialisation in Philosophy and Mexican Spanish as mother tongue. But what I needed was academic finance/business experience and English as native tongue.

I was feeling completely forgotten and outcast by the Dutch system until a friend directed me to  Culture Works, a job agency for the arts.

Suddenly the sun shone on me. I saw their website and thought that if there was a place where I could finally get a job it would be there. So I went for an interview. It went quite smoothly. A girl, just graduated from University dropped the question after ten minutes: Are you willing to be a receptionist? According to her, that was the most I could aspire to get – with a lot of luck.

I have worked in TV as a news assistant producer, reporter and writer in New York City; I have been a university teacher from the age of 23; published articles and poetry, proof-read journals, coordinated focus groups, spoke at conferences, made documentaries for different festivals; graduated Cum Laude; travelled in two different yachts all over the Mediterranean and the Caribbean where I hung out with Robert de Niro, Puff Dady and Jennifer Lopez, arranged two weddings for over 150 people in Holland and Mexico, and here I was, being told by a young girl that my only future was answering telephones.

My ray of hope was quickly eclipsed. But I persisted and followed the advice given by my two “inburgering” advisors. So I proceeded to apply to the Center voor Werk en Incomen CWI. Their Dutch web page is so detailed and structured that it is not possible to write your CV in less than four hours. It takes time and patience but they guarantee good results. The good thing is that it connects you with another website called National Vacatures where you can simply copy-paste your CV.

After several hours I was finally on the system, and from 70,000 vacancies it appeared on the screen that one job was looking for me. With tears of excitement I paused, took a glass of wine and sat in front of the computer. After months of despair could something have finally arrived? I had a sip, clicked the mouse and there it was: NT2 trainer inburgeringstrajecten, taal, trainen, feedback geven staat centraal.

I was speechless. Let me explain to you what this position holds in case you don’t speak Dutch: to teach people how to integrate into Dutch society, and to prepare them to pass the Dutch language and culture exam, also known as the Inburgering exam (needless to say that all of the above is taught in Dutch). You’ve got to be kidding!

I finished the bottle of wine and decided to give the job hunt a big pause.

Nadine Migoni / Amsterdam Mamas / Expatica

Reprinted with the permission of Amsterdam Mamas. 

Photo credit: gtmcknight 

Amsterdam Mamas is a not-for-profit organisation providing support and information in English for international families in the Amsterdam region and across the Netherlands. From small beginnings on Facebook the organisation has grown into a lively community of more than 9,000 members with its own website, podcast, events and regular newsletters circulating to thousands of families each week.


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16 Comments To This Article

  • Nadine Migoni posted:

    on 14th November 2012, 11:55:09 - Reply

    Thank you for your comments. I didn’t write before because I wasn’t aware that my column was published here and when I found out I was on my way to Brabant with the family for a few days and then I had a strong cold but here I am, and as some of you have asked me to update you; this is what I am going to do.

    Let me start by saying that this column/article is part of a series of stories that I wrote about 5 years ago with the idea to publish them in a booklet that I named Toilet Stories (short stories that someone could read in the bathroom) and which I am currently publishing every month in the Amsterdam Mamas website under the title of Going Dutch. These stories written with an ironic and humorously tone just revealed my frustration and surprise at many things that I have experienced since I moved to this country.

    A few weeks after having gone to this agency I got a temporary job thanks to a friend that was looking for someone to help her while her boss was going on maternity leave. At the same time I was busy with a volunteer job and also with my Inburgering course. I also continue to write for magazines in Mexico and started to do so in magazines and newspapers here in Holland. However, this didn’t last long because once the crisis started some of these had to shut their doors.

    Also, I got married, went on honeymoon and got pregnant of number 1 and then nine months later of number 2. All of this in the past 4 years and a half so basically there was no time any more to look for a job. Once my second child started to go to day-care I had more time and decided to start my own business: I sell bicycle helmets for babies, kids and grown ups. I never thought that I was going to do this but the idea was born based on my difficulty to find a helmet for my daughter when she was 1 year old. I enjoy very much doing what I do because I believe that I contribute to the safety mainly of kids; it gives me some extra income and I can do it on my own time. Plus I have met very nice people doing this. At this moment of my life I am not looking for a formal job because I am busy enough with what I do but maybe I will later in life.

    For the ones that are in a similar situation as I was, I just want to say that I understand you and that it takes time to settle and that you need to be very persistent and that if 5 years ago was not easy it certainly is more difficult now. In Holland and everywhere else, regardless of your country of origin and the language difficulty, there is a crisis and high unemployment. So just hang in here, and hopefully something will come up for you. Keep your spirits up! Thanks for your time.
  • CW posted:

    on 5th November 2012, 12:50:27 - Reply

    It's stories by talented educated people like you that I want to hold up to those "highly skilled" migrants when they bark about how much more educated, talented, hard-working, deserving of this, that and the other thing than immigrants are. No, I keep saying, your skills are IN DEMAND at this particular second in time, that is all. The rest of us? The expat secretarial pool unless we can freelance.

    And it's gotten worse since I arrived in 2004.

    Pasqualino, I researched the Dutch job market before I left Canada...and I saw jobs I was qualified for. So I was optimistic, despite not knowing the language. However, the competition is huge, and fewer and fewer of those jobs exist since 2009. It's difficult to predict one's chances regardless of the research you do prior to moving because most information and websites and blogs are written by expats, not immigrants.

    Good luck to the is fortunate that she doesn't HAVE to work...
  • Cindy Wilmink posted:

    on 29th October 2012, 13:29:15 - Reply

    Did you also check They often have job openings for non Dutch speaking Expats (in Spanish, German, English, Swedish)
    Goodluck and keep us informed.
  • Juewels O. posted:

    on 25th October 2012, 20:21:43 - Reply

    My recommendation is to start your own business and work as a freelancer. This is what I have done and am very pleased.

    A Web site that can be very helpful is It's well worth the small fee they charge. Lots of quality flexible jobs that you ca do from your own home when you want to. Good luck!
  • Pasqualina Petruccio posted:

    on 25th October 2012, 12:14:11 - Reply

    May l ask what made you think that coming to a country where you didn't speak the language would enable you to get a job without a problem or some degree of difficulty?

    In my professional capacity as a recruiter; having read your post several times l would l still have no idea what type of work you did or have done, or what you would like to do. As there seems not one thread that ties one job to another, it could it be as simple as your CV also reflects this confusion to prospective employers and recruiters?

    There are plenty of jobs and opportunities out there, but you also have to be realistic. If you really want to increase your chances then learn the language, even if its just spoken , as many companies just require spoken Dutch or want to know that you are at least making the effort.

    Tap into your network. Ask other Expats how they managed to get their jobs. Write to companies directly. Find a recruiter that specializes in your given field ...There are so many avenues you have not yet explored or tried, it really can be done, you just have to focus, be determine and be realistic.
  • Colleen posted:

    on 25th October 2012, 11:04:57 - Reply

    What worked for me was getting out and meeting people, offering to use my skills for free as a volunteer (or informal internship) and showing what I was capable of. Within 6 months of starting this I had my first paid contract. I heard once that it takes immigrants 7 years to find their way back to the level they were at before immigrating. But once they achieve that level again, they keep rising! Don't give up!! Also, worth noting here: employment agencies want to 'try you out' in a low risk position before putting you in a highly responsble position with their prized client and there's a lot more at stake for them.
  • Lian posted:

    on 25th October 2012, 09:51:12 - Reply

    Yes, I have the same experience.

    Don't give up, there are still possiblities to combine humanity, euro's and" not" speaking Dutch well.
    These kind of "jobs" you won't find at the jobsites.

    After a journey of 3 years and many interviews I found mine.
    The key thing is to talk to as many people as possible.

  • yvonne posted:

    on 24th October 2012, 20:08:14 - Reply

    [Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]
  • David posted:

    on 24th October 2012, 19:28:43 - Reply

    Interesting and lucky that you can afford to just stop looking.

    Was curious what type of job you had in Mexico with that set of educational qualifications, as the article does not mention it. A bit about what made you employable in Mexico would have been interesting and perhaps got you some ideas of how to translate that into work here.
  • Stef posted:

    on 24th October 2012, 18:22:51 - Reply

    Great! I experience exactly the same at the moment. Master degrees, university teacher, have worked in several business positions.... My dutch is fluent but my English is not. Same answer by (young) recruiters: Very difficult! With a lot of luck maybe contact center work. I stopped "solliciteren". I am an open, talkative person, but wherever you try to get in contact you find checklists ("eisen") and arrogancy. Will give Expatbuddy a try. :-)
  • Lexia Emerenciana | ExpatBuddy posted:

    on 24th October 2012, 17:56:27 - Reply

    Hmm... a link is not translated to a hyperlink in this section. Please copy/paste the link to sign up:
  • Lexia Emerenciana | ExpatBuddy posted:

    on 24th October 2012, 17:52:00 - Reply

    Hi all,

    sorry I don't have a job for you guys but I do have a lot FREE tickets to offer to the Recruitment Dance on 22 November in Amsterdam! Do read more on my website.

    This is the closest I am able to offer you to get in contact with potential employers.'s the Dutch way of finding a job (combining a party and recruiting) but you are able to at least find a business network. I should say, jump into it and broaden your network!

    Apply via my website here -- > and scroll down the page to sign up.

    Sunny greetings,
    Lexia Emerenciana
  • Sarah posted:

    on 24th October 2012, 17:06:09 - Reply

    Please keep us posted! Unlike the women who tag along with their husbands on a 2 year job assignment, I'm planning on living here for at least 10 years (with my Dutch husband). Job hunting is abysmally disappointing as I, like you, have a ton of experience, all of which doesn't seem to "translate" well into Dutch society. I can totally relate to you!!
  • posted:

    on 24th October 2012, 14:29:39 - Reply

    I just read Ms Migoni s adventure. All I have to say is
    Keep up the good work!!!
  • Karen posted:

    on 24th October 2012, 13:59:13 - Reply

    I have the same problem.. my experience and knowledge is dumped.
  • Stefanie posted:

    on 23rd October 2012, 16:26:33 - Reply

    ...and now???