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Our colleagues are helping refugees find their way in the Dutch labor market

January 27, 2023

By Catherine Adenle


Employees are helping young professionals and students find new opportunities in the Netherlands through the RELX/UAF Refugee Mentorship Program

Caption: Kadir Turan, an English teacher who lives in Leiden, was mentored by Dr Giulia Moncelsi, Life Sciences Customer Consultant at Elsevier, as part of the RELX/UAF Refugee Mentorship Program

In 2006, Kadir Turanopens in new tab/window left his home country of Turkey to pursue career opportunities in Nigeria. He then spent years living in South Africa and Iraq before moving to the Netherlands in 2018, where he first learned Dutch and worked at various schools, before settling into his current role at an English language secondary school. Kadir was looking for the opportunity to broaden his professional network and explore future career opportunities when he heard about the RELX/UAF Refugee Mentorship program.

Kadir, an English teacher of 10 years who now lives in Leiden, is one of 34 refugees who have taken part in this program, which aims to help give these young professionals and students a renewed start in finding opportunities in the Netherlands.

Colleagues at Elsevier and our parent company, RELXopens in new tab/window, have been creating meaningful mentorship connections as part of our partnership with the UAFopens in new tab/window — an independent foundation that provides suppoprt to refugee students and professionals in the Netherlands.

The refugee experience can be fraught with challenges even years after migration. Some participants in the program struggled with finding employment even when they had the relevant skills for the position, years of professional experience, and spoke Dutch. In some cases, they would get rejected because they were “overqualified” for the roles or because they “wouldn’t understand the Dutch market.”

In 2022, 16 RELX/UAF mentor/mentee pairs started their six-month journey together, learning from each other and sharing experiences around a self-declared goal.

Kadir was connected with mentor Dr Giulia Moncelsiopens in new tab/window, Life Sciences Customer Consultant at Elsevier in Amsterdam. In bi-weekly meetings, they brainstormed potential career paths, sharing living experiences in the Netherlands and working on Kadir’s LinkedIn profile and CV. Kadir said:

I found it helpful to have met someone like Giulia who listened so well and committed herself wholeheartedly to my development and the challenges I faced.

Kadir and Giulia agreed that the key to their success was going into the experience with no strict expectations, an open positive mind, and a shared dedication to the process. They said they found it helpful to break his complex questions and challenges into actional steps and objectives. As Guilia explained:

I was often struck by the complexity of Kadir’s well thought through questions, which we jointly broke up in more bite-size pieces.

Guilia added that the experience helped her as well.

This process actually also helped me to articulate my own development and career questions. Overall, it was a great way to strengthen my coaching skills.

The partnership started in 2020. Sjoerd Cooijmansopens in new tab/window , Dr Charon Duermeijeropens in new tab/window and Julia Cseloteiopens in new tab/window of Elsevier and Helga Bergfeldopens in new tab/window from our sister company LexisNexis Risk Solutions Elsevier worked with Teuta Curriopens in new tab/window of UAF to create the program and embark on the first six-month mentorships. Since then, Madeleine Steeleopens in new tab/window of RELX has also joined the team.

Since this this program began, the humanitarian crisis in the Netherlands has worsened because of the war in Ukraine and increasing political and social unrest globally. We must all come together and work towards collaborative solutions to support those who have come to the Netherlands to find a stable new home for themselves and their loved ones.

RELX UAF mentorship webinar

Caption: A virtual meeting (clockwise from left: Madeline Steele, Corporate Responsibility Associate at RELX; Kadir Turan; Giulia Moncelsi, Life Sciences Customer Consultant at Elsevier; and Dr Charon Duermeijer, Global Director of Customer Success and Engagement at Elsevier.

The 2022 cohort was again mostly virtual. Charon commented:

It's amazing to see how mentors and mentees can even virtually build up trust so quickly and set their own expectations and cadence to meet. Many mentees even found a job during this process, so often the conversations are around how to present yourself in the Dutch labor market via LinkedIn, CV and presentation skills.

However, not all mentor-mentee pairings end with great results, new jobs and connections for life. It can be hard when expectations are not met or when language and cultural differences form a barrier. For both RELX mentors and UAF mentees it's important — as Giulia and Kadir emphasized —to have an open mind and no strict end goal while exploring a joint learning path. When I was interviewing Guilia and Kadir for this story, it was clear they enjoyed their joint learning journey and showed huge commitment in this professional relationship.

Sjoerd added:

It is amazing to see how our colleagues invest significant time to help the refugees find their way in the Dutch labor market. The passion they have to help has paid off significantly and has made a huge difference for the mentees — and it makes me proud to be their colleague.

The stories we hear of every single mentee and their journey to where they are today are humbling and give very different perspectives on life. Makes you realize how lucky we are and that when you are in a position to help others, you should.

In smart and effective ways, UAFopens in new tab/window offers refugees opportunities to develop further in their studies and work while providing advice, guidance, financial support and access to UAF’s network. At RELX Amsterdam, we feel privileged to be working with such a professional organization. It has been a very fruitful and collaborative relationship which we plan to continue.


Portrait photo of Catherine Adenle


Catherine Adenle

Senior Director, Employer Brand