The struggle of finding a business-related job of a recently-graduated biomedical science student

A lot of international students do not only come to Holland for the stellar higher education programs available here, but also come with the hope of establishing a career in this top 10 happiest place on Earth. Hence, I would like to share with you my personal job-searching experience at the end of master program.

Posted by at Jul 30, 2017 03:50 PM

Let’s start with a bit of background info about me. I went to high school in New Zealand, did my bachelor of science (major in biomedical science) at Amsterdam University College under a full ASF scholarship, and then moved onto the master of oncology at University of Amsterdam with an AES scholarship. But at the end of my first year, i switched to the major Science in Society which allows science students like me to tap into business development and management in the context of Science.

I just submitted my thesis about 2 weeks ago, so technically i do consider myself as a graduate. Just like any other graduate hopefuls, I wanna secure my life after this summer with a job. So far, I have lost count of the numbers of job applications I have filed. Sadly, i havent landed a job yet. And here are the 3 biggest struggles that I have come across.

my first business-related internship was a project to develop Amsterdam Health Technology Park surrounding Amsterdam academic hospital
my first business-related internship was a project of AHTI to develop Amsterdam Health Technology Park surrounding Amsterdam academic hospital


1)      Language

I have taken 2 courses of Dutch in the course of 5 years, but that barely scratches the surface of the challenge. Initially with my biomedical background and high interest in business, I want to explore a career in consultancy. I googled for a list of consultantcy companes in the Netherlands (surprisingly there is such a list) and started sending applications to those companies. And the result was just a series of rejection, for one reason: my lack of dutch language skill. A couple of companies even called me to check on my Dutch level before proceeding further with my applications.

The requirement of Dutch language is not only in consultancy but also in the majority of other business jobs, especially marketing and HR. I used Linkedin as way to look for jobs but this page doesn’t have the function to filter jobs  based on language requirements. However, most job descriptions on Linkedin do mention whether they need a dutch-speaking employee.

I try to learn Dutch
I have tried to learn Dutch. But it is a difficult language to master. I will need to put more effort.


2) Non-EU citizenship

I also used Hoitalent website for job searching. This page is particularly useful for international students as they have the language filter and experience filter (internship, traineeship, entry level, senior level, etc). As a recent graduate, I am really interested in getting a traineeship position. Traineeship is a paid employment + training program offered to talented students, mainly in the areas of IT, finance, and business management. Hoitalent lists all available traineeships from a lot of companies, such as Heneiken, Adidas, Cargill, Shell, and Unilever. Job application process for traineeship is often a lot longer and tougher than regular job positions. It involves quantitative tests, personality tests, a couple of interview rounds and assessment day. Still, because of its focus on training recent graduates to become future leaders in the field and its high-wage scheme, traineeships are very competitive.

However, one thing I notice is that some traineeships (also a lot of other job positions) are only open for Dutch or EU students. This restriction further limits the number of jobs available for interntional students from outside of EU, like me. For example, I got invited to take a quantitative test and a personality test for a traineeship – which usually takes 1-2 hours. I completed it just to find out a few days later that the company could not proceed further with my application, as I am not a EU citizen.

Being a EU citizen means that you have free access to the job market in the Nehtlernads; in other words, companies do not have to apply for work permit or sponsor your visa to stay in the Netherlands. But not all companies can do that; companies need to pay a certain amount of money to the Dutch government to be able to hire non-EU foreigners

i was sad for getting rejected all the time
Getting rejected all the times can be discouraging. But i won't give up


3) Lack of experience

As a student with a biomedical background, it is hard for me to strike the interest of recruiters because I don’t have much relevance experience or knowledge related to the job position that I am applying to. I have lost count of the number of job applications I have filed; but  so far, only 2 companies have invited me for interviews.

The first application is for a finance traineeship at a big Dutch corporate. Despite my lack of experience and knowledge in finance, I still got through to the last round of the 4-stage assessment process (quantitative/logics test + personality test + CV, 1st interview round, assessment center, and final interview). I think this was possible because unlike the recruitment process of other traineeships, this one allowed applicants to do the quantitative/logics test and personality tests at the same time of submitting their CV. It means that HR people have more than just the information on the CV to evalulate the potential of an applicant. Hence, maybe (this is purely my hypothesis): I may not have impressed them with my experience in the CV, but wowed them with my test results. But still, I got rejected in the end for the reason that may have got me rejected anyway in the very first CV-check round.

The second application is for a sale + business administrative position at a small growing company. About 30mins after submitting my application, I got a message from a manager of that company, asking whether I was serious with my application (he doesn’t understand why a science guy is applying for such a position). He did mention that he was very impressed by my motivation letter. Furthermore, the company sells chemicals and technological products, so he thinks someone with a science background may get around with all the technological information easier. Henceforth, despite my lack of business adminstration and management background, I was invited to the next round (together with 7 others, out of 80 applicants). In the end, I got rejected at the final round of a 3-stage process (CV + motivation letter, business-case assignment, and final interview), because the chosen applicant is a dutch person, which makes the hiring process a lot easier.

Sometimes i wonder if i should make my life easier by sticking to a career in science


Having said all of that, I want to emphasize that it is still possible to kinda steer your career path away from what you study. It may be a bit harder, but if you have a good reason and you have experiences from extracurricular activities, then it is still possible. I mean I was very close with both applications I mention above :D

In sum, finding a job after graduate is not easy, especially for international students. If I can give you an advice, I would say: learn Dutch as soon as possible, do a lot of extracurricular activities besides your study, and learn to write a stellar and convincing motivation letter. 

Feel free to follow me on Instagram (chungle92) to ask me any question! 

Posted by at Jul 30, 2017 03:50 PM