Networking strategies for expats in the Netherlands
Building a network in the Netherlands can be challenging for expats. Here are a number of useful strategies from a Russian student currently pursuing her MBA in the Netherlands.
"My goal is very simple, I have one wish on my bucket list and that is to find a job in a foreign country. This is why I applied to a Dutch university instead of a Russian one. I would like to try to find a job in the Netherlands afterwards, or even during my MBA," says Natalia Sklyar, current Executive MBA student at Nyenrode. She is Purchasing Director of the Deco department at OBI Group Holding in Moscow.
What internationals can learn from their Dutch network
Networking can provide expats with two valuable sources of information. It allows them to learn about the business culture in the Netherlands and Western Europe, and it can offer contacts that can lead to future career opportunities.
"First of all, it’s very important to know what the requirements, the rules and HR processes are at Dutch companies and the multinationals based in Europe. My colleagues from my MBA, the classmates and professors, they answer my questions and they help me with that.
"Secondly, students in other groups in the MBA program have different kind of contacts at different companies that I’m interested in. They can provide me with these contacts and through them I can meet these people."
What internationals offer their Dutch network
"I think I bring some international perspectives to my group. Anyone who is interested in the Russian market and would like to know more about conducting business there, I can definitely help with that.
"For example, when you want to do business with Russians I can tell people what is crucial to know and how to approach them in the best way. I have had some discussions about this with my MBA classmates."
How an MBA can help with creating a network in the Netherlands
"When you have Dutch classmates that are from different areas in the business world, this the first important source for building up a network in the Netherlands.
"The next level is their friends and colleagues. For example, in the areas that I’m interested in, this group can potentially provide me with contacts that can help me in the future.
"In this country they like having different types of events or drinks after work or class. You should always participate in these occasions. Dutch people are quite open when they talk, but some other nationalities have more difficulty with this I’ve noticed. Especially some eastern cultures are more closed and find it hard to easily talk openly.
"It’s important that you are comfortable with small talk and that you get used to it in these types of social situations. You need to be able to talk to people about nothing, with just simple topics like weather or what you read yesterday in the newspaper.
"If you are not comfortable with small talk, it can be helpful to prepare some topics for yourself and then to practice with your Dutch classmates."
Cultural aspects to building a network
"For the Netherlands specifically, I have learned that it is very important that other people introduce you to someone. Compared to Russia, it seems to be more important to be introduced first, rather than seeking the contacts yourself. I already studied in the Netherlands in 2009 and during this time I learned a lot about Dutch culture. Asking people some personal things like how they slept, how they feel, things like that are important here. You shouldn’t go directly to the point.
"At the same time, the Dutch can be very direct compared to other cultures in Europe. They will tell you clearly what they want and what they think.
"In Russia we also like to be direct, but not in a polite way, there is very little small talk. The Dutch are direct in a polite way. With people from some other nationalities you are never entirely sure what they think, because they don’t tell you directly what they really want. With the Dutch it’s very easy to understand what they really think. I think this is one reason why Russia and the Netherlands historically have been so close."
Using social media for networking
"It is essential to create an appealing LinkedIn profile and to keep it up to date. This can be a very useful tool in building your professional network. When you work in a certain market you should connect to other professionals in the same market, so that people know who you are, what you do and what your experience is.
"As one of my professors said, if you are not on LinkedIn in the Netherlands, it means that you are dead. In Russia, because the country is so huge, this network is not as important, not yet anyway. It doesn’t work as well as in the Netherlands."
Stay in touch!
"You should always keep in contact with people you have met during your studies or in your professional career. You never know when you will have use for someone.
A former professor told me that even just saying happy birthday once a year to a person will keep them aware that you exist and he or she will remember you the next time when you meet them. Once you have created a network, you need to maintain it, even if sometimes it’s just once a year."
Nyenrode Business Universiteit offers Full-time, Part-time Executive and Modular Executive MBA programs with a focus on developing the next generation business leaders.
The format of Nyenrode’s Executive MBA allows participants such as Natalie to join the program even when living outside of the Netherlands. Would you like to experience the power of the Nyenrode network? Find out more at: