Erasmus University Rotterdam aims to encourage students to think globally and provide them with the tools and knowledge they need to pursue their career, either in the Netherlands or elsewhere in the world. The skills and knowledge you acquire through your academic work are important, but in order to be truly ‘globally employable’ you must also be able to adapt to unexpected circumstances, work with multicultural teams, accept different work practices and be aware of how businesses operate globally.
As many companies and organisations operate on an increasingly international level, they often require their employees to be able to work and communicate effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds. The skills that enable you to successfully deal with personal or professional situations in which you interact with peers or colleagues from other countries are called cross-cultural skills or intercultural competencies. A stay abroad during or after your studies (e.g. for an exchange period or internship) will provide you with an excellent opportunity to work on your cross-cultural skills, but it is certainly not the only way. By exposing yourselves to as many international settings as possible inside and outside the classroom, you will also be able to develop your cross-cultural skills without even having to travel!
In order to be able to communicate effectively on an international level, it is essential to be aware of the fact that people from different cultures may respond to a certain situation in very different ways. Developing your intercultural awareness involves becoming familiar with the cultural beliefs and practices of the people you are interacting with, as well as becoming aware of your own beliefs and values.
An internship or exchange period abroad will no doubt confront you with many (unexpected) situations that will contribute to your intercultural awareness, but your everyday life in the Netherlands can also provide you with many opportunities to work on your understanding of cultural differences. Actively invite students from other countries when forming work groups for assignments, or join a club or student association that organises activities for members of all nationalities.
One of the essential skills for working in an international environment is (written and verbal) communication. In most countries, you will get by with English, French or Spanish, but there are countries where this is not the case. If you are (planning on) working or studying abroad, it is a very good idea to learn the native language of the country in question. This will not only help you to communicate better during your stay, it will also be appreciated by your employer and help you to socially interact with colleagues. In addition, learning a new language will make you stand out in your future applications (see also: 'Language and training centre' for more information on language courses). Even if you have no plans to go abroad, acquiring a new language might contribute to your employability. Potential employers might do business with certain countries and give preference to candidates who can communicate with their business partners in their own language!
Cross-culturally competent individuals are known to be able to quickly adapt to unexpected situations in an independent and creative manner. Flexibility, creativity and independence are skills that most employers will appreciate highly, even if the company or organisation is not very internationally oriented.
During a job, study period or internship abroad, you will experience situations that are different or new to you and you will be forced to resolve issues on your own, without the support of your long-term friends and family. This can feel a little uneasy at first, but in the end it will encourage you to display more initiative and be more creative.
Students who work in international work groups in class or who are actively involved in an international student association will also develop these skills. They will have to find ways to achieve their goals with students from other backgrounds, overcoming unexpected cultural differences and different ways of approaching the assignment or project.
Erasmus University Rotterdam is an internationally oriented university that aims to produce young graduates who can pursue their careers anywhere in the world. You might be a Dutch student interested in finding a job abroad, or perhaps you an international student in the Netherlands thinking about staying in the Netherlands in order to gain work experience.
Lots of activities are organised by faculties, studies, study associations and student societies that focus on a future career in the international work field. An international career is becoming increasingly relevant because organisations in every work field need to be able to adapt to the demands of the globalised economy. Therefore many recruiters and employers prefer employees who have excellent communication skills so they can be employed in both national and international work fields.
When you aspire to an international career, you must remember that there are different international careers. You might want to work for a multinational in your home country; you might want to move abroad and apply for a job there; you might like to move from country to country; or you could prefer to be posted abroad by an employer and work as an expat. Are you interested in working on temporary international projects but still be stationed in the Netherlands or only go on business trips? Do you want to work within a culturally diverse working environment or serve international clients? These are just some of the possibilities you can consider, but it is important to realise that there are different types of international careers to which you can aspire and different legal requirements to take into account.
To develop a successful international career, you are dependent on numerous external factors. For example, is international placement possible with the employer, is it necessary to speak the native language, what skills are required to operate in an international work setting?
It is important to identify your opportunities. Many (international) vacancies are published, but many more are not or not visible on the vacancy platforms you use. It is therefore important to get out there and inform relevant contacts of your international ambitions. Talk to other students who have the same ambition as you or who already have international (work or study) experience. Participate in activities or attend events that are internationally oriented. Join international study associations or student societies. Choose courses that are focused on your preferred international work field (see also: 'Extracurricular activities'. You can also enrol in one of the many workshops organised by Career Advice. This can broaden your insight into different aspects of an (international) career.
While students and graduates who are nationals of one of the EU member states may live and work in the Netherlands without restrictions, students with a non-EU/EEA nationality must comply with various regulations set by the Dutch government. For more information visit the website of the International Office of Erasmus University Rotterdam.
For all practical issues that you might experience as an international student, you can contact the International Office of Erasmus University Rotterdam. They also organise information sessions regarding working and doing internships in the Netherlands.