Working in the Netherlands

Hello, I’m Leo, and I’m a graduate from the Master of Finance programme of VU University Amsterdam. After graduation, I decided to work in the Netherlands, and joined an asset manager’s talent programme as a management trainee in 2008. Although I do recollect my experiences of staying in the Netherlands from time to time, when Wendy gave the idea of writing a short article on my working experiences in the Netherlands after graduation, I started to put various pieces of my thoughts together to find out why I’m still here. Looking back the past four years, I feel like working in the Netherlands has been amazing experiences and I never regret my decision to work here instead of going back to Asia immediately after graduation:

First of all, Dutch companies have deep-rooted global orientation in doing business. When I started my study here, I was impressed by the openness of the classes and the way they were taught. When I started seeking for a job after graduation, I was shocked again by realizing that there were many many multinational companies across various sectors based in the Netherlands, for example, in financial services industry, back to 2008, there were ABN Amro, Fortis, Rabobank and ING, and in other sectors, there were international companies like Shell, Philips, and IBM etc. They are very open in recruiting international students.

Secondly, Dutch colleagues have good international mindsets. A lot of friends ask me whether not speaking Dutch or not being a Dutch national is a problem, working in a Dutch company, of course, there are a relatively high number of Dutch colleagues, nevertheless most colleagues speak English very well, so communication is not a problem at all. Besides language, I feel that the mindsets of Dutch colleagues are quite international as well and they are open to different cultures, I guess this might due to the fact that Dutch people trade and travel globally often and some of them even have their significant half who is non-Dutch.

Thirdly, the organizational hierarchy is less explicit than that of Asian corporate, here, the company is relatively flat, and people are encouraged to speak about their opinions regardless of seniority. For example, the management of my company always organizes lunch sessions and town hall meetings to open the floor to front line employees to speak up their minds. As an employee, I feel I’m actively involved in giving my inputs to the matters that concern me. Of course, the final decision is taken by the management in the end, but I feel the ability to express opinions is very helpful for the management to make the right decision.

Graduate programme is quite typical in western corporate, so is in the Netherlands. Most Dutch companies, depending on the sector they are in, have very structured graduate programme, normally the programme consists of a few rotations (normally three times six months for each rotation) on different divisions of the company, the rotations are particularly helpful for graduate to gain insights on how the company functions, and cherry-pick the function division the graduate likes the most. For example, when I joined the asset management company, I had the idea of managing asset to outperform the market, but I did not have a very clear idea on which area would appeal to me the most, after two rotations, I gained a better understanding on which function area I would like to spend a few years afterwards.

Another thing I appreciate a lot is the soft skill training. Most Dutch companies believe that the learning curve consists of both soft skill and hard skill. So, employees can learn from crunching numbers on daily basis on the job, also from soft skills training, e.g., presentation skill, communication skill, and problem solving skills, etc. I was sent to numerous trainings over the past years, and I have benefited a lot from these trainings, the full package has equipped with the skill of being ready to fight for uncertainty in the changing world, which is fundamentally helpful for my professional and personal life.

But, as you might expect, there is always a “but” 🙂 Sometimes I feel that Dutch companies can be very long-term focused and very structural. (e.g., Amsterdam central station renovation project was there since the first time I visited Amsterdam more than half decade ago, then I found out that the project actually started in 1997 already and expected to be finished in 2013. And the ongoing Rotterdam central station renovation project is inspired by the number of forecasted public transport passengers in 2025!). My point here is to remind you to keep calm and don’t lose your patience if you experience this or going to experience this in the future job in the Netherlands.

When comes to personal things, if you ask me what I miss the most when I think of my home country China, the things I miss the most are my family and the food! I can solve the two issues by travelling back from time to time and eat like a horse there!… so all in all, deciding what to do after graduation is a journey, not a destination, I’m very happy with my stay in the Netherlands and I would encourage you to give a try as well!

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6 thoughts on “Working in the Netherlands

  1. There are various opportunities for the youngsters to make their Career by working in Netherlands multinational companies. By sharing your working experience through this blog will definitely encourage the youngster to work in Netherlands and make their career . Great post thanks for sharing this experience of yours.

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