Student in the Netherlands: Finding a job

After all the fun you’ve been having, it’s time to get down to business. Literally!

You’ve probably been spending quite a lot of money since your arrival to the Netherlands. You’ve needed cash to decorate your new place, to pay all your administrative fees, to explore nearby Dutch cities, and to buy rounds at bars for your new-found friends.

Unless you’re incredibly financially responsible, or you’re the offspring of Mr. and Mrs. Moneybags, you’re probably pretty broke at this point in your life.

Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is that you can find a job to start filling that dent in your bank account. After all, Friday night is approaching fast and your last 10 euros can only get you and your friend a few biertjes or a Burger King meal menu - not both.

The bad news is you can only get that job if you’re from the EU, or if you’re from outside of the EU but by some miracle have the attained the impossible possibility of securing a work permit.

Now when I say EU what I really mean is the EU that excludes Bulgarians and Romanians, which still require a work permit to legally work in the Netherlands (but that’s a different subject which we won’t cover here).

EU students have the possibility to find a job during their studies, and have the right to continue working in the Netherlands upon graduation. For all of us other "unfortunate" nationalities, the best we can do is hope to win the lottery...

Tips for job searchingin the Netherlands

But enough of the doom and gloom (we’ll get back to it shortly). Here is some advice..

 Bars, cafes and stores

If you’re looking for something simple to bring in some spending money, there are plenty of bars, cafes, and retails stores that are willing to hire non-Dutch speakers - especially in the centres of the bigger cities where many of the customers are tourists.

Your best bet is to just go in and talk to a manager to see if they need any extra help. Worst case scenario, you can always find a job stocking shelves at an Albert Heijn.

 Internships and jobs

If you’re looking for something more substantial, such as an internship or position at a company that can help you further your career goals, I suggest being persistent with an intensive online search. There are great resources in the expat community to find jobs for non-Dutch speakers in the Netherlands. Keep an eye out online for something that fits you.

 Recruitment agencies and career fairs

You can also try going to recruiting agencies and career fairs. Your local Randstad office (some universities even have one on campus) could help, although from my experiences with them, I wouldn’t get your hopes up too high.

 Spead the word

Either way, rely on your network. Take a proactive approach, be it at school or elsewhere, and let people know you’re looking for a job. Be perseverant and prove that you have valuable skills to offer, regardless of your experience (or lack thereof).

 Be realistic

Most importantly, don’t let anything deter you. Set your expectations to a realistic level, know what you’re aiming for and why (a part-time job for a little extra cash, or the beginning of your flourishing career), and keep going until you reach your goal.

In today's economy, finding a job is going to be tough, even for those of you that already have three degrees. The trick is to accept the challenge and prepare yourself thoroughly.

For those without EU citizenship

Now, for you unlucky saps who aren’t blessed with EU citizenship (exceptions aside), here is the advice I can offer you:

Bulgarians and Romanians

For Bulgarians and Romanians, you still have the possibility of attaining a work permit as a student so take advantage of it as it gets much harder and more expensive to get one once you're no longer studying.

Non-EU students

For non-EU students, I'm sorry to say that you will have an incredibly challenging, if not impossible, time finding a job here during your study.

If you wish to stay after your study, you can apply for different types of visas that may allow you to find a job, but the skills you possess will have to be incredibly unique, so much so that no other EU national or Dutch citizen would be able to fill your job position.

As frustrating as that may be, it is the sad truth and I’d rather you hear it from me than have your hopes and dreams crushed by someone else who’s less sympathetic to your situation.

For all of you students out there, I wish you the best of luck in navigating through your job search. And if you have any tips for the rest of us, please share!

2015 update

In 2015 the Dutch government introduced a new orientation year residence permit for international graduates in the Netherlands to stay in the country for an extra year to look for a job or start a business.

Sonia M


Sonia M

I'm a Romanian/Canadian currently living in Rotterdam. I spent my first two years in the Netherlands living the life of an international student in Amsterdam. I am now self-employed, working...

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