From Tea to Coffee – A note for young Indonesian who aspires working abroad


In various occasions where I met Indonesian student or recent graduates, many of whom aspire to  find a job in Europe in general or the Netherlands in specific, after they graduate. They asked me, how I ended up getting a scholarship, studied abroad and finally landed a job in Holland. For them finding a job abroad sounds a very challenging thing to do especially in recent times, when job are scarce in Europe and barriers for non-European talents to work in the region are at its heights.

My advise for these bright people and you, if you have similar dream, is quite straight forward… it is “PAC” : Preparation – Adaptation –  Calibration.


A. Preparation is key

Finding a job in our home country, Indonesia is difficult enough. Job hunting in Indonesia have its own quirk and ways that is not always clear, even if you grew up in the city where you apply the job to, or you know some people or two who work in the industry you are targeting. The same thing applies in the Netherlands or any other European countries in that sense. You need to have a good preparation beforehand!

Your preparation can come in various forms even during your study period. Understand the hiring process in that city or country, take note on the general recruitment schedule and search for main job application channels (e.g.: Job Fair, Paid-Internship, Research Assignment, etc.).

Always get ready in advance!

If your study period is for 4 years then good, you will get more time to prepare. You should find internship opportunities from the campus board, connect with your professors, join relevant student clubs that may expand your network and help you gain more experiences.

If your study program lasts 2 years or less, you would have less time to prepare and thus, more planning is required. Approximate how many hours you will set aside every week or month for the following activities. I also put in bracket the average hours I spent on activities during my MBA.

  • In class study hours (40%)
  • Self study & group assignments outside class hours (30%)
  • Hobbies & Extra Curricular activities – Student clubs, sports, travel, etc. (20%)
  • Career Preparation – Networking, CV preparation, company research, strategize job application, etc. (10%)

Remember, preparation means that you have to set your job search in motion just like any other activities as a student. Making this career preparation schedule as part of your student life, no matter how small of a fraction of your schedule, really means a lot. It is a matter of discipline and good preparation to get your dream to work abroad fulfilled.

As people here in Western Europe say… Well begun is half done“. 



B. Adapt to your new society

Today is another Tuesday morning in winter time Netherlands. I sat on my office desk and sipped my coffee mug. I was not a coffee drinker, in fact I rarely drank it during my time in Jakarta. I have always been a tea drinker.. but the past two years I changed my habits. People in this part of the world (re. Netherlands) drink coffee as part of their social life more than tea. They value their coffee time in their break hours, after dinner and in various social gatherings.

Little do I realize that this small habit of people around me shaped my habit too. It is not imperative to fully accustomed to the society you live in, but it is always good to understand the value behind such customs and adapt to it as much as possible, without leaving your true skin.

Remember this proverbs in Indonesia.. “Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung“.

Similar with my newly adopted coffee drinking habit, working abroad requires you to adapt to the new-custom life there. When you work in other country you will have to live among the people and immerse in their society. No more comfort zone of student apartment or international body, no more safe haven of university’s student support board, etc. You have to stand strong and you need to adapt fast.

The Dutch are really straight forward people; if they find your output submission unsatisfactory they will say so, and they will criticize without hesitation. They value open and honest conversations, instead of indirect, fuzzy but polite small talks. When I work with my colleagues I have to be confronted to several ‘surprise’ moments. For example, I was bedazzled to see two colleagues that seems to be “arguing” against each other in a brainstorm session, which was actually considered more as a normal “dialogue”.

Another example is when I experienced a student intern questioned her boss why she was required to submit extra reports, which in her opinion these reports are similar with the existing report and are of non-added value. I, by default, would be reluctant to question job-related request from my super-ordinate, especially not when I was an intern. You need to seriously consider cultural & way-of-life difference as part of your decision to work abroad.

In short, different societies have different values, and you need to adapt to the local custom even way before you start working abroad!



C. Calibrate your goals

A Greek philosopher Heraclitus himself said that  “The only thing that is constant is change“.

When I graduated from Nyenrode Business Universiteit in 2012, I wanted to work in a bank, financial institution or strategy consultancy, as I come from similar background. However, 2012 was not a good year for financial industry in general, with Europe economy was still in crisis and the financial industry was shedding jobs instead of adding one.

I was confronted with a reality check and I questioned my career-goal. If I were to stick with my narrow choice of industry I would probably not be able to land a successful job application in Holland. After giving it a second thought I decided to broaden my job-search palate and tried finding similar functions in finance but in different industries. My goal calibration process came into fruition and I got the chance to have a job interview with a renowned Dutch multinational company, who is looking for candidate with my profile & background.

Several months after my graduation unfortunately I still did not have any final job offers, which then led to my second calibration process. I have to weigh in the pros and cons of continuing my job search in the Netherlands a bit longer, versus securing an existing job back home. I decided to be rational given the difficult job market in Europe, and went back to Indonesia to work for my previous employer in Jakarta. I thought of giving up my dream and goal to work in Europe. It is always easy to be in our comfort zone, right?

I was apparently wrong! After a few months working in Jakarta I received a follow-up email from a Dutch company whom I had an interview with. They asked me if I was still up for the challenge to take a specific role in the company. Again, I had to re-calibrate my goal that I have set when I was back in Indonesia. Should I stay in my comfort zone in Jakarta, or start my career abroad from scratch.

After my (third) calibration process I finally made up my mind, and here I am now working as a professional in the Netherlands. When life gives you a new option and offers a detour from your initial goal, take it and embrace it, you will learn a lot from it.

“Calibrate your goal, …re-calibrate, and calibrate… (again)”


Wrapping Up  

The journey of finding a job after your study abroad is not an easy one. It requires PAC : Preparation – Adaptation –  Calibration, exactly in that order. And for all of you, young Indonesian who would like to study abroad and continue to widen your experience by working abroad, please be assured that it wont be an easy challenge, but it will be worthwhile. You are after all part of Indonesia(n) Mengglobal!


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