Meet Piotr, Kitchen worktop maker

Piotr moved from Poland to Belgium in February 2021 to start a new adventure at IMPACT, after previously having worked in the United Kingdom and France. He earns a living making and finishing kitchen worktops. He loves Belgium and has nothing but praise for his experiences with IMPACT.

In his native Poland, the 55-year-old worked in construction for years. He started as a construction worker, but occupied a very different position after some years, having been appointed district manager of a supermarket chain. Over time, Piotr realised that spending hours on paperwork and administration didn’t give him the same satisfaction as working in construction had.

Desire for dirty hands

A desire to get his hands dirty, lay tiles, work with cement and build walls and houses inspired Piotr to move to London at the age of 39. ‘To be honest, I knew I’d make more money in London than in Poland. That’s one of the reasons my wife and children steered me in that direction as well. I had my doubts at first, but we eventually decided to move together and I spent ten years working construction throughout England.’

One thing his experiences have taught him is to embrace change. ‘I lived in ten different apartments in the ten years I lived in England. I got used to change, which made my decision to move to Belgium a lot easier to make. I understand why other specialists with similar profiles as mine would be hesitant to move abroad. What I'd say to them is: don't be afraid of change; take the plunge, even if you don’t speak the language. You can always go back if things don't work out.’

Homeward bound

After ten years in London, where Piotr's daughters still live, he went back to his roots in 2015: Poland. ‘I found a job at a company that builds sports shops for famous brands like Adidas, Puma and Reebok. It was far from the area where I grew up and I moved around constantly, from north to south to west and back again. After six years I decided it was time for something new.’

And that's how Piotr found himself in Belgium in February 2021, after a brief stopover in France. ‘I was looking online for jobs in countries where English was enough. In Germany you have to speak German and in France you have to speak French – their English is fairly limited. I started writing employment agencies in the Benelux, waiting for a positive and serious response. My preferred job was a tiler, my old profession.’

A good feeling

The response and initial contact with IMPACT immediately convinced Piotr. ‘Joanna, one of the recruitment consultants at IMPACT, was the first person to give me a satisfactory answer to my application. When I asked other employment agencies where I should go when I arrive and what tools or documents I should bring with me, they seemed shocked I'd even ask. That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence and makes you feel like just a number.’

IMPACT was different. ‘With Joanna, it was instantly clear that our conversation was on a whole different level. The fact that I could speak Polish was an added bonus. Joanna found a job for me and let me know through Skype that the door was always open and that she'd be there to welcome me when I arrived in Belgium. The contact and communication with her two IMPACT colleagues is just as friendly and personal, which I couldn't be happier about.’

A revelation from day one

The car journey from Poland to Belgium was exhausting. ‘I’d never travelled that far before by car. I drove to Hasselt via Germany and the Netherlands and was given a warm welcome when I arrived at the IMPACT headquarters in Hasselt. They even offered me a free night's stay in a chic hotel. What a revelation to be treated so well by someone who doesn’t even know me! It's a definite plus point and immediately sets a high standard and sends a clear message to temporary workers.’

Unfortunately, Piotr had to spend his first week in Belgium in quarantine, as per the pandemic restrictions. ‘It wasn't that bad. It gave me time to get used to my new environment, read up about the job and learn more about Belgium. I could immediately move into the apartment that IMPACT had arranged for me and was pleasantly surprised by how spacious my room was. If I had any questions, IMPACT was happy to answer them – and still are.’

Two times a charm

Unfortunately, not everything went as planned. ‘I initially decided to work as a tile layer, but after a month things started going south. IMPACT was very understanding and asked if I wanted to stay in Belgium. I did. During my search for a new job, IMPACT paid my rent, which was a very nice gesture. They ended up finding four jobs for me at four different companies. Finally, I could choose from two of those great options, which is a luxury when looking for new work.’

The fact that the first job didn't work out turned out to be a blessing in disguise. ‘My new job is a much better match. It’s a lot of manual labour in an environment that really suits me. There’s a lot of repetition and machine work. Some people may find that boring, but I love it. It gives you the chance to really specialise in something to the point of perfection.’

Pleasant collaboration

Piotr does not work as a tile layer, despite that being what brought him to Belgium in the first place. ‘I build and finish kitchen worktops in natural stone like marble and granite and in composite materials and ceramic. They often come in huge slabs and one of my main tasks is to polish the edges. I use a machine that consists of fourteen discs and motors. It's my job to determine the right disc and the right speed based on the material I’m working with. The CNC operators create the holes for things like drains in the sink. It's custom work, which makes it very challenging.’

Piotr also enjoys working with his colleagues and supervisors. ‘I have a great relationship with my supervisor. She’s the daughter of the founder and knows the company inside-out. Both her and my direct colleague have worked for the company for twenty years and I can always ask them for help. This is a company people really love working for. Before the builders’ holidays, for example, everyone was given a nice bottle of French champagne. They made no distinction between permanent and temporary workers. This gesture says a lot and makes you feel like you’re valued and appreciated.’

Holiday in the Ardennes

Piotr has clearly made Belgium his home away from home. ‘Belgium is a peaceful country. Some may find it boring, but I don't think so at all. Boring usually means that things are well-organised with few problems. I also think Poles and Belgians are quite similar in terms of character, unlike Poles and Brits. I immediately felt comfortable in Belgium.’

Piotr can also pursue his hobbies in Belgium. ‘I love nature, particularly landscapes and mountains. I’m an avid photographer and recently bought new lenses for my camera. I enjoy heading out into the Ardennes and taking pictures of the area around the Semois river. I also bought a bass guitar, which I play at the apartment.’

Make an impact with IMPACT

Piotr, now 55, is happy with his life. ‘I’m still learning and growing and enjoying life more and more. Just because you're not at the start of your career, doesn’t mean you can't follow your dreams. I want to thank IMPACT for everything they gave me: support, advice, housing... and for their compassionate and helpful employees like Joanna and Ania. With IMPACT, the relationship is far from formal, distant and detached.’

Piotr would definitely recommend IMPACT to other international temporary workers. ‘If you plan on working in another country, a good employment agency is crucial. Instead of trying to figure it out yourself, I’d recommend IMPACT. In addition to the pleasant collaboration with the agency, Belgium has a lot to offer as a host country. And if you want to get away and see other places, Belgium is a great starting point for a trip to France, Germany or the United Kingdom. In short: make an impact in Belgium with IMPACT.’

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