Learning from other’s experiences- an interview with Dimitra Karmi

Santiago Zuluaga
Santiago Zuluaga is Colombian born, Aruban raised Economics student. Santiago is an active member of the Asset Economics blog committee and a student ambassador at Tilburg University. He has various interests in the topics of Globalization, technological advancement and Economics.

In my first article, I started a train of thought about working in the Netherlands as an international student. First of all, I wanted to look at all the positive aspects and advantages of doing this. After all, your attitude towards a particular matter can sometimes be a strong factor of success. This train, however, will not keep going only with good attitude. This article brings a bit more of substance and specifically, some experience to the story.

14362630_1177007535695663_9059730426914833149_oSo, with no further due, I would like to introduce Dimitra Karmi. Dimitra is a marketing and communication intern at Phillips Lightning in Eindhoven and is also an alumna at Tilburg University. She graduated with a Master in Communication and Information Sciences this year. Originally from Greece and 25 years old, she will be sharing her experiences from the moment that she started looking for the position up until now and hopefully, we will be able to learn a thing or two from her.




Applying for the job

The first and probably most tiresome step is to find and apply for a job. It involves long hours of looking at different job offers that might best fit you and your skills. After that, you still need to prepare your c.v and your cover letter, trying to fit all of who you are in a piece of paper and hoping it will get across. This is important but not the only important thing as Dimitra tells us.

“At the time, I had been applying for more than two months. I started applying in October but it was until the middle of November that I got to know that I could get this internship. At first, I did not want to apply because it was a very old job offer. I also went to Amsterdam to a health company and they really liked me but the job was not what I really wanted to do. I was feeling that marketing and communication is more the thing for me. I also had an interview with the Hilton Hotel and this was about management of the restaurant and also communication and social media management. I liked the job but I didn’t like the company because I felt like the company’s values were too far away from mine. I then decided not to proceed.
For me this was the most interesting thing. Applying is really hard and it takes so much time because you need to create a cover letter from scratch and adjust each for each company. Still, I believe that this is a great experience because the more interviews you have, the better you know what to expect and know how to apply”.

The interview

Reaching the interview is a great step as it gives a signal that the company is interested in you and your skills. Nevertheless, you should not take this signal as granted as you need to be prepared for everything at the interview.

 “I communicated first with the H&R department and two days after, they arranged an interview with the manager. It was a phone interview because of distance, I was in Tilburg, she was in Germany and the position was in Eindhoven. In the interview, we discussed about experiences, interests, my background and my bachelor. At the end of the interview, she informed me that she liked me but she wanted to know if I would be willing to move to Aachen.  This was because for her, it was really important to be close and to collaborate. I had one week to decide if I would move or not. Four days after I communicated to her that I was willing to move, she replied to me saying that I got the job”.

 Making up for the lack of experience

Finding an internship is a rigorous process, especially if you do not have a lot of experience. However, there is a way to make up for this and it is different for each person since each person will have something different to offer.

“For me it was little bit hard because I was coming with a background in linguistics from my bachelor. I did a master in communication and I was applying for jobs in communication and marketing. So, the people expected me to have some marketing knowledge. The fact that I had a strong linguistic background was important because I could create good content. So, even though I had a lack of marketing experience, I had these strong linguistic skills. She said to me: “I hired you because you were the only one that had a communication background”. For her, having this background was something different since you can bring something else in the company. There are the kind of people that believe that you need to have the knowledge and experience but there are also people that believe that you must be just willing to learn. I was lucky because my manager had the latter mentality”.

Disappointments and being nervous are part of the process

“In the beginning, I was very nervous because I knew I had the opportunity to talk with someone from Phillips. They pay well, the company is big and for me, going back to Greece with an experience like this is very important.  Within 5 minutes, she was very friendly with me and not formal at all. We were talking as we were friends. It is a big company and you expect something more casual. I did however apply for positions in other big companies and many times, due to the lack of experience, the companies did not even start the interview process and told me “thank you” and that they would rather proceed with another candidate. For example, I really wanted to have an internship with Nike but they are a bit strict and they expect you to have at least some experience.  It was a disappointment because I liked the company but I did not get the opportunity to even talk with them. You have to keep trying”.


Employer’s approach and expectation of international students

Something that stroked me while talking with Dimitra, was how important the (cultural) orientation of a company can be. I found this very interesting but I do not want to steal her words so here is what she had to say.

“I have this feeling that big companies like Philips really like to stress this international culture that they have. Hiring international people for them proves that they are really open for different cultures. Also, the fact that we were working at the headquarters and we have a part of the global team means that you have to communicate with all the markets. This means, hiring people from different countries. I don’t think they prefer international people, I think that they are open for both for internationals and locals. Still, I see that there are a lot of international people. From the very first day, I felt very well integrated. For example, I met four Greek people the first day just in the marketing and communication department and it felt really familiar. My manager is German but we always speak in English and everyone else also does. So, you never feel like if you don’t know what is happening”.

What should students know before they head out there and start looking for a job?

“First of all, I believe that having a degree from a Dutch university is a big advantage. Dutch people really appreciate this. I think the reputation of Tilburg University is also good and companies have a good impression of its students. So, we have a chance to at least go to the first interview.
Second, it is very important to pay attention to the c.v and cover letter.  I noticed that many H.R people pay lot of attention to this. If you don’t have a convincing cover letter with a lot of motivation and your expectation about the job, they can reject you just from the cover letter.
Also, it’s very important to be on time and to be proactive. I was searching for this job really early and I wanted to start the job either in December or January. I have many fellow students that started searching in January and it was too late.
Finally, using LinkedIn is very useful but it really depends on your sector. For example, if you are into tourism, there are specific websites for this type of positions. Nevertheless, LinkedIn and Graduate Land are really famous. Also, use all the resources from the university like those from student associations and the university websites. If you have a big interest for a company, I believe it is better to go directly to their company website”.

With this, we concluded our conversation and I thanked Dimitra for sharing her experiences with me. Many of us may still lack experience, but we can learn quite a lot by listening to other people’s stories and hopefully, use those stories to our advantage. As Otto von Bismarck once said:

“A fool learns from experience, but a wise man learns from the experience of others”.



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