Dutch jobs for internationals #2. Ana, a first-year International Communication student, has been working as a sales assistant in clothes shops since September. She really loves it.
‘During my first week in Groningen I sent emails to apply for various jobs as a sales assistant to Zara, Bershka, and other companies. I soon got a reply. They said they wanted to have an interview with me. I did the interview, they liked me, and they quickly took me to work there.’ This is Ana’s brief account of the application process for her first job in Groningen.
For her second job as a sales assistant at Primark, Ana applied after a tip. ‘I heard from a friend it was a good idea. Primark replied to me pretty fast. With them I also had an interview and they hired me.’
As for doing job searches, Ana recommends looking at the sites of the shops you want to work at. ‘There’s this website called Inditex. That is a company that owns Bershka, Zara, and many other brands. They have a list of vacancies or job opportunities, and, when I was searching, I just applied to all of them.’ She gives another recommendation. ‘There is another website where jobs are pretty easy to get. It’s called 365 Werk. They are quite nice to students, and they offer English-spoken jobs.’
To apply for these jobs only a few things are needed, says Ana. ‘What was central, was a Dutch health insurance. I didn’t have one at first, so I got a letter that I needed to apply for it. I also needed a European passport because it is harder for companies to get a work permit for workers from outside the EU.’
A one-day (or more) trial period may also be a requirement, Ana says. ‘During my first day of work I was tasked with serving a few customers, so one could see how I operate, how I treat customers and how I receive people in the store. That’s the way they determine whether you are the one for the job. If you aren’t, they will tell you: Okay, I’m sorry you’re not for this job. I saw such things happen to some trial employees.’
‘I am really into fashion’, Ana says. ‘I’ve always wanted to work in a clothing store. So, I also felt like, okay, I’m going to work for a clothing store.’
When she started her job, Ana found out that not knowing Dutch was not that big of a problem. ‘To be honest, most people are very respectful. Of course, I had some difficulties with some clients who didn’t like the fact that I did not speak Dutch. But overall, there’s no problem if you just speak English.’ Moreover, Ana says, the job even had its perks in terms of language learning. ‘This job was very good for me to learn Dutch because I had contact with many Dutch people. It’s very nice for students from abroad that live here, because they can just learn a language just by hearing orders.’
The other thing that Ana loved was the treatment of employees. ‘I really liked the fact that no matter if you’re international or not, they will treat you the same way. And you can meet so many people from all over the world. In fact it’s a great experience.’ Ana also says the salary helped her very well in paying for living expenses. Fun fact: the salary depends on the employee’s age. ‘When I was eighteen, I got much less than now. And when I’m twenty I’m going to earn even more.’
‘The people at Primark act like a group of friends, we go out from time to time’
In terms of balancing working and study life, Ana admits that sometimes it is quite hard. ‘At one time I even had to ask for a smaller contract of just nine hours a week. But I still earned enough money, so it was fine.’ The main thing Ana disliked was working on weekends. ‘That was the only free time I had, so if I worked on weekends, I had no leisure time. So, what I recommend is to work during the week, like in the afternoon or something. Then you can at least have the weekends to rest and relax.’
As for the work atmosphere, Ana says that at Bershka the relations between employees were work only. At Primark, however, she really enjoyed the contact between colleagues. ‘The people there act more like a group of friends. We go out together from time to time.’
‘A good tip is to really look at the job description’, recommends Ana. ‘And if you are invited for an interview, please ask your questions. You would want to know, for instance, if you are expected to work overtime, the amount you’re going to get paid, the hours you have to work, the health insurance… Because it can be really tricky sometimes. Because, for example, at Bershka they told me that I would have to work overtime, but I didn’t know it would be so much. So be careful and ask about everything before you sign a contract.’
Photo (fragment): Becca McHaffie