Willem and Enis about Refugee Talent Hub

Many refugees are eager to find work. However, not everyone is successful in finding a job. They often have a small network, know little about the labour market or find it difficult to meet employers. In 2021, NN and Refugee Talent Hub organised a mentor programme for newcomers with an IT background.

As an IT consultant at NN, Willem works with a lot of numbers and abstract subjects. “While I enjoy the subject matter, I equally enjoy working with people. To share what I know and use my experience to help others. When I saw the announcement about NN’s IT mentor programme, I knew right away I wanted to apply.”

Enis had been working as a network and systems administrator at a governmental organisation in his home country before he and his family came to the Netherlands three years ago. He had just started an intensive Dutch language course when he came across the mentor programme. “I knew nothing about the Dutch labour market, nor did I have a professional network in IT. In order to find a job in the Netherlands, I needed help in these areas.”

Dutch labour market 101

Getting Enis on LinkedIn was their first goal. “Willem asked a lot of questions, for instance about my role and responsibilities in previous jobs. My first homework was to prepare my CV.” Enis wasn’t the only one with homework, however. Willem had to delve into the details of the Dutch labour market, such as the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO), and employment contracts. Every two weeks, they met up at NN’s office in Amsterdam to discuss Enis’ progress and exchange feedback. “Not only was face-to-face contact much more enjoyable, this helped with practicing my Dutch.”

Refugee Talent Hub is a non-profit organisation that connects employers to newcomers with the aim of finding paid work. Together with Refugee Talent Hub, we organised two mentor programmes where we helped refugees with an IT-background improve their career chances within the Dutch labour market.

Gaining momentum

After two months, Enis posted his first LinkedIn update, which Willem shared with his network. It wasn’t long before invitations for job interviews were coming in. “I could tell that he was starting to feel more confident,” Willem says. “And rightfully so. He had more than enough working experience for a high-level job in IT. Had I been leading in a network team, I would have hired him on the spot.” Enis: “It was very empowering for me to hear Willem say that. I notice many people can be biased when they meet me because of my refugee background.”

Enis started applying for jobs himself and sometimes had three interviews in one week. “Those were challenging in the beginning,” he says. “Because I had to leave my home country and find my way in the Netherlands, I have a five-year gap in my CV. Willem helped me realise that this part of my story is worth sharing. In fact, whenever a job recruiter asks me about the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced, I now tell them about the decision to come to the Netherlands with my family.”

Taking leaps

One month before the end of the programme, Enis already had three job offers from large IT companies. “And there are still a few interviews in the pipeline.” They will continue their meetings, and use their time to prepare job interviews and contract negotiations. All in Dutch, Enis points out. “My language coach, who I meet with every week, has definitely contributed to my success.”

“What Enis managed to achieve in the past five months is extremely impressive,” Willem says. “He took such big leaps, in both his self-confidence and Dutch language skills. He came in not having any expectations of getting a job, and halfway in he decided that he wanted to start applying. Being his mentor brought me a lot of fulfilment. It’s definitely something I would do again.”

In 2021

  • 33 refugees were coached to a job

  • 33 NN employees volunteered

  • Form could not be processed

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