I will be trying to answer a question one of our blog reader asked. Last week Emma asked about how she could find a job in Spain, especially since she’s not fluent for now. This post is an answer to her questions, as well a summary of what I wish I had known in 2008, things I learned the hard way, failing, failing and then landing two jobs in Spain in 2009, as well as mentoring several students of my business school to find one. By the way, to find really great flats, it’s pretty necessary to have a job !
First of all, I would like to make it clear that it’s neither easy nor impossible to get a job in Spain. Even if unemployment just reached 21% and youth unemployment amounts to an astounding 43 % (I was 24 and freshly graduated when I found my first 2 jobs), there are plenty of opportunities for resourceful expats in Madrid. Indeed, Madrid is really the best place in Spain to get a job right now in general, and the language and organization skills anglosaxon tend to have are very sought after as Madrid is getting more and more international after being pretty closed until the 1990′s.
I will then give my advice assuming you already decided to move to Madrid, or already moved, and are looking for a job here.
Tip #1: Yes, you do need to speak Spanish to get a Spanish Job !
Before starting, you have to know that finding a job in Spain right away without speaking any Spanish will reduce your possibilities to 1% of all the job market, and will lead you to “Expats only” jobs. Even an English teacher, a waiter in an Irish Pub, or an expatriate working in a multinational company, will need to speak at least a bit of Spanish to be able to perform to the full extent of their job description. And as you’re reading GuiriGuide, we’re assuming you are the kind of person who wants to mingle with local people and get to live like a local ! But don’t worry, my opinion is that after only 3 to 6 months immersion in Spain, you can reach a sufficient communication skills to go to interviews with confidence.
This said, you should not dith all you English language skills as mentioned in next tip…
Tip #2: Differentiate yourself – Think about your “competitive advantage” as a foreigner and profesional and target relevant companies and jobs.
Do not think of not speaking Spanish fluently or not being a local as an issue, but rather, think of being a native English speaker as a key differentiator you have.
This method does not apply only to your language skills, but also to other skills you may have acquired and that are scarce in Spain. For instance, before graduating, I understood the fact many spaniards do not realize any internships nor study abroad was something I could use to my advantage.
This means your targets to get a job should be businesses looking for people with these differentiated skills you defined. The typical job many foreigners start with is English teacher. I know at least 4 people who started out this way and then created their own flourishing business and now are happier and richer than ever.
Again, you should not restrain your research to “English-speaking only” jobs, but do leverage your language skills !
To sum up, the typical targets for foreigners are businesses with international presence and/or dealing a lot with foreigners and/or requiring language skills and/or requiring skills which are scarce in Spain (IT skills are #1 in this case). I know small business owners in Madrid who have a lot of difficulties finding quality service personnel with language skills.
Tip #3: Think like a Spanish recruiter
Might seem obvious, and might seem contrary to the “differentiation” advice I just gave, but you must make your résumé so Spanish that a local with no previous knowledge of your background and/or country will not even have to think to understand and trust your credentials. Let me put it another way: an average HR employee has only 10 seconds to assess if your profile is worth going to the next stage. Why should (s)he bother to understand and take risks with some apparently interesting but unknown masters or experience you included when another 1000 Spanish and straightforward CV are waiting to get an interview ?
I thus recommend applying the “Actors Studio” method: think as a Spanish recruiter, be ruthless, and ask for help to some Spanish contacts you have to make your resume as Spanish as you can. Make your resume as Spanish as possible. You can even ask for an “homologacion” to the Education Ministry if you feel an official piece of paper is needed.
Tip #4: If you have experience, leverage it. If you don’t, complete your studies in Spain.
This goes with the two first advice. Let’s say you have 3 years experience in management consulting, but no idea of Spanish. Leverage your experience and create a portfolio to directly differentiate with other Spanish candidates who will go the traditional resume way. Portfolios are a great way to show you know how to solve such and such problem, a specific example of the value you can bring in their Spanish situation.
If you don’t have any experience, my advice would be to use the fact that you’re still studying to complete at least a quarter in Spain. This is great option because it will make you much more easier to get for recruiters: “Ah OK, he’s a foreigner from a school I do not know about, but he did this school, si I know he’s here in Spain to stay on the long term”.
Tip #5: “El enchufe”, or the mighty importance of contacts in Spain
You need to develop your own network in Spain. Contacts are a key component of job search all over the world, but is twice as important in Spain compared to anglo-saxon countries such as the UK or the US. Fortunately, the job market is large enough not to depend to much on contacts, such as it occurs in other places in Spain or South America. Of course, a contact will not sure a job, but will allow you resume to get on the top of the pile, where thousands of resume may be. Again, here’s when you can leverage your “foreigner” profile: go to networking events for foreign and local businessmen, and leverage your difference to make people remember as the “foreign guy who speaks spanish with differentiated skills”. In my case, I leveraged contacts to learn about the companies and jobs I was having interviews for, to ask about Spanish negotiation tricks, and also get my foot in the door.
Tip#6: Reassure the recruiter you’re not a tourist, even if you are one
Ok, this is so against so many laws, but all recruiters did ask me: “but why are you in Spain? do you have family/ a girlfriend here?” Many people did not believe I came to Spain only because I wanted to ! They thought I was there to spend some good time, prove myself I could land a job here, and then go back to London to get a good paying job. I was lucky to meet a French girl I’m now in love to and with whom I live, who enabled me to say “I have a girlfriend in Spain”, even though she’s not Spanish. This was the magical phrase which made recruiters think “Gotcha – you’re going to stay at my company all my life – mwaaahaa !!!”. Seriously, many recruiters will not believe you came to Spain to stay if you do not give a personal reason. Sounds a bit awful, hope you will not have to face these kind of issues, but be sure you will have to reassure your recruiter that you are not just here to enjoy the sun and then come back to your home country, one way or the other !
Tip #7: Keep language teaching as a Plan B ( unless if it’s your plan A! )
Unless you want to dedicate your time to teaching english, a career with huge career and business opportunities in Madrid by the way, I would keep the language teaching as a back-up plan to pay the bills. Taking a month-long TEFL training and contacting the main language schools (another post will come about this…) before arriving in Madrid will give you many opportunities to find short language stints while keeping looking for a real job without worrying about you are going to pay your bills.
Tip #8 : Give yourself 6 months to reach your goal and decide on the next steps
My opinion is that you need to give yourself at least a 6 months period to find a job here. This will give you time to:
1) become fluent (have a look at the method I presented last time to learn spanish in 6 months)
2) create your own network – Contacts are a very important aspect of getting a job in Spain. I leveraged contacts to learn the ropes and land interviews. By assisting to networking events, you can quickly constitute a network of professional contacts who also are foreigners for instance and are more likely to help you. Connect to my linkedin profile and I will introduce you to the most interesting groups I’ve been to
3) identify precisely targets, some of which you would have never thought of before coming here
4) do some practice interviews with some Spanish friends, then aim at completing a few real interviews with companies you don’t really care for, only to get good at presenting and “selling” yourself in Spanish.
After 6 months it will be time to look back and assess if you became fluent, how many interviews you got, and decide if it’s worth keeping on trying. This is a personal choice.
Tip #9: If they make you an offer, shoot first, think afterwards
I learned this one the hard way. All was going as planned, I was just completing my semester in a top university in Madrid, ICADE, and a consulting company was making an interesting and well paid internship offer which will allow me to go through summer, keep on searching, and with a promise from them to recruit me in 6 months if all goes well. All my hopes vanished when I did something I thought was normal in France or the UK. I mentioned I was seeing other companies, just at the moment when we were speaking about salaries and signing. It was a crime of adultery, even if we were not married, or even officially boss&employee ! They got afraid that I would find another or even negotiate, found an excuse to put another surprise interview and finally retracted the offer. A Spanish friend of mine, Iñaki, then told me: “Always tell them recruiters they’re the only ones, the love of your life…. and always keep looking, you never know.”
So I would recommend to accept the first interesting offer that comes your way, and then from there go up the career ladder, as I did afterwards.
- The best job board in Spain: www.infojobs.net – Monster and other jobboards you will see on the first page of your google search for “job spain” have way less jobs on offer. If you’re interested in expat focused jobs, I would contact headhunters such as Michael Page.
- Networking: www.linkedin.com, www.meetup.com – Lots of networking events in Madrid for foreigners and/or locals, just connect with me through linkedin and I’ll point you some.
- Job Searching Book: My bible, and also another million’s people bible, “What colour is your parachute”. How many times when in doubt did I come back to this book and felt invigorated.
- An example – My resume in Spanish: Have a look here if you want to see my CV as it was when I arrived in Madrid – http://cl.ly/192S3i0z1c2Y2a1s1j0a
I wrote this post thinking about all the things I wish I had known 3 years ago and the questions new graduates coming to Madrid asked me this year. I hope they will help you find a job here in this fabulous city :)
Do connect with me in any way you want if you have any question: comment here, share, like, ask me your questions via twitter @pierrewaters ! or surf my site for help for your move to Spain.