Finding an internship in The Netherlands can be quite a challenge, but you are not alone. Two experts share their best tips.
‘I need to find an internship in The Netherlands for September 2021. I would prefer to stay in Groningen, or at least in the North of the Netherlands. But I don’t know where to start or which platforms to use,’ says Hai-Van Nguyen, a 23-year-old International Communication (Master) student from Vietnam.
Are you in a similar situation? Don’t worry! Melissa Fuller, lecturer and career counsellor at Hanze, and Trienke Drijfhout-Roeters, programme coordinator and former career counsellor at Hanze, shed some light on how to go about the search for an internship in The Netherlands.
Where should I start?
‘I think it is kind of a reflective process. Students would need to ask themselves some questions: What can I do? What do I want to learn?’, Melissa says. ‘Think of an internship as an opportunity to learn what you want to be able to do.’ And there’s another crucial question: Who do I know? Both career counsellors know from experience that you get most jobs through your network. You can ask people in your environment who might know someone who could help.
Think of an internship as an opportunity to learn what you want to be able to do
According to Melissa, it is especially important to build contacts with adult professionals instead of students. ‘I think all students have a hobby. It is so important for them to use their hobby more strategically. I mean, they’re enjoying what they’re doing anyway and then they’re with people who enjoy the same things they do. They already have something in common. Just get yourself out in the world. Maybe you have an interest in biking or volleyball or something like that, then don’t do the ACLO course, but find another place to do that sport. Because then you’re gonna meet people who are not students.’
Which platforms should I use?
‘LinkedIn has to be updated and has to be good’, Melissa says. ‘LinkedIn is a good platform for branding yourself,’ Trienke adds. Trienke further recommends the organization Make it in the North: ‘They organize online career events for international students and international professionals in the region.’ For looking for vacancies, Melissa recommends checking out the websites nl.indeed.com, Monsterboard and Noorderlink, as well as expat (job) sites on Facebook.
What about CV and cover letter?
‘In the Netherlands, a picture on your CV is very important. And if you have a good LinkedIn profile, then add this link to your CV. Real-life project should go to the top, not theory courses’, Trienke says. ‘Make a letter and a CV for every single function or company you apply to. Different companies are looking for different things,’ recommends Melissa. You can adapt or highlight small details, such as interests or hobbies, but of course, this does not mean you should lie. ‘Also, try not to waste your time googling how to write a letter, or a CV. Rather ask people who got a job to give you their successful letter and CV.’
Show interest and have questions prepared. You need to be able to pitch yourself
‘When you made it to an interview with a company, do not talk about money or time off until they have actually offered you the position’, Melissa stresses. ‘Show interest and have questions prepared. You need to be able to pitch yourself’, Trienke adds.
‘It’s like dating sometimes’
‘Look at any vacancy you find as a wish list. It is just like you’re going dating. You have this ideal picture in your head. You will not get exactly that, but you might get eighty percent of it, and that might be fantastic! It’s the same thing with a vacancy: If you think you meet 75 percent of what’s there, go for it,’ Melissa says. ‘I know a lot of students get scared, because they aren’t perfectly fitting exactly what that job says. Now, stop stressing. 75 percent is already good. So, when you create your CV, stress the things that match really strongly.’ Trienke agrees that looking for an internship can be like dating sometimes; you might have second thoughts and you might want to reconsider if a job is really what you want to do. ‘It’s not only does the organisation want me?, but also, do I want you?’
‘I don’t speak Dutch’
‘I am afraid that I won’t be able to find an internship because I don’t speak Dutch’, says Hai-Van Nguyen. So is speaking Dutch crucial? ‘Even if it is just to understand the jokes at lunchtime, even if it’s just Dutch A1, A2, you gotta start somewhere’, Melissa says, ‘maybe not for the content of your work, but for the social integration at that job’.
Dutch people tend to be very direct and straightforward
And what about other cultural characteristics? ‘Big exaggerations on your CV are probably not a good idea. It is okay to be confident and be proud of what you’ve done, but trying to sell yourself too hard is tricky,’ Melissa says. ‘Authenticity is a good one here.’ Trienke highlights that Dutch people tend to be very direct and straightforward: If a company does not have a clear webspace with careers or applications on its website, you can simply call the company and ask to be connected to the responsible person.
When to start with the process?
Trienke suggests starting around six months in advance, at least with reflecting on what you actually want to do and in what type of organization you want to work. You are still months or even years away from your internship? ‘Start making contacts now’, Melissa says. ‘You have such a great position to start getting your face and name out there!’
Melissa’s last tip to find an internship in The Netherlands: Put your social media on private should there be content you do not want your future employers to see!