Going to work after your flight

Ilham Atus fled from Turkey to the Netherlands more than three years ago and now enjoys working at Triodos Bank. Joset van der Hoeven interviewed Ilham for De Kleur van Geld about his search for work.

Wasted time

According to Ilham, the most important thing is that their lives in the Netherlands are safe. But despite that, there was also a lot of stress about the future. “The first 14 months in the Netherlands felt like wasted time. I was in an AZC with my wife. The internet connection was poor, there was no access to take a Dutch course and we only received a BSN number to work after nine months. And even then it is only allowed part-time. I don't think the Dutch government wants to give people in an asylum center too much hope. I don't want to complain either, because many people have to wait much longer, but I was worried about my future.”

Study and network

“I worked as a diplomat in Turkey,” says Ilham. “In my work I did a lot of different things and I did not develop as a specialist in anything. That's why it was difficult to apply for jobs in the Netherlands, because if you don't speak the language well, you at least need a specialism.”

Because Ilham has a great interest in sustainability, he followed an English master's degree in Global Business and Sustainability. “I also wanted to learn Dutch quickly, but I had no access to lessons, and we often had to change AZC. At the same time you are also unemployed and your savings are running out. That has a psychological effect on you: you simply don't know where to start.”

“I then chose to spend my time networking. I have some Dutch friends and I quickly expanded my network via LinkedIn. I attended events and participated in several mentor programs. It all seemed to no avail, because in the end I never made it through the first selection for a vacancy. Was networking a waste of time? Wouldn't I have been better off focusing on the language instead of looking for work?”

Look beyond a resume

Colleague Sabine de Frémery, partnership manager, indicates: “Work is the fastest way to integration and professionals with a refugee background add value to your organization. Together with employers, we [from Refugee Talent Hub] create more support in the organization, so that everyone knows what he or she can do to contribute to this. How can you, as an employer, be open to people who may not be a one-to-one match in terms of CV? Or who are unfamiliar with how certain things work in the Netherlands? Are you willing to invest time in that? Everything starts with a meeting. That is the first building block.”

“There are more obstacles besides the language,” Sabine indicates. “Training courses are not always recognized or valued here, people with a refugee background lack a relevant network and in addition, these people are not familiar with the recruitment process here. Employers must be willing to welcome people with talent and a refugee background into the organization. These two groups do not meet enough in daily life and we help with that. It is our dream that employers see the talent of refugees, value it and deploy it,” Sabine explains. “For this you have to look further than a CV.”

Connection and meeting

Geja Eleveld, HR manager at Triodos Bank, fully agrees. As HR manager she was involved in the collaboration between Triodos and Refugee Talent Hub. “It's no longer about CVs, but about connection and meeting. A seed must always be planted first. Prejudices only go away when you meet each other. Only then will you see that the language may be less of a problem if a candidate has many other qualities."

In June 2022, Ilham started as an internal relationship manager in the business relations department. This means that he maintains contacts with sustainable entrepreneurs and assesses whether they meet our requirements in terms of sustainability and finance. “I feel at home at Triodos because the entire team helps me. I can do something where I can use my passion and it fits in with my interest in a sustainable world in which the financial sector plays a leading role.”

This is a shortened version of the article that Joset van der Hoeven wrote for De Kleur van Geld, Triodos Bank's platform for a better world. Read the full article here .