Acculturative stress

By Marion Robinson

Finding gainful employment in a new country and culture is more challenging than one would imagine. After several failed attempts to break into the job market in the Netherlands I have come to the conclusion that I may be developing a compulsion – having spent many days furtively examining my CV every chance I get, trying to figure out what’s wrong with it.

Are two and three-quarter university degrees and a significant number of years of work experience not enough? Or do I not have the ‘right’ nationality and am therefore doomed for having been born on the wrong side of the Atlantic? Although I am mostly logical in my thought process, I must admit that I have found myself fighting against the idea that if nothing is wrong with my CV, then maybe something is wrong with me.

These fleeting feelings of ‘wrongness are fortified further by my conversations with recruiters, potential employers and the lay-person alike who all share the opinion that jobs in Europe are reserved for EU and EEA citizens. I am unable to count the number of times I have read the proverbial appendage to job posts that announces that the only way I will be invited to fill a position is if it cannot be filled by a European citizen. After a multitude of unsuccessful applications I am beginning to believe that this statement is not only to ‘weed out’ academically unqualified applicants as one friend suggested, but that it is fundamentally true. Yet I still struggle to understand the logic behind it.

The bottom-line is: in relation to my employability in the Netherlands, my nationality is more important than my educational and professional qualifications. With all the talk of globalization and internationalization, I am yet to partake of the international integration in the Dutch employment market that globalization should have achieved.

I have come to understand that one’s network, more than one’s academic worth or employment experience, has far greater value when it comes to landing a job. However, if the purpose for having a network is to have someone who can ‘pull strings’ on my behalf that are likely to result in a job offer, then why did I spend almost eight years in academia? Why can’t my very costly academic degrees and job experiences speak for themselves?

Unfortunately, the powers of my network do not extend beyond the borders of Jamaica. So in the meantime, although knowing that the odds are already stacked against me, I choose to write the next application.

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