You moved to the Netherlands without a job... Now what?

You moved to the Netherlands without a job... Now what?

First of all, welcome to the Netherlands! And congratulations! After having lived here for the past 14 years I have to say, for me, this is one of the best places to live. Although I didn’t think that at all when I moved here a long time ago.

But back to you… In case you moved here, giving up a budding career in the process, you might be asking yourself: “So, NOW WHAT?”

Yes, good question… Over the past years, I have had many clients who asked themselves the exact same question.

The running train metaphor

I like to compare our career path with a running train. Once you are on it, it is difficult to get off the train, even if you do not like the journey or the destination. Moving abroad is like getting off the train and standing on a station. Many people immediately feel the urge to catch the next train.

If you are sure that the next one is the right train, you can do that. But if you have doubts, simply take the time to think. Consider which train, which journey and which destination you want to take next. It is a unique opportunity.

Food for thought

Here is some food for thought:

1. Evaluate your life and the career you have had so far

In order to decide which direction you want to go in, first take stock of your life so far:

  • What are you the most proud of and grateful for?
  • What gave you the most joy and fulfilment?
  • What didn’t you like?
  • What are you happy you left behind?
  • What do you want to change?

One of my clients was completely convinced that after moving to the Netherlands, she wanted to have a fast-paced career, like the one she had back in Australia. But after a couple of sessions, she discovered that she was actually happy that she had escaped it. She wanted to spend more time with her family, so she got a part-time job at a start-up company.

2. Make your own bucket list

Think of the things you want to do, both professionally and privately. What do you want this new era in your life to be about?

Another client of mine moved out of the Netherlands to a different country. We spoke about his move and his career transition, as he moved away from the NGO sector in order to start his own company. He told me that the most important question that helped him to make the transition was: “What lifestyle do I want to have?” Followed by: “What career fits this lifestyle?” So, please go ahead and ask yourself these questions.

3. Think out of the box

Of course, the easiest thing to do is to just pick up where you left off. If you had an office job, you might think, “I will just look for the same position.” But look at my previous points. Did you answer that you wanted to change some things? What have you written down on your bucket list?

The fact that everybody else is doing something, is not a good enough reason for you to be doing it as well. Think differently! The Netherlands is a unique country with a huge amount of start-ups, innovation centres, freelancers, volunteers, NGOs, social start-ups, part-timers, etc.

Maybe you were secretly dreaming of starting a new study, or wanted to start your own business, or dreamt of volunteering. It is all possible.

When I pick my daughter up from school every Wednesday at 12:30, I am always amazed at how many moms and dads are picking up their kids, implying that they either work part-time or have their own business. I hear you thinking, “Yes, but I also need to earn a living”. Sure, you do, but you also can think about ways to make it all work.

Try to come up with a plan first, instead of following the crowd or the very first opportunity that crosses your path.

4. Find your tribe

After you have made the change, there will be many times that you feel lonely, like I did. That is why you need to surround yourself with like-minded people, your “tribe”. They will help you; connect you with the right people. Connect with others online through social media. Facebook groups are wonderful for that, but also make the effort to go to the various expat / international events to meet real people.

5. Learn about Dutch culture

Learn as much as you can about the Dutch culture and how it differs from yours. This will save you a lot of frustration and help you navigate better. Here is the link to my article about cultural differences.

6. Make a personal / professional development plan

Once you have considered your dreams, preferred lifestyle and possible career change, it is time to make a plan. The crucial aspects of this plan are the following:

  • What are your 3-month, 6-month, 1-year, and long-term goals (both professional & private)?
  • What are the practical steps you need to take to get there?
  • Who can help you get there?
  • What resources will you need to get there (money, studies, courses etc.)?
  • What are the potential obstacles between you and your goal?
  • How will you handle the potential obstacles?
  • How will you reward yourself for realising your goals?

If there is no plan, the chances of you executing all your goals are limited! Do not skip this part! The best part about the plan is to actually think about the obstacles. Not in order to demotivate you, but in order to not get stuck when challenges appear. And they will appear. And when they do, you will already be prepared for them.

Also, remember that you can always alter your plan as you go!

7. Catch that train!

So, now that you have carefully looked around, considered what you like and love to do, gathered the right people around you, and made a plan, it is time to board the train and enjoy your new journey. Enjoy your new co-travellers, the view and embrace your decision fully. I hope you will love your new destination!

Was this article helpful? Share your thought in the comments below!

Dorota Klop-Sowinska


Dorota Klop-Sowinska

Official Member of Forbes Coaches Council. I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am the author of the book Career Jump! How to Successfully Change Your Professional Path...

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Leave a comment

mokumhammer 11:32 | 10 June 2018

You failed to mention - ageism exists here, and at 57, I am on the job scrap heap. My expertise, in the field I worked in - no longer exists, & I am finding reinventing myself for the jobs market, extremely difficult.

DoSoCoach 13:05 | 11 June 2018

I can imagine that the older we get the more difficult it is to reinvent ourselves and our career path. I remember when I was changing my career at the age of 32 I already thought I am too old ;-) but when I started my new studies I discovered I was the youngest, and my study colleagues were 50, 60 and 65 years old. I thought "wow, it is amazing that still at the older age you have enough courage and guts to do it!" So I think it is never too late, but I agree that it is not always easy. What do you find most difficult in this process?

Rosse Litao 11:52 | 10 June 2018

just moved in the NL, Diemen from the Philippines for about 5 weeks ago. Been trying to apply a job for a week but no avail due to dutch speaking requirement which i don’t possess yet. It’s hard to start when you don’t speak dutch. Am starting to get worried and rusty.

Yashwanth.kgann... 02:14 | 11 June 2018

Do you think learning Dutch can help you find a job?? I am planning to work in NL very soon though English was sufficient. And also could you pls help me how you got visa and which visa to land in NL.

DoSoCoach 13:25 | 11 June 2018

Hi Yashwanth, as I said in the previous comment, it very much depends on the type of work you are looking for. For many internationally oriented positions Dutch is not needed. Professionally, me myself I am not offering any services related to visas and permissions. Feel free to check this site with relocation companies who are offering this types of services.

Kanokkorn83 06:45 | 15 June 2018

Hi DoSoCoach,, I have passed A1 with The Netherlands embassy but I don't have visa to apply a new job. Could you pls guide me what should I do next?

DoSoCoach 13:09 | 11 June 2018

Hi Rosse, for what types of jobs are you looking for and where have you been looking for it? I know many people who work here and do not speak a word of Dutch, for sure it is helpful but often not a must. It very much depends on the type of the work you are looking for. One week it is very short to determine yet if it is difficult, I know people who have a great experience and still, it takes a couple of months for them to find a suitable job. Let me know what types of job are you interested in so I can advise better, where to look for it.

Camila Isidora ... 17:35 | 21 June 2018

This is very helpful. I moved here a month ago from Chile. I'm a psychotherapist, but sadly I can't work in that field yet, to do so one of the things I need to do is learn Dutch, so that's my main goal this year. While that happens I need to work and I'm having a hard time figuring out what to do, I'm interested in many fields but can't seem to find a way into them. Hopefully some planning and thinking things over can help get me there. Thank you!

DoSoCoach 10:53 | 22 June 2018

Hi Camila, welcome to the Netherlands! Thanks, happy to hear the article is helpful. Why cannot you work as psychotherapist here? Is it because you need to register your diploma here? I know other expat psychologists that work here without speaking Dutch. Of course speaking Dutch is helpful but often not a must of you want to work in your field. Good luck!

Camila Isidora ... 16:49 | 25 June 2018

I may have been misinformed (there's contradicting information depending on who you ask), but I understood that in order to register at BIG as a psychotherapist I need to pass a test that includes Dutch language. Honestly, it's been difficult to find accurate information about how to proceed with my degrees so I can work in my field. Thank you!

DoSoCoach 22:26 | 26 June 2018

Camila can you connect with me on LinkedIn and send me a message, I will try to connect you with the right person who might further help to clarify this topic.

Karn Kumar 06:25 | 4 July 2018

Can dependent is allowed with applicant(On student Visa) there?Are dependent allowed to work full time?

jasontehtzehan 10:20 | 8 November 2018

Hi, I’m coming to Netherlands in December. But I don’t have a visa or anything. I’m coming to find a job. Would it be a problem

GabrielaBerrios2 19:52 | 20 May 2020

Hi Mrs. Dorota, could you give me advice moving to Netherlands I am from Honduras and I want to move to Netherlands for a better professional future, the conditions in my country are very bad, corruption and poor job opportunities havent let me to find a good job that I can support myself, I have 4 years experience in Customer Service and I have experience in fabric customer service logistics, banking customer service, warehouse logistics and insurance customer service. I am native Spanish, and have advanced English as well since all my jobs I have been required to speak English as well as write it. Please I need your help advising me