Seniority at work is often associated with years of work experience in the company, a high status or rank, and a high salary scale. In the Netherlands, it is quite a challenge for many internationals to rise in a senior position even though they may already have years of work experiences in their own country or other places. I think that the same case works for internationals or expats working in other countries such as the United States of America, Canada, or Australia. It takes some time to navigate the Dutch working system due to language and cultural barriers. But once you know how the system works, you may be surprised how fast your work can bring you to a senior position. In my previous blog Achieve work life balance: Embrace Dutch work habits, I mentioned that being a senior at work in the Netherlands does not immediately equal to the number of years you work, but also dependent on the capabilities that you have. So, it is possible to rise in a senior position with having 2-3 years of work experience given that you have the right capabilities to perform the job.
In this blog I will tell you the learning and experiences I got being in a Dutch academic system. Many internationals had difficulty surviving in Dutch academic system. There are so many barriers you have to pass in order to establish yourself. Contracts are mostly on definite period (e.g. 1-2 years). After third time renewing the contract, it’s the time your employer will be obliged to offer you either a permanent contract or advise you to find a position elsewhere. PhD, Postdoc, and lecturer positions are often contractual. Only when you enter the Assistant professor level that your contract has higher possibility of becoming permanent. My case was a bit of a different situation because I started working in an applied university (a level lower than a research university). In the beginning, I got hired for 6 months even though I was already four months pregnant. My supervisor extended my contract for another one year, even though it means I will consume the other half a year for maternity leave. After that, my contract was extended again and then my supervisor immediately gave me a permanent contract, without fully complying yet with the requirement of having a permanent contract – getting a university teaching qualification. After that year, I also got my promotion and was promised to have another one. Things happened this fast because I possess a PhD, which is an advantage compared to a regular lecturer. But still, the turn of events are fast. While people are still securing their permanent contract in the past two years, I already had my permanent contract, half a year of leave, and a promotion at the same time. Let me share you my realization in my academic journey.
Things to do to quickly ascend in senior position:
1. Be proactive.
Being proactive in a meeting or a conversation is just one step to reach your desired position. A simple message such as “Happy birthday” or “Congratulations!” for an achievement made by a colleague does not take so much effort but can bring connection and impact. Also being present in a meeting, which others say may take time, is a sign of visibility in the organization. What’s more is if you participate in that meeting, you are establishing your position in the group. Being present and visible makes your colleague and your boss notice you. The use of social media, such as Linkedin and Twitter, also helps establish visibility in your work. Try it for yourself and you will see how little effort you spend, and yet bring quite impact in your career.