(Editor’s note: This originally appeared on Spouse Trail, a website dedicated to telling the stories of career-focused expat spouses in the Netherlands. It’s reposted here with the permission of the author.)
Sruti Lal is an alumnus of two of the world’s top schools: National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, both in Singapore. Prior to her move to the Netherlands to join her husband, Sruti worked in Singapore for six years, enabling her clients to implement strategies that abide by the highest safety and environment standards. She had also taught environment modules at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She was a seasoned professional in her industry and yet, she was stumped when it came to finding her ground here, in the Netherlands. This was 10 years ago.
“I was even considering jobs in the UK as they spoke English there”, says Sruti, reflecting on her strategies to find a job in the Netherlands. “I came here with a set of expectations and had done no research on the local environment. I was already a senior consultant and expected to find a job easily based on my Singapore experience, and applied for similar positions. For months I did the same thing, almost like a one-trick pony. Looking back now, it seems rather naive. I knew the jobs I was applying for required fluency in Dutch, but I kept applying, hoping that I would be given the job. I believed that I could pick up the language on the job.”
It took Sruti a few months to realise that the jobs she was applying for required her to speak Dutch as they were client-facing roles that expect her to discuss regulatory frameworks in Dutch.
Changing the job-hunt strategy yielded results. “I expanded my job search criteria to include industries and companies where my Dutch skills would be of less concern.” This led her to focus on specific industries, rather than consulting roles. “I looked at jobs related to process and technical safety in the Oil & Gas industry, for example. And I got two job offers!” Her first job in the Netherlands was with Bilfinger Tebodin, where she conducted environment safety studies in petrochemical and oil & gas projects.
You need to discuss how you feel about giving up a fulfilling career in one country to move to another. For that, first ask yourself how important your career is to you, and how much you are willing to compromise. It is easy to get carried away by the excitement of a new location and to think that we can figure it out once we are there.
Sruti has now built a strong career graph for herself as a safety & environment consultant, based in the Netherlands, but addressing issues spanning Europe and Central Asia. Currently, she is a senior advisor at A.P. Moller – Maersk where she collaborates with teams on Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) programs. “I support the global and regional leaders in deploying HSSE practices Business continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic is also an important area of my work now. What makes me happy is that I am working in an organisation where I am empowered to implement safety standards, my passion. Though challenging, I feel completely fulfilled because I am in an environment where that conversation is actually taking place and I have strong leaders to back me up”, says Sruti.
Sruti’s biggest advice is to rethink how one approaches the job hunt itself: “ Upon arriving, instead of immediately jumping into the job search frenzy, it is important to take time to meet people, open up to new experiences and establish a healthy social circle. This is the key to great mental health.”
About the author:
Latha Anand is a passionate communications professional with more than 15 years’ experience in journalism and public relations. Latha thrives on crafting narratives that engage the audience, mobilize opinion and motivate action. When she is not tackling a story, you can find her biking in Utrecht’s Maxima park or fussing over her Persian cats. Her secret sauce for friendship is her delicious Indian cooking.
Also see Latha’s Spouse Trail website here.
See her Dispatches post about ASML here.