Courtesy of Swati Thapar
- Swati Thapar recently got laid off from her copywriter role at a marketing startup in Amsterdam.
- Since her layoff, Thapar has been struggling to land a new writing job as an immigrant from India.
- Here’s how Thapar is navigating the challenges of employment uncertainty, as told to Insider’s Aaron Mok.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Swati Thapar, a 33-year-old copywriter based in the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, about what its like to be laid off as an immigrant. It has been edited for length and clarity.
As an immigrant on a dependent visa, I can’t overemphasize the importance of being employed.
Employment helps me pay the bills, gives me a sense of purpose and independence, and offers a way to make meaningful connections outside of my marriage in a new country.
But in May of 2022, I got laid off from my job as a copywriter at a marketing startup in the Netherlands. Since then, I’ve been applying for similar jobs in the tech sector for months with no success.
If I can’t find a job soon, I may have to make the hard decision to leave the Netherlands — a country I have lived in for seven years — and move back to my home country.
It took me 3 years to land an English-writing job as an immigrant from India
In 2016, I immigrated from Rajasthan, India, to the city of Amsterdam a year after my newly wedded husband moved there for a job.
Since the Netherlands is an up-and-coming hotspot for opportunities in tech, I was actively looking for a job as a copywriter in the industry. But after facing countless rejections, I learned that most companies only wanted to hire writers who are native English speakers from countries like Britain and Australia.
It didn’t matter that I had English copywriting experience or that I’ve been speaking English since I was 3 years old. All I knew was that as an immigrant, I was perceived as ineligible for hire. It felt like I was living in a horror story.
At the same time, I wasn’t able to talk to anybody or read the notices on my building wall written in Dutch. The language barriers made it hard to integrate and stay resilient in the country.
Three years of job hunting and freelance writing later, I finally got offered a job as a marketing copywriter at a startup. It was my first in-house role in the Netherlands.
After I got laid off, I haven’t been able to secure another job
But by the time the pandemic hit in early 2020, I knew the company wasn’t doing well. I noticed that employees were leaving and the founder talked about getting a bank loan to pay employees. Still, I stayed at the company and went on maternity leave in October of 2021 after I got pregnant.
When I returned from leave in January of 2022, I was one of the two employees who remained at the once 25-person company. A few months later, I was let go with no severance.
Since then, I have applied to about 70 jobs. And I’m still applying.
I’ve talked to some recruiters on LinkedIn who have reached out with potential opportunities, but they haven’t led to any offers. I paid for coursework, career coaching, and mentoring for additional guidance. I even started applying to office manager jobs as a fallback, as well as roles in user experience writing, a field I’ve been trying to break into.
The months-long job search has taken a toll on my mental health
Losing my financial independence has taken a toll on my mental health. I fell into a post-partum depression when I returned from maternity leave, and it made dealing with my layoff worse. My confidence in myself as a professional also fell.
Added to the stress is knowing that I may now have to compete with highly-skilled tech workers who were laid off from big tech companies like Meta and Amazon.
There are definitely more jobs in the Netherlands now than there were back in 2016. But I still carry baggage from not being able to find a job for three years.
I’m not worried about finances at the moment, but the clock is ticking
Even though my layoff has been tough, I recognize that I’m in a better situation than most laid-off immigrant tech workers. My husband is still employed, which means that I am not struggling financially at the moment. I’m also not worried about getting kicked out of the country since I am on a dependent visa and have lived in the Netherlands long enough to qualify for Dutch citizenship.
Still, expenses have doubled and our savings have taken a hit now that we bought a house, own a car, and started a family. I can’t depend on my husband to be the only one making money for much longer.
I hope that I can land a job soon to give my child a good life
Even though it’s taken years to adjust to living in the Netherlands, I don’t want to leave. I’ve learned how to speak Dutch, made friends, and started a family here. More importantly, I want to raise my child in the country.
But if I don’t find a job soon, I won’t be able to budget for his future over the next 15 to 20 years.
Despite the uncertainty, I’ve been trying my best to remain positive. I’ve been focusing on raising my son, reading a bunch, and networking — activities that have increased my confidence in my abilities.
I’ve also been building a personal brand on LinkedIn, where I recently shared my story and received an overwhelming amount of support from other laid off immigrants who are facing challenges similar, if not worse, than mine.
Otherwise, I’m just trying to be a little more upbeat and count my blessings knowing that my situation could be worse. Expressing gratitude for what I have achieved so far is what keeps me going.