Building Bridges: How Network Supports Newcomers in the Netherlands

Building Bridges: How Network Supports Newcomers in the Netherlands

During the meetings in the Kolo community, requests were made several times regarding a radical change in professional field or the difficulty in finding employment due to language barriers, lack of network, understanding the right approach, or the availability of suitable jobs in the Netherlands.

Employment plays a crucial role in the psychological and emotional well-being of newcomers.
In response to these requests, a webinar was created on the peculiarities of the job market in the Netherlands. Currently, without any promotion, it has gained 1000 views organically.

There was V., who had worked as an otorhinolaryngologist in Ukraine for ten years. She ended up in the Netherlands with her child, without any knowledge of the Dutch or English language, and it seemed that she had no chance of finding work in her profession anytime soon.

Although V. actively studied both languages and attended integration events, it didn’t yield the desired results. Over time, it became clear that the lack of work for V. had a strong negative moral impact. I delicately offered her help during a personal conversation, having sought advice beforehand from our regular volunteer, Petra — a LinkedIn and professional identity coach.

Network as a tool for improving the lives of newcomers.
After a private consultation on adapting her LinkedIn profile specifically for V. and its enhancement, following Petra’s recommendations, she decides to leverage her network and writes a brief text, having previously coordinated it with V. Here it is

And something incredible happens. Within just a day, the publication receives over 500 reactions, 90 comments, and nearly 200 shares. According to Petra, the result exceeded all expectations.

How to use the network for the benefit of newcomers?
We tried to understand the framework that anyone can use to leverage their network and help newcomers. Here are the main conclusions we reached:

  • The timing of the publication was well chosen: Thursday, lunchtime, when people are tired from morning work but not yet ready for lunch. Moreover, it was before the Easter holidays when people are more inclined to do good deeds.
  • The quality of the publication: Petra, being a former journalist, structured the publication well, making it clear and understandable.
  • The publication was very personal and emotional. When I read it beforehand, I got chills and tears. The human touch and emotional engagement are hooks that readers respond to.
  • The call to action (CTA) was very clear: help a female doctor. Often, similar posts lack clarity about the type of work the newcomer is seeking and how the reader can help, resulting in a lack of response. Or there are posts where a local person contacts the newcomer, but the focus in such publications shifts away from the newcomer, giving an unclear message to the reader.
  • The message of the publication is very positive: a newcomer woman with a child striving to integrate and be useful in the new society. The reader subconsciously feels the desire to help due to the boldness and number of challenges the young woman faces in the new country.
  • Prior to making the post, Petra and the woman worked together on updating her LinkedIn profile, making it clear, understandable, and compliant with the requirements of the Dutch job market. We wrote more about this in Petra’s publication.
  • There is information that the Netherlands is experiencing a shortage of doctors, and perhaps that’s why there was such a strong response to the publication.
  • The language of the post: Since Petra was targeting her own LinkedIn network, she wrote the publication in Dutch. It is essential to consider who will read the publication and what we want from these people. It should be immediately understandable, and the reader should not feel any inconvenience.

Separately, Petra noted that although V. didn’t have a sufficient level of language proficiency, she already received an invitation for the first interview, and eight other offers looked quite promising. This is an incredible result achieved through an updated LinkedIn profile and effective network.

Unexpected networking reaction provides ​​ psycho-emotional support for newcomers
In this story, the Ukrainian community KOLO played an important role. It was there that V. met like-minded people and found Petra. V. says that it’s important to start with something simple and gradually move towards the set goal. It’s worth emphasizing the importance of a sense of belonging in a new country and the support provided by the community during difficult times.

Here’s how the V. herself commented on this story:

“For a long time, I felt down, but suddenly, receiving so much support from complete strangers greatly uplifted me. I’ve only started using LinkedIn, I don’t know all the algorithms yet, but I constantly receive offers and support! Someone offered to teach me medical Dutch, someone invited me for coffee, someone wrote, ‘I can’t offer anything, but I’ll share your contact with someone who can help.

I feel like everyone sympathizes with Ukrainians at this moment. Moreover, in Europe, they highly value this profession, people understand that it’s a good profession, but due to the war, it’s challenging for a young girl to integrate, and she needs help. The Dutch are wonderful people; they want to support us and give advice.”

The underestimated and essential network:
As demonstrated by this experience, helping is simple. When people ask, “How specifically can I help?”, one opportunity is to engage in your own network to support the newcomer and introduce them to your professional circle. Network is a tremendous resource that can yield incredible results very quickly.

Author — Anna Bilenka, researcher & community builder
Photo — by krakenimages on Unsplash

Advice for other newcomers: "Don't be afraid. We are used to not respecting ourselves, thinking who needs us, what can we offer. Value yourself. No matter what you did in your country, you can be valuable in this country too."

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