Have you been doing everything else except pursuing your career? Are you now ready to gratify that part of your life? Amsterdam Mama Jane Stephenson, a career counselor and the co-founder of Empower Amsterdam, has some tips for getting started.
So maybe you had dreams of a specific career, studied hard, and had fulfilling roles only to have your career path paused by pregnancy? Or maybe you had your kids young, and followed your partner as his career blossomed and now you feel it’s time to make plans for your working life? But here you are, in a new country, a different culture, and with no extended family around to pick up the childcare duties as you begin your search for work. We know it’s difficult; we know it’s easier to stay in your comfort zone than step into the unknown – but here are some steps which may help you on your way.
The Netherlands is a bureaucratic country, and they love to see proof of your expertise, so if you qualified outside of the Netherlands you can have your diploma officially recognised. If you are in a regulated profession this is essential in order to develop your career in the Netherlands. Even if this is not the case, it’s a useful step to be able to explain what your qualifications mean in Dutch terms. The organisation which does this is NUFFIC and part of their website is in English.
Next, think about childcare, because if you feel your kids are safe you can spread your wings. No matter how young - or old - your kids are, there is a form of childcare which is appropriate. Paying for childcare is not the same as having family take care of them for you, but on the other hand, you have control over how your children are cared for. It is expensive, but there is a childcare allowance (kinderopvang toeslag) that can be applied for. Many organisations are used to international families, and can provide carers who speak your home language. Check out the Amsterdam Mamas website for articles of what is available and what is the norm in Netherlands. This article is a good place to start.
Let’s seize the bull by the horns and address your “career gap”. To be honest, this is less of an issue in the Netherlands than in other countries, but sadly, for what feminists may feel are negative reasons. According to government statistics, almost 50% of women in the Netherlands either don’t work or work part time, and 70% of women in the Netherlands are not financially independent. The government is stimulating the return of women to the workforce with several initiatives which could benefit you as a job seeker.
But let’s concentrate on your own career gap. Think about what you have you been doing for the past months or years. Relocating to a new country? Assimilating a new language and culture? Managing a household? Volunteering at school/childcare? These are all new experiences which have brought with them new skills. Think flexibility, adaptability, eager to take on new challenges, project management, leadership, team building. Girl, you are amazing!
Updating your Skills
If you still feel you need to upskill or retrain, then there are opportunities to do so either online or in a classic learning situation. There are online platforms with courses designed by top educational institutions, many of the courses are open access, although you’ll need to pay for the examination and certification. Coursera and Future Learn are both worth checking out. Dutch universities are some of the best in the world and offer many degree programmes in English. For more in-depth studies, begin your research here.
Update your CV
When you are ready to start applying for roles, it’s time to update your CV and LinkedIn profile. These are your calling cards to recruiters - the first impression a potential employer gets of you and the value you can add to their organisation. If you need tips on how to create an effective CV and LinkedIn profile, there are some great articles on the topic by LinkedIn influencer Liz Ryan, or get in touch with experts on a local level.
You Don't Have to Be Superwoman
If the thought of going back into your old profession feels as if you will not be able to perform as well as you did before you had children, try to remember why that job was so demanding. Was it because of the burden of work? Was your boss a slave driver? Or was it because the situation did not allow you to set boundaries? If it was the last reason, then maybe taking coaching sessions will help you to see how you can approach a new job with a new, strong, mind-set.
Let’s get one thing clear, going back to work after you have had your children is not compulsory; being a full-time mom is difficult but immensely rewarding. However, if you enjoyed the work you did in the past, and you feel ready to pick that career up again, we hope these steps will help you begin that journey back to a fulfilling career and personal financial independence.
Jane Stephenson has many years of experience coaching career transition and career development. She is also a founder board member of Empower Amsterdam, a foundation set up with a mission to provide free career coaching to unemployed men and women in the Netherlands who do not have Dutch as their first language.
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