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Starting a new career in the Netherlands

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

“I want to change my job so badly, but don’t think I can”. Sweating from the combination of our school’s tall staircase typical of many old Amsterdam schoolbuildings and the Dutch sultry summer weather, she sits down in a chair in front of me. “I’d love to work again in my field of expertise, but without Dutch, I’m not sure what my options are”.

Sara is by far not my only student desperate to make a change in her professional career after some time away. When people move to the Netherlands or when someone is away from work for parental leave, a longer holiday, or because of burnout and other health issues, it often inspires them to look at their circumstances and their career from a new perspective.

This new perspective is often inspired by the different way Dutch people tend to approach work. If you compare what is considered a healthy balance between work, family and leisure time around the world, I think it is fair to say that, in the Netherlands, the amount of time and energy we consider reasonable to dedicate to work is significantly less than in other parts of the world. Even in big law firms here, where 5 o’ clock is not as sacred as in many other Dutch offices, people still often have shorter days than in comparable firms abroad.

Without going into the cultural, political, historical and economical reasons for this more relaxed mentality towards work, what we see is that many people work flexible days, either 4 or 4,5 days a week, and that working long hours is usually not encouraged and even restricted by law. People who come from work environments abroad where days of 10+ hours are common, where part-time work is not an option, and where life revolves around work instead of the other way around, often decide to stay in the Netherlands longer than expected to enjoy this more healthy approach to work. This may require finding a job with a Dutch-speaking company. Others may need to find a new job when studies end, sponsoring ends, or if they arrive here on the sponsorships of a partner’s company.

Whatever the reason, finding your way on the Dutch labour market might seem daunting. The language, the connections and ways to gain access to your desired job, maybe setting up your own company as a freelancer, the rules and laws, the contracts, the letter of application, the interview, the Dutch etiquette on the workfloor, etc etc. So many new things coming at you all at the same time!


Starting a new career and finding a new job involves quite a few steps.

First, it’s important to define your professional ambitions and formulate concrete short-term and long-term professional goals. Assess your qualifications and be clear about what you can offer and what you want.

So now you’re ready to start looking for opportunities. But where do you look and what is the application process like? Dutch cover letters tend to be a bit different from those in other countries – employers want to read a bit more about you as well as your suitability for the role. It’s important to Dutch employers to get to know you and your personality a bit more. Growing and maintaining a network is so important to the process of finding the right opportunity too.

It’s common to negotiate salaries and the conditions of your work contract. But knowing when to push back and stand your ground – and not! – is important.

Once you’ve got the job, you may find some cultural differences in the workplace. This may lead to some awkward moments but some funny ones too – you’ll soon learn from these!


We have started a new course – Roadmap to the Dutch labour market – to help you find the right way for you and start working on your desired career in the Netherlands. The course aims to give you basic knowledge and tools you need to navigate the Dutch labour market.

In ‘accessible Dutch’, supported by English, French, German, Spanish or Portuguese. If your level of Dutch is around A2, you can join us.

If you’d like to learn more about this course, check out the website or send us an email at


Rubio Dutch Blog

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