Networking in the Netherlands

28 September 2021

Networking is a fantastic way to meet interesting connections, build your personal brand, and hopefully find mutual opportunities to work together.

This article is brought to you by our partner Blue Ninja Business Support.

Do you live in the Netherlands and want to make new connections? 

Before you decide to start networking, it’s important to establish your networking goals.
For example, are you looking for new projects? Would you like to find a job? Do you want to find collaborators or customers? Or do you just want to meet interesting people in your field? 

With your networking goals in mind, you will be more focused on meeting those goals during networking conversations. For example: if your goal is to find a new job, you may steer the conversation towards asking about your connection’s company culture or if they have any open positions. 

Don’t go for the hard sell

Networking is important to make personal and trusted connections and ultimately find clients, it is a slow burn process and can take multiple interactions before this comes to fruition. When attending a networking event, don’t approach it as a sell, look at it as who you can help and connect with others, people will appreciate and remember this.

Places to network:

There are many business networking associations that focus on a specific nationality, geographic region, or demographic. For example: the American Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands or International Creative Women. We met Michelle Baird, a Global Virtual Assistant, a contact through the global networking platform, Internations in 2020, who interviewed us for her Inspiring Entrepreneurs website and also invited us to her very first business networking event Entrepreneurs Online Connect – Monthly Coffee Meetup. This chance connection has led to other opportunities.

World Trade Centre – The Hague: this is where our business is registered and we were lucky enough to meet our business coach there in 2020 at their monthly coffee networking events. We were able to secure funding by the Dutch government to assist us in exploring the export market. Working with our business coach Stefanie Bertram, really helped us clarify our business vision and focus on the key markets for us, another chance encounter.

Kamer van Koophandel (KvK) – the Dutch Chamber of Commerce: The KVK has several local and online events you can attend if you want to meet and learn from other Entrepreneurs. These events are mostly advertised in Dutch, but most people in the Netherlands can speak English. Attending online events is a good opportunity to meet fellow entrepreneurs and hear about their business challenges even if they’re in a different country or industry.

Online or offline?

There are many paid membership groups out there but if you’re just starting out, search on Facebook for groups that are of interest to you and where potential customers will be. Start posting according to the group’s guidelines, not spamming, share useful information on solutions to people’s pain points. Look to add value, offer a free consultation, charging at the beginning of a business relationship can put off-putting. 

Of course, since 2020 offline events have been restricted, search on Meetup or Eventbrite for events in your local area if you are able to attend in person otherwise look at any events that interest you that are online. Since the pandemic, the only things stopping you from joining an online networking event is language and time zones. Unless these events are very local and they prefer not to have someone from another area/country, approach the organiser and ask, they’re generally open to having someone from elsewhere to bring a new perspective to the group. Finally when you attend an event, have your ‘elevator pitch’ ready to introduce yourself and your business, bear in mind this will need to be tailored to the audience and their understanding of your market. Have your details; email address, LinkedIn URL, website, etc to hand to share in the event.

We met Kristine Tudrope from South Africa through an online event. We couldn’t work out how to work with each other as we had similar interests, so we decided to do monthly Facebook lives together. That’s been happening now for over a year, see more on our YouTube channel.

Join a sports club, a choir, or a language course

Not only can you meet people interested in the same sports or interests, but you can also meet people from a variety of different professional backgrounds.

Blue Ninja Julie met Dheeraj Ramchand at the Venture Café Thursday Gatherings – a networking event for entrepreneurs in Rotterdam – where he expressed interest in finding new content writing projects. 

Julie introduced herself as one of the Co-Directors of Blue Ninja, they discussed life and working in the Netherlands and Julie shared some potential contacts that may be of use to Dheeraj in his job search. Then a couple of weeks later she met Minite – a small startup company that provides student resources. This was an interesting proposition for us as we were needing expertise in the marketing space to get the Blue Ninja message out there. We placed an advertisement and one of the three people we shortlisted was Dheeraj! Apart from his impressive CV and skills, the fact that they had met really helped make the decision that Dheeraj was the right fit for the role.

You can find networking opportunities anywhere and everywhere – from birthday parties to a charity gala, you’ll be surprised where connections will be. Did you know that Louisa and Julie met via a local Facebook Group? It was a chance post on a Facebook group from a musician in Scotland, we connected as we had both lived and worked in the Edinburgh/Fife area for the last few years. After a few meetings, network events, and a dozen or so coffee mornings later the Blue Ninja partnership became a reality.

Check out your local council websites, the Expat Centre Leiden runs a free monthly meet and mingle event, we attended the first in-person event last month, for some people it was the first time they’d met anyone since moving to the area.

During career opportunities

You don’t need a full-time job to network. You can develop meaningful relationships through part-time work, internships, volunteering, and freelance projects by starting conversations with colleagues and clients.

Good conversation starters:

Introduce yourself:

Are you in a social setting? Start by introducing yourself, what you do, and some fun facts about yourself. 

After you’ve introduced yourself, be interested in getting to know the other person. Who are they? Active listening is very important when networking.

Talk about the weather:

In the Netherlands and most of Europe for that matter, the weather is always a hot (or, rainy) topic. Everyone loves soaking up the sun and complaining about the rain.

Ask a question:

An interesting question is a good way to attract someone’s attention. You can ask questions about someone’s career, something they said, or about something you notice.

Ask for advice:

Sometimes, asking for advice is a great conversation starter. This could be asking for recommendations on a good café nearby or insights on how to deal with a problem you have.